Nice While it Lasted – a blog by Spencer Smirl

Yesterday, the 14th of June, [this post is a day old, sorry – HQ] was a rare day for us here at our winter camp. It was the third of three consecutive days of no wind.  Not only was the air as still as stone, the sky was clear as well. I couldn’t remember the last time I witnessed the sharp edge of the horizon in the distance. The thirty plus days of howling wind spins the snow up off the glacial surface and suspends it in the air.  Depending on wind speeds, this blowing snow can be as high as 10-15 meters, closing the world in around us and hiding the horizon. It’s like being trapped in a vast endless white space, you lose track of your environment, forgetting how never-ending the terrain around us seems to stretch out.

Richmond and Spencer on their midday stroll - smallPeeking up from beyond the horizon we could see the Soar Rondane Mountains reaching up into the bright orange sky. A mirage caused the illusion of giant spires rising from their peaks. The view of the mountains gives rise to a slight feeling of disappointment, remembering what little distance we actually achieved. However, it is comforting to see what little distance is needed to bring us home.

The calming of the storm was an opportunity taken by most of the team to leave the confines of our caboose and benefit from a bit of fresh air. Richmond and I decided we would venture north and see if our trail in the snow was still discernible, it was a good excuse to get in a bit of exercise also.  We had made it roughly 750 meters from camp, the lights of the cabooses still visible in the distance. Our trail was perfectly noticeable and has seemed to harden as well; this could infer an easier tow for the machines. The walk was easy, even in our massive -100C steel toe Baffin work boots. There was the slightest breeze at our backs and with the temperature hovering around the -50C mark it was best we not go much further in fear of struggling on our return.

Cold - smallThe walk back was much harder. The slight wind-chill was freezing the top of my head even with three layers covering it and the added load of the head winds was taking its toll.  The thin air resulting from the elevation makes it hard to keep your breath.  It will be a strange sensation descending back to sea level after spending six months at nearly three kilometres of elevation. The shift in air density should be very noticeable, I expect it will feel like I’m in the best shape of my life, perhaps I will be.

It was to no surprise that I awoke to the familiar howl of the wind this morning, gently rocking the caboose. As I got dressed to go outside to light the generator, I was anticipating it to have warmed up slightly as that was the trend we had become accustomed to with a drop in pressure and rising winds. I was quite surprised, however, to discover the temperature was the lowest we had witnessed during our expedition at -56 degrees Celsius. With a wind speed of just over 20 knots, the wind chill had returned to the -80Cs, a temperature we are growing far too accustomed to.  Ah well….it was nice while it lasted.

The Soar Rondane Mountains with Mirage - small