Week 22 Close the Shutters - Dome Rats Locked in

12th March - 19th March 2000

Having said last week about how cold it is, this week it became balmy. Most of the time it has been above -50C. Today (Sunday) the weather has put on a show for us. The wind peaking over 40 knots (gusts) last night, and the temperature soared to -32C!!! The met people don't have a reliable way of telling the average wind speed, so I'm not sure if this was a technical blizzard. I was asleep when the wind reached its peak. But I was outside soon after, and the visibility wasn't too bad. I could easily see over 100m. One of our met people did say it was the worst weather she had ever seen at pole (she has wintered twice before). So it seems unlikely the wind will reach anything like Casey standards (104 knot average to beat our Casey winter). But for most people it was real extreme weather - to be played in.

The wind was strong enough to cause a considerable amount of drifting snow. To stop the snow getting into the dome, the huge doors at the entrance were shut. Also the garage doors, and internal arch doors. This was the first time I felt that we were living a subterranean life, with the dome half buried by snow. When you go out the small door, the hill outside the dome suddenly seems a lot steeper (it is - the drifting snow filling in the gentle ramp made during the summer). With most of the inside work finished, and life outside a bit uncomfortable, we've become inside dwellers.

Talking about inside, last night we had a dome crawl. The idea being that people living in the dome opened up their rooms to visitors, everyone serving a different drink. Unfortunately the timing wasn't the best, the day after St Patrick's Day, and sunset parties coming up. Except for a couple of El Dormers, the party was mainly dome dwellers (Dome Rats) checking out each others rooms.

The El Dorm and Hypertats being newish are considered sacred and not to be altered to any extent. Rooms in the dome are the opposite, and have been modified to the point that none are alike. It is really nice to have some individual character to your room. Because of the limited floor space, many of the rooms have elevated beds with desks, lounges, or storage underneath. Some have complete second floors, with each level being about 4 feet high. This is especially popular with couples, the top level is a reasonable sized bed, and their living area is below. Of course this usually leaves an area about one square meter to stand up and get dressed in. I'm not fond of the elevated beds. I had UB6 (Upper Berthing room 6) for a couple of weeks, and while it is a beautifully set up room, it was a bit stuffy sleep near the ceiling, and numerous times I woke up during the night, sat up in bed to feel the fire alarm brush past my head. I was sure I was going to nail that sucker one night with a huge head butt. We've had a number of false alarms from people hitting the fire alarms in elevated beds. Can be embarrassing for the occupants if it's in the middle of the day and from a room with a couple who are both day workers.

It is said that the buildings in the dome are a bit of a fire hazard. This isn't too hard to believe. To give us a sporting chance all the rooms have escape hatches. These are freezer doors about 3 feet square that give us access to the outside. An unusual things about the rooms is the variation in temperature. One would have expected a nice even temperature. But rooms UB15 and UB16 are both very cold, being at the end of the building, having two outside walls, and at the end of the heating duct. But my room, UB14, next to 16, is far too hot. And then UB10 is very cold again even though it's right in the middle. For the hot rooms the escape hatch is a means of climate control. You can tell all the hot rooms from the outside as there are streaks of ice above the hatch from them being cracked open slightly to lower the temperature.

I think the most amazing room in Upper Berthing is room 3, which has a polished wooden floor. It's not practical for me though, as the bed runs the short axis of the room, and I'd have to cut a hole in the wall to lie straight in bed. It would be the perfect design for a room on a boat. There is a built-in couch under the bed, with storage lockers under it. There is a desk, with books cases - just the right size - above it. And behind the door is a closet and storage cupboards.

My room, UB14, hasn't quite got the character, but is very practical. The bed is only a couple feet high, and has storage underneath. I have a desk with draws. Above the desk are shelves which hold my books. the top shelf is larger and has my drinks supplies, and other things such as snacks and my years supply of toiletries. In one corner is a column of shelves and draws where I keep most of my clothes. I also hang clothes on coat hangers from the pipe that supplies the fire sprinkler. Next to my bed are two small shelves, the top one has my CDs and clock/CD player. At the foot of my bed, on the edge of the desk, I have a small TV and video player. The inside is also now covered with glowing stars. Rooms in UB are often known for features. My room will forever more be known as the star room.

To be continued .......

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