1 September 1995

Spring has arrived! Yippee!! Winter went out with a real bang. We have been stuck inside for the last 18 days. We have been outside twice for two fifteen-minute runs.

We had two big blizzards this week. On Thursday night the wind was 200 km per hour and there was zero visibility. During the day Margie and I attempted a short trip outside to film for the documentary we are making. When we opened the door to step outside the drift snow poured in all around the edges of the door as if it were water entering a sinking ship. The annexe was flooded with snow. During the confusion, and we were only outside for about 10 minutes, Margie lost the hood of her down jacket. It got ripped off in the wind. It's a real problem. We have now stitched the one remaining hood onto my jacket. She will use one of our other jackets. Fortunately we have a few spares for just such an emergency. The visibility was impossible. It was like trying to film a polar bear in a blizzard. The camera wouldn't focus and there was snow and drift blowing around everywhere.

There has been no sun for ages so we aren't getting any solar energy for the batteries. The batteries froze. I missed two radio interviews this week because of the battery problem. In trying to solve the battery problem I found out that I have been doing the wrong thing by heating them when they are standing on end. It separates the gel and some fluid which ultimately effects their life and reduces their capacity. I can fix the problem by reheating them after charging when they are flat on the floor.

We are now into our 34th week in Antarctica only four months to go. It is really unbelievable. Last January and February seem like they were a very long time ago when we think about what we were doing back then. The total sun for August was 78 hours which is a bit better than Mawson who only experienced 50. The coldest temperature this month was minus 26.7 degrees Celsius and the warmest was one degree above zero. That is incredibly warm for August in Antarctica. The strongest wind was 120 knots (220 km. per hour).

The sea-ice I mentioned last week finally broke up one night during a blizzard. It was quite a shock the next morning. We wanted to go for a walk, a really big walk and it was gone. Just the day before I spent about ten minutes walking on that ice. I walked out a few hundred metres, now the ocean is there where I walked. During the blizzard there were waves crashing on the front edge of the ice which sent spray about 15 feet in the air. It was quite spectacular. I guess now the penguins will be able to swim back.

We received a fax from Rod Ledingham, the Field Training Officer at Australia's Antarctic Division in Hobart. He said, "Read you last newsletter with interest, especially the bit about the loud cracking noises you heard during the gale. There may be an explanation -- natural phenomena. At Mawson [Base] in the mountains it is not uncommon to hear a whipcrack noise as a strong gale tears over the ridge." "I have heard it at Heard Island as I was standing by myself below a cliff in Atlas Cove. A crack above me made me run thinking that a chunk of the cliff had come away. It gave me a real fright. I stayed there listening to the noises for quite a while." "I think Professor Don Adamson wrote something about the phenomena...occurring in violent gales. Maybe that explains it."

If you or your classmates want any information from Australia's Antarctic Division regarding their activities in Antarctica you can contact the Education Division whose telephone number is Australia (002) 323-209. Their address is Channel Highway, Kingston, Tasmania 7050. The "Aurora Australis" has returned to Hobart and will now be preparing to load all the equipment and supplies necessary to resupply the Australian bases during the coming months.

Your class might like to organise your own competition to guess the date and time that the first penguins return to Commonwealth Bay. You could also guess how many penguins will be in the first group that arrives here. We will be recording all this information for our Adelie penguin survey. We have given you some hints about the return of the penguins...so good luck. We will announce the return of the penguins as soon as we spot the first one so get your competition going soon. The funniest part of the week was trying to walk outside in the blizzard when we couldn't even see our feet. The worst part of the week was the roar of the blizzard during the night. Celebration occasion of the week: We had our operations, one year ago today. Mary Ann filmed in the operating theatre when I had my appendix out. Margie had hers out too. We didn't want to have to deal with that sort of preventable emergency down here and the diet that we are eating is rough on one's appendix.

Keep warm,
Back to Index Ever Onwards