Walkabout

The base camp hut, preserved pretty much as it was, although a bit weathered.

This is where people from Scott’s base camp went to watch for his return. It’s an easy walk from McMurdo and has beautiful views.

The Cape Trail is pretty much “walk out on the ice runway from McMurdo, and head for Scott Base, the New Zealand enclave.” When you get there you can either walk back on the ice, or take the road. Not very scenic, but the only walk I took that required checking out and back in.

At McMurdo there are scenic and historic hikes. For most, I can just go. For some I need to have watched the “don’t be an idiot” video, need to have a radio with me, and need to sign out and back in at the Fire Station.

Here at South Pole, I can just go outside whenever I wish; I don’t have to inform anyone or buddy up or anything. There are markers for places to avoid — like fuel lines  and the airplane skiway — and markers for paths. I need to have a good reason to use government equipment like snowmobiles, so I can’t just tourist in places that are far from the base. I’ll sneak over somehow, though.  And I will try to not be an idiot.

At the station there is a small gym with some free weights, a couple of treadmills and exercise bikes, and some brand of universal gym machine, as well as a basketball court about one-quarter size, about right for volleyball or badminton. Just this morning I went to the gym, and managed 15 minutes of brisk walking, getting my pulse up to about 135. I actually have a resting pulse right now of 68, which is about normal for me; yesterday I checked my oxygen and it was hanging steady at about 85%. My heart still races from walking up 20 steps.

I don’t seem to be going out a lot, but when the winds are up nobody would. There’s a temperature inversion pretty much all the time, with cold air at the surface and warm air above. When the winds blow it stirs things up, and the temperature goes up. But wind tends to dominate comfort; today we are getting -29F but with 15-20 knot winds; that puts the wind chill at about -60. Nobody is going out for fun today.

You can see the current weather here when the satellites are up. [No you can’t. That’s the intrAnet.] Another interesting thing to follow on that page is the “physiological altitude” near the bottom. We’re at at 9306 feet above sea level, but just like the earth bulges at the equator, so does the atmosphere. The air pressure is always relatively low here. The cold air is also more dense, and as you go up the pressure drops faster than it would with warm air, so 9000 feet up in cold air has less atmosphere than 9000 feet up in warm air.

There is less scenery here than at McMurdo; the natural world is flat and white. My destinations are buildings, places where people are mining science or supporting that. I’m about to head out to MAPO, the main observatory. I don’t get out enough, and I don’t get alone enough. This will serve for both.

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6 responses to “Walkabout

  1. It is good that whenever you choose to get out, there will be sunshine. In your Dartmouth days, if you remember, you once managed to spend a winter without being outside when the sun was up.

    • I don’t remember that. It’s trivial to spend a winter here and never see the sun.
      I’m trying to figure out if winter-over is something I’d like to do, or have any skills that might allow it.

      • If you ever decide to winter-over and I’m available to cat-sit, I have only one caveat. Your cats need an outdoor sun-porch … a side benefit being you can put the cat box there during the good weather. I’ve already started working on the design 🙂

      • Let me know!
        I’ve considered putting a cat door in the corner where the couch is, and a litter box out there. I could, of course, have a whole Kitty Park out there along with it.

  2. hmm, I hadn’t thought of there–was going with the existing doggie door and putting a cat box “shelf” to the left of the door–level with that raised corner of the short wall before the stairs, and an open air screened wall crossing the deck–even with where the stairs start, with an actual screen door that when you open the screen door it “shuts off” the stairs to go past the raised garden bed–and you have to then close the screen to be able to go down the stairs (this is probably hard to envision by description). The wall supports would be the only parts actually to be attached (under the eves) and the level shelf would have support legs that straddle the existing wall and so they don’t have to be attached/bolted/screwed. I think I’m running out of space here–at least I can’t see what I’m typing, so will resume this in email.

  3. I can’t get used to how COOL it is that you are adventuring at the south pole. I get giddy thinking about it! I would so “borrow” a skidoo and go for a joy ride ..

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