December 9 – Happy Birthday Gus

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Birthday Boy Gus working on his beardToday, December 9, is Adrian’s Pope’s 41st birthday. I was hoping today that my main mission would be, besides loading the Ilyushin, would be to get a message down to Fran, who’s the cook at Patriot Hills, that Gus was going to arrive in Antarctica for his 41st birthday and she should try to make a cake. But it’s not to be.

We will not be going today. I sent the weather reports (see below). We all had a team meeting, not just my team with Gus and Will, but everyone off this flight.

I mentioned the Canadian mechanics who are going down to try and rescue that DC3. There are other Vinson climbers. There are also some folks who are doing a really great adventure, in that they are skiing the last degree to the South Pole.

We’re all here in Punta still waiting. We got together today and Rachel Shepard described to everybody, just to keep their spirits up and I totally concurred with her, when you step off the plane into the amazing silence and the size and you experience the vastness of that continent you know that it’s been worth it.

Peter McDowell on the HF radio to Patriot HillsAnd of course part of what you have to accept is the things like the ferociousness and the velocity of the storms down here sometimes. The largeness and the scale of the entire environment – that’s why it is difficult to get there. It always is.

It takes time and it takes patience and it is always worth it. Rachel knows that, myself and several of the people in the room know it and we’re hanging in.

Happy Birthday to Gus, life is still good here in Punta and life is still amazing down in Antarctica. We’re counting on getting there and it will happen eventually. It will not be today, probably not even tomorrow the way the storm’s looking. But we’ll keep you updated.

Weather report from Patriot Hills for Tuesday morning, December 9, 2003

Wind Direction : 105
Base wind speed: 16 knots \ gusts 20
Visibility: 1 kilometer
Cloud cover: 8 octaves of stratos
Precipitation: Snowing lightly
Temperature: Negative 16 C
Contrast: poor
Horizon: nil

Although it was snowing lighty at the time Jaco gave is this report, it had been snowing moderately a few hours before, so it is possible that snow accumulation on the blue ice runway will become a factor. It is too soon to know however - with only 1 kilometer of of visibility, and the conditions they have at Patriot, there is no way to check that at this time. And no reason to. We are all waiting for this weather system to pass. We will not be flying today.

Jaco´s satellite images show clouds to 83 degrees south (Patriot Hills is just above 80 degrees south) and cloud cover our over the Ronne Ice Shelf. He reports that it moved in very fast and we will hope that it contiues to move fast so we can look for some clearing at Patriot Hills.

Forecasting for this remote part of Antarctica is not easy. The South Pole station is 600 nautical miles away from Patriot Hills. There is an Argentine base about 500 miles away and another base about 850 miles away. But no one is around to observe weather in the immediate area. When the satellite makes its pass and Jaco has access to the images, we all hope for good quality images that he can make some judgements with. But the Antarctic observations of Jaco, Mike Sharp, the station manager at Patriot, and the others on the ice there are the starting point with regard to a decision to fly. Without visibility today, it is out of the question.

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