Day 13: Rocking out
Taking a wind reading.
Jenny's compass mounted on her forearm.
Good day today. We broke camp in 25 mph winds thinking today will be another windy one, but after sledging for half an hour the wind dropped to near zero. In another half hour it was back to 25. And so the day went, up and down. Note: Jenny carries a wind meter in her pocket.
With me in the lead, I tried to go around the worst of the sastrugi to the right because the route looked better over there. After I had done that, the route still looked much better to the right. That is when I realized the light was playing tricks, and the sastrugi was probably the same everywhere. So I headed straight through. This we did most of the day and it worked well, saving us innumerable detours.
Rocking out. We each carry our music players in two zip-locks hung on our backs. We are always bucking headwinds, and if we carried the players on our front sides, they would freeze and quit working. But our backs are more protected from the cold blast, so it is a warmer place to carry them.
The afternoon was a joy, with good weather, expansive scenery, and good speed and progress. The terrain never ceases to amaze us, with it's beautiful and infinite variations caused by, not water, but wind erosion. Every square meter is a sculpture.
The lifeless landscape reminds me of Mars. I had no part in Jenny's painting the name Spirit on my sled, and Opportunity on her sled. But these names sure fit now.
Finally getting away from that mountain. It's been on the horizon for a week.
Skiing over a patch of ice. The snow consistency is not uniform across the surface, but varies from place to place, from soft snow to hard ice. Its difficult to ski on hard ice, because the skis can't get a grip, even though we have skins on the underside of the skis. And its even more difficult to ski on soft slow, because the pulks drag even harder. Fortunately for us, the consistency has been about right, at least for skiing. When it comes time to make camp, we have to be very careful to pick the right spot. More on that later in the story.
Lunch stop, Jenny pulling out her insulated jacket.
At our lunch stop I've got my hood pulled down, in order to cool off. Just kidding. But it's difficult to eat with a face mask loaded with ice on the inside. The ice is from my breath.
Towards the end of the day we wandered into a valley with sastrugi so large that we could not maintain our heading without detouring every which way.
Once at the bottom of the valley, we had a long climb up the next hill. Then, once at the top we had super impressive views looking back.
This ice moves about 20 inches per year, so this hill and valley is probably caused by the tip of a mountain buried a short ways below the surface, and the ice flowing around it. Like a large rock out in the middle of a slow moving river causing a massive slow wave.
At the bottom of the valley we crossed our second degree, so tonight's camp is 82 and counting. That means we have eight more degrees of latitude to reach the South Pole at 90 °.
Writing the evening update. In the tent it's much warmer than outside, by as much as 50 degrees or more. The reason our tent is so warm, is first, because the air, here, is so much drier than it was near the coast, where the humidity made the cold extremely penetrating. Secondly, we have learned, through a great deal of trial and error, to manage our warmth. We pitch the tent with the doors on each end facing the wind; then we un-zip each door part-way, to let in just the right amount of ventilation to permit using the stove inside the tent without the fumes causing asphyxiation, and to prevent the steam from building inside. The wind is usually blowing hard outside. Without the wind, we could not use a stove inside. And finally, and most importantly, our tent is dark green in color to maximize solar heating. The sun stays above the horizon, so the solar warmth comes through all "night." The dark green color is also much easier on the eyes.
As I write this in the tent, we are enjoying our third cuppa and a large pot of oatmeal. Outside, it is blowing 25 knots again, and the temp is well below freezing, as usual. One unexpected advantage of my modification to this tent is it does not shake and rattle in the wind. So it is quiet inside.