7. Nov. 2, 1998, Tuesday: Patriot Hills
The wind is screaming through camp, blasting every projection above the surface and depositing snow in every lee. I spent a very bad night, waking up 9 or 10 times shivering and unable to get warm. Examining my sleeping bag today, I felt numerous lumps of feathers wadded into balls up to hardball in size. The bag simply wasn't fluffy, as it should have been. Apparently it had not been dried properly after washing at CMU and had been stuffed, still damp, into the stuff bag. A serious error, in view of the situation it forced me into. In good condition, the bag might have been borderline adequate, but now? Luckily, Liam has a light-weight extra bag that I can use inside mine.
Christian apparently was also much affected by the sleeping conditions and around 5 a.m. he went to the officers' tent, which is heated. The stormy weather and low temperatures are pretty much what I had warned about.
The toilet is in a hole in the snow with steep, narrow steps leading down into it. One is supposed to make his deposit into a plastic bag and then carry the bag topside to leave in a container. I have my standard case of diarrhea at the beginning of the field season and this afternoon had to shovel my way down to the "toilet from hell," because it had drifted full of snow.
We are told that when they set up this camp a couple of weeks ago, conditions were so horrible that they lost several shelters while trying to put them up. By the time the camp was established they had lost about half their provisions, so the meals are rather dull. Breakfasts are cheese and headcheese(?) sandwiches and dulce de membrillo (quince jam) as a spread. Stewart refers to it as "membrane jelly" because he doesn't speak Spanish. There are coffee and tea to drink. Lunch is exactly the same. Dinner is a soup, followed by ground beef over noodles or a chicked leg over rice. It's not great, but it does keep us going.
We had two more Hercs come in today: they just brought fuel and left right away. Apparently a journalist came along on one of the flights. He saw Nomad near the runway, just standing still, and spread the story that it was frozen and could not endure Antarctic conditions. We heard that this story then went out on the news.
We set up more individual tents today. We have more than enough of them, even keeping a couple aside for the side expedition.
Pascal, Liam and I met the air officers today and discussed our side trip. They are willing to put us down for 2 hours at one site and then fly us to Pirrit Hills, which we chose as a campsite. We will have two commandos, called Chano and Bufalo, with us. They got a big laugh out of the fact that one of them is Bufalo and I am Bill. I think they will be okay. The ranking pilot, Capt. Moya, understands our need for calm weather, and says, "We will not go until the meteorologist can lie with conviction." We worked for a little while with Bufalo and Chano, getting fitted for crampons and harnesses. This evening we were trying to pack in the Endurance tent while Alex was trying to get a minimum office set up. Liam described it as bedlam, and it was.
Nomad had been left down at the landing site but now they powered it up and ran it up to camp with the joystick. That is a two kilometer run and they took turns following it in very cold and windy conditions. It was impossible to achieve wireless communications until it was within one hundred meters of the work tent, but it made a big hit with all observers. When Nomad finally arrived at camp, they were all amazed to discover that it was 12:30 a.m., and cleared out then. We were finally able to finish packing. We are on standby from tomorrow morning, waiting for good weather. I slept much better, using Liam's sleeping bag as a liner.