Objective and subjective temperatures

Submitted by anelles on Thu, 11/26/2015 - 14:27

Something must be wrong with me. Admittedly, it has been warmer in the past couple of days, but on an objective scale, -5 degrees C is not really warm. Nonetheless, I feel like I am sleeping in a sauna. My tent has ice at the bottom on the sides, so I am not sure that it is significantly above zero. Still, I am sweating in my double lined sleeping bag and feel totally comfortable wearing only a t-shirt and underwear while brushing my teeth in the morning. I even have the feeling that my feet feel better, when the socks are off.

Yesterday, during lunchtime, we had the "hot tent" incident. Chris was using the gas oven to make pizza bagels (yes, we are very creative down here), when Corey and I came back from the field. The thermometer had the tent temperature at 16 degrees. We collectively decided that this was way too hot and that we had to open the door of the tent. In the meantime, Southern California has been some colder days with about 15 degrees C and I have been hearing that people were really cold. Especially the hard winds made it almost unbearable. You all really have my sympathies.

Also, the last couple of days were clearly "little red" days. In addition to the huge red jacket, we have been issued, which is almost as cozy as my sleeping bag, we received thinner red jackets. So in addition to "big red", we have "little red" for warmer weather. So, it must be blazing hot. This coincides with the fact that I am only wearing one pair of long underwear. Who needs two and a fleece layer in these conditions? Thankfully, the weather report has us due for worse weather soon. Then finally this heat wave will be over.

As everyone from the United States might have noticed it is Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, we are not having turkey in the tent. In fact, not even poultry, after what we refer to as "the poultry incident", which has everything to do with us trusting the food list and hallucinating more chicken than what we had in our cooling boxes. In any case, we are also facing the challenge that we need to have two dinners. I have been told that due to the date switch, we need to have Thanksgiving dinner on Thanksgiving New Zealand time and Thanksgiving US time. So on early Thanksgiving, we had:

* Meatballs with gravy
* Mashed potatoes
* Green beans

Great success!

On late Thanksgiving, it will be:

* Steak
* Red potatoes
* Carrots and green beans
And a dessert of:
* No-bake cheesecake with cranberry sauce

As you see, we are not eating terrible, however, a little more comfort while eating and a different decoration than a tent would have certainly made a difference. Still, we are not complaining. We even shared the joys of our colleagues from C-525, who are celebrating on the other side of the Ross Ice-shelf with a Cornish Hen. They know what luxury is!

On a different note, thanks to all of you for suggesting topics or asking questions. I am happy to include new topics as they come in. To everyone, who does not have my personal email, I am sorry but the commenting function on the blog will not work in the foreseeable future. (It is just not a good idea to try to update the webserver on a flaky internet connection from Antarctica, when you actually also need the website for your science.)
So, if you have comments, please just google or facebook me (Anna Nelles) and I will do my best to answer any questions received by mail on the blog.

Here we go, let's pour some more information in this blog.

Why do we insist on going to bed at "night", while the sun is up all the time, which totally sounds like we should take shifts? In fact, McMurdo has a night shift, so at breakfast, there will always be a buffet for dinner for the people on night rotation. This is known as "midrats" in McMurdo slang. This is totally not helpful for new people, who are likely to go for the faux-pas and eat food that is not intended for them. Thankfully, I did not feel like having dirty rice for breakfast, so I was save.
Also, night shifts at McMurdo are not that bad, since there is only a tiny fraction of the year, in which you actually get "real" day and night, I mean with sunrises and sunsets. For the rest, technically everyone is on nightshift or dayshift, only that McMurdo is in New Zealand time and sticks to it, with breakfast from 4:30 to 7:30, lunch from 12:00 to 13:30 and dinner from 17:30-19:30, if I remember correctly. And then offset accordingly, breakfast and dinner for the nightshift, with an additional lunch at 0:00.
If this all works in McMurdo, why do we not keep up the shift rotation in the field? Well, we are three people and you need to have two of us working at the same time to be productive and one person is on cooking duty. Clearly, the math does not work out for shifts for us. Unless we start doing a 28 hour day or something. We do, however, have to check-in with MacOps every morning before 10, so that would totally ruin the system. Clearly, shifts are for bigger teams. So, if anyone has some spare money ...

So what about penguins? Yes, I understand that everyone wants the cute Adelie penguin on the picture with the science guys with the big red jackets. We want that picture, too! However, penguins kind of need the water. And from our current position the water is about 500 meters away. Downwards! Since ice drilling penguins still have to be discovered, we will be alone for a while. There is a faint chance in McMurdo, but if I was a penguin, I would stay clear of this area. Too many people and too many cars!
The only wildlife that has ever been spotted near camp are Skuas. These birds are famous in McMurdo for stealing everything that seems edible. So, food should never be taken in a visible manner out of the kitchen or Skuas will dive at it. When we left, the Skuas had not returned to McMurdo, but I have been reassured that they will be there once we are back. Thus, for the time being I won't be able to post photos of seals or penguins of any kind. Maybe we get lucky in McMurdo, but no guarantees.

I guess now, I will have to go back to science. However, just to be clear, it is not that no science is being done, while I am typing. All stations are running while we are down here. Via the wireless link to the mountain (the one that also provides me with internet), the stations send their data to UCI in California. And should the link be unavailable, they also have their own satellite link that allows for data transfer. So, in principle the stations could just keep running without us until the solarpanels are buried in the snow. With a snow accumulation of a maximum of a meter each year, a four meter tower gives you probably five years of uninterrupted running. This is clearly the plan for future operations. But we are not quite there yet. So, no worries, we won't be digging up equipment for the rest of our lives.