It feels like Antarctica outside right now. I’m back in town, and there’s a storm here right now – it’s not very cold (around 28 degrees F), but the winds are gusting up to 50 knots. The wind in town gets squeezed between the buildings and whips along extra fast – and so right now walking from my dorm to the dining hall takes about 5 minutes of pushing hard with every step, and walking back takes about 2 minutes at a forced jog with the wind at my back. It’s a nice night to be inside!
Geoff and I got back on Wednesday night from Lake Fryxell. It was such an amazing trip – though we worked hard, and I’m still a bit sore from the digging. This wasn’t your regular garden variety digging – we hacked away at frozen chunks of gravel, rocks, and ice (very similar to concrete) with a pick and a big breaker bar for several days. It was slow going. But it was more than worth it to be out there. I loved camp life – we slept in a tent, but there is a common building called a Jamesway (the one on the right in the picture below), which is heated by propane and has a full stove and electricity. It was a cozy place to cook dinner and relax after work. There are also four smaller lab buildings and a generator shack. The buildings are all right near the shore of the lake – which is beautiful because most of it never melts, and when rocks or debris land on it they melt out parts of it which are then shaped by the wind. What’s left is a mass of one or two-foot high hummocks of ice, which are difficult to navigate and beautiful to look at. The lake is at the end of a long valley, and is surrounded by huge glaciers. The first day Geoff and I went to one of the nearby glaciers (Canada Glacier) to pick “glacier berries,” or small pieces of ice that have broken off the glacier. They’re melted on the propane heater to make water for drinking, washing hands and dishes, and cooking.
You’ll notice in the pictures that contrary to what I said in my last post, the camp is covered in snow – they had a rare dump of about 3 inches a few days before we got there, so the Dry Valleys were actually not the brown and rocky landscape that they usually are. It had already melted a fair amount by the time we left, though.
Here are some pictures from the flights there and back and from life in camp. That whole tower and wind turbine went up in the time that we were there, and Geoff and I were responsible for the ditch running back to the generator shack that now houses the power cord.