Antarctica

Week 21 Home Sweet Dome

5th March - 12th March 2000

It has started to get cold here. As I write some notes in the galley, at this moment the temperature is -66degC (around -90degF). We have broken a number of record lows for individual days this month already. Of course this is the lowest temperatures I've ever experienced. The average annual temperature at the pole is -49.4degC, and the lowest ever recorded temperature at pole was -83degC (1989). This is really cold. The lowest recorded temperature on earth was at the Russian station Vostok, at -89degC.

Normally once an Antarctic station closes for the year there is little illness. If there is no new source of viruses, then we become healthy. This was described to us by our doctor as "herd immunity". However, we have had a virus going around the population since station close. This week was my turn to come down with it. So for the first few days of the week I lay low and spent a lot of time sleeping or relaxing in Sky Lab. Hopefully this virus will die out and the rest of the winter will be illness free - until those \$\#\^\#\$\* arrive in October with the Crud.

I've mentioned that I live in the dome, and that the dome houses 27 people. The rest live outside the dome in either the Elevated Dorm, or the hypertats. The Elevated Dorm goes by a number of names. The original idea was for it to house summer scientists. But since during the summer it is quality housing - and your housing assignment goes on ice time - then not that many scientists really live in it. Most summer beakers only stay for short periods (I'm a real polie - I've got 6 years of Antarctic experience - 6 x 1 week at a time!!) and thus usually end up in Alti Meadows. So the nick name "the beaker box" doesn't really apply. It is usually referred to as El Dorm. It is quite nice, with rooms having windows. One draw back is that some of the rooms are shared, and thus don't have as much privacy as one usually wants. There is a small kitchen and lounge area, so it has a few comforts. It is a modern elevated building - and bit noisy in summer, being next to the PAX terminal. The finishing inside is very nice compared to the 25 year old, mid-seventies dome decor. El Dorm is one of three almost identical, in structurally designed, building at pole - El Dorm, ARO (Atmospheric Research Observatory), and Mapo. The new DSL (Dark Sector Lab) will be very similar also. They are all blue boxy building on stilts. 13 people live in El Dorm this winter.

The remaining 10 people live in the hypertats. These are a lighter coloured blue metal skinned building, sort of the shape of a Jamesway. There are four hypertats which are named Fred, Barney, Wilma, and Betty. Only Wilma and Betty are being used over the winter. This is the first year that people are wintering in them. There has been a lot of concern about whether it would be possible to keep them warm enough. So far it hasn't been too bad - I'm told. the rooms have windows, but the snow has drift extensively around them. It was cleared during the summer, but they are now quickly being re-buried. To make life more comfortable for the people in the hypertats, there is a covered walk way to their bathroom, which is called Shadies. The hypertat people are quite house proud.

Of course the main draw back to living in either El Dorm or the hypertats is that you have to walk outside to reach the dome. Coming to the dome is important if you want to eat. If you live out there then it is a feature - "I get to walk outside every day - not like you dome rats". This means putting on all your ECW. Most have adapted, and do things like carry a bag in, and change into more comfortable clothing once in the dome. But one of the crew is fighting the urge to go home tooth and nail. He is to be found sleeping in all sorts of weird spots in the dome - the TV lounge, Sky Lab, and his lab. His room mate in El Dorm gets the benefit of having the room almost to himself. It's a bit anti-social as one feels obliged not to wake him even though he is in a public area (practicing the harmonica in Sky Lab would definitely wake him - especially since I'm just learning). But he is a great bloke - and that goes a fair way.

But me - dome rat in UB14, I like my room a lot. I get some fresh air when I walk to Mapo, almost every day. So it's home sweet dome for me.

To be continued .......

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