Friday, April 4, 2008
I came across this watercolor that I did of our field camp on the frozen Ross Sea. This is the camp where a British writer and I were staying when the group of Emperor penguins came in for a visit one night. It consisted of two wooden huts on 6 feet of frozen sea. What an amazing experience that was! I was part of the National Science Foundation Artist and Writer's program doing paintings and drawings during the beautiful Antarctic spring season. Then, the 24 hour sunlight of summer had not yet started, and we had many hours of long twilight. The red vehicle on the left was our "Spryte" which is like a small bulldozer with tracks for going over the hummocky ice. It would crawl along at 10 mph and could get us to McMurdo Station in two hours if the weather was good. The middle hut we used for cooking on our Coleman stove, and the hut on the right we used for living and working, as it had two wooden bunks and two tables. Both were heated with an oil drip stove, so we were quite toasty, even when outside temperatures hovered around minus 50 degrees Farenheit (-45 C). The line of green flags marked the bamboo sticks that held up our radio antenna. Each morning at 9 AM we would call in to McMurdo Station to say that all was well at our field camp. All field camps had a specific call-in time, which was just a safety check. We could then turn off the radio and experience peace of the Antarctic wilderness. On a day like this one, we could bundle up and go out for a walk (with icepicks to check the sea ice), or go for a ride in the Spryte. On stormy days, we worked inside, as whiteout conditions would reduce visibility to zero. In some cases you could hardly see your boots through the blowing snow, and had to stand at a 45 angle to the wind just to stand up! There was no wandering on those days. We could just get to the other hut by following a 20 foot rope, so as not to get lost on the way over!