Lake Hoare Camp

November 29th, 2001

"You're from New Jersey. Why don't you admit it?"
- An LTER grad student after dinner last night.

Let's pretend for a moment you're not a bunch of latitude lines away from home, 800 miles from the pole, at the foot of the Canada glacier. Let's pretend that's not Frank Zappa playing on the camp CD. Let's pretend those scientists aren't wearing fluroescent wigs and singing along with ABBA on the stereo. Let's say it's all one big dream and you'll wake up.

Yeah. Right. When?
Like, it's been a long time.

A penguin wandered into camp last night. That little black and white lump laying on the ice to my left is the penguin. Once they've come out this far, they don't get back. There's no food for them out here. I watched this bird poke around the ice for about 20 minutes and then it flopped down. The camp manager said it happens.

Obviously it happens a lot more than anyone would expect. No one knew how long this skeleton had been here. We discovered it on our way to the floundering penguin at the glacier foot. I don't think anyone had seen it before. Ironically, there were penguin tracks in the dirt right beside this skeleton. Whatever brought this penguin to Lake Hoare brought several. We found a dead seal, too. It seemed fresh. There was blood coming from its mouth and Tony poked at it with a rock. It was still soft.

How the hell did the penguin and the seal get way out here where there's no food or water. Could there be an underground aquifer? There's certainly nothing but dirt and frozen glacier as far as I could tell in the helicopter on the way out here.

At Lake Hoare it's warmer than at McMurdo and a lot warmer than the ice shelf where I did happy camper school. Some folks in my happy camper class were on their way to the top of Erebus to measure the gasses coming out. It's 30 below up there. Down here at Lake Hoare we have the windows open and go outside in nothing but our fleeces. I didn't even put my long underwear on this morning. The air is tepid and the wind is mild.

I still can't figure out how to tell if it's going to be cold or warm up. The sun is always up so there's no night or day. It's always day. The sky is cloudless. Sometimes the temperatures soar above freezing, and sometimes they go way below zero. Sometimes the ground is muddy and sometimes the mud freezes and I can't tell from the sky or the clouds why it gets cold or warm. It's not like up north where you can clouds and say, there's a storm. Sometimes there are clouds and it gets warm and everything melts. Then it will turn cold again and everything will freeze I can't tell why.

Hey. Here's the box on the top of a hill at Lake Hoare. The glacier is in the background. Out here it's hard to imagine only a few months ago I was doing wiring for the current sensors on my kitchen table. Now here it is, albeit in the most mild climate on Antarctica, but it's Antarctica none the less. And it's working great.

This is not my tent, but it may as well be. I have the same type. I'm on the top of a small rise just like this one, only I'm much closer to the glacier itself. It's not as picturesque, so I took a picture of this one instead. All night long I listen to the glacier groaning and cracking. It sounds like a giant house settling, doors slamming, two-by-fours popping under strain. When bits of ice fall off it sounds like breaking glass, or someone rattling a bag of nails.

Inside the main hut there's coffee and ABBA music. Johnny Cash. Frank Zappa.