Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Struggling with MSR stoves

Tuesday 9th December

Fresh from the field:

Kenny and I were dropped off by Alain and Kristof in the middle of nowhere. It isn't per se nowhere; it is a known spot characterised by 2 simple numbers: 70°35.645'S and 24°01.739E. I can add another figure as well: 285m above sea level. Isn't that great? You call it an imaginary point in a vast endless plain of snow. We call it home; our new home; the geophysicist's dome. A big dome tent 6m in diameter, 3 meters high, flanked by two smaller sleeping tents. The skidoo's parked outside on the imaginary driveway. "Hello darling, I am home!" Home it is.

We arrived a couple of days ago, got acquainted with the environment: white, white and more white. Every day we take the skidoo's out (if weather permits), drive them along other imaginary lines, record blimps and beeps with radar sounding equipment and continuous GPS. It isn't exactly the sound of silence. Driving at 8km per hour on a noisy skidoo, pulling a sled with a
noisy generator that drags as well yet another sled that makes a tantalizing buzz. The transmitter buzz: the heart of the system. Hour after hour we cross the vastness of the snowscape; buzz, blimp, beep; buzz, blimp, beep. Everyday the same ritual, breaking the silence with our electromagnetic wave train: the iron rooster. Now and then we get visitors: snow petrels, Wilson's storm petrels and the other day a group of Antarctic petrels. Curious about what we are doing. Curious about the geometric way in which we try to map the empty snow space. Our only guide is the GPS that helps us organizing the unknown in a mathematical way. From x to y, from lambda to phi. Buzz, blimp, beep.

This morning was a bit of chaos in our normal pattern of everyday life. The MSR stove didn't work anymore. We rely on it to have water, to cook to keep warm and to survive. When it stops working you realize how fragile we are. Cleaning didn't help, so I continue struggling with it. Fortunately, there is a backup. But no backup of the backup (you can't backup infinitely). Dirty hands and smelly fingers, but an essential part of life. Our life at our dome. Our home.


No comments: