Big Red

December 6th, 2001

"Joe's hiking in BIG RED!"
- Jennifer and Nicole, when Bill and I met them at the tip of Lake Hoare on the hike from Lake Bonney

I love Big Red. Big Red is the goose down parka they issue at CDC for cold weather. They also give you a lighter red wind jacket. I tried wearing the lighter wind coat around, but I was cold almost everywhere. In Big Red I sweat almost everywhere, but Big Red breathes and I dry off fast. I love Big Red.

Big Red weighs in at about 7 pounds and is riddled with pockets and pouches. I can get hats, gloves, water bottle, trail snacks, extra socks, and keys into big red. Wearing Big Red is like wearing your house. People usually don't do work in Big Red unless they're somewhere actually cold. It's not "actually" cold here in the Dry Valleys, or so I'm told. Even though there's ice and glaciers everywhere and it's 10 degrees with the wind chill, Antarctic veterans assure me it's not cold. Cold is WinFly. Cold is getting off the Herc in August when it's -40C on the runway. Cold is snow school when it's -30F on the ice shelf. Cold is standing there at Pole when it's -50F waiting for someone to hand you something to carry. And by the way, it's "Pole" not "the Pole". You say, "When I go to Pole," not "when I go to THE Pole", because the name of the station is Pole, like the name of the station is McMurdo.

Here I am near the Taylor Glacier with writer Bill Fox. I'm wearing Big Red and Bill is wearing his wind jacket. I have about 5 layers of clothing on, Bill only about three. Maybe I'm just a cold kind of guy.

A few nights ago I got so cold it drove my kidneys crazy. Know this: in the cold your kidneys want to dehydrate you. It takes energy to heat water and less water is better, or so the logic of evolution would suggest. Unfortunately, this reaction results in the cessation of bodily function. You pee out all your water and then nothing runs anymore. You stay warmer drinking water and eating. They teach you this in snow school.

My kidneys so failed me I had to drink bottle after bottle of water for days to feel normal again. I've stopped the coffee and tea and alcohol. Just water.

Here in the dry valleys I have to think every time I want to go to the bathroom. It's not complicated, but it's not a no-brainer the way it is back home. One thing in one place, another in the other. The normal reaction is to simply decide NOT to go to the bathroom. Add to this the dehydration factor and it's easy to commit unwitting suicide.

We wear "creepers" to walk on the lake ice. One of the freakiest things in the world is to step off dry land onto ice and have it hold you up. Creepers are beach flip-flops with small hex-head sheet-metal screws turned into the sole. You still slip, just less.

I'm eating Cadbury chocolate bars every hour. Bags of gorp.
Not gaining weight, losing.

There's lots of hauling stuff around here. I haven't seen my feet in days. One shower per week. I can't tell if I smell like the inside of the monkey house at the zoo. Maybe I'm just used to it or maybe everyone smells this way.

Lake Hoare Computer Room / Movie Theater and Lake Hoare Interior