Sunday, December 03, 2006

Life in Polar Haven


The cook tent: This is where we spent all our meals and all our breaks. Fitting seven of us into this space was no easy task, even with fold up plastic chairs. Each day we rotated cooks and though some of us liked the inside "day off" inside more than others, it was an important job that had to be done. A better description would be to say that it was a "day in" that consisted of waking up before everyone else, boiling water for all the thermoses to last for the day, boiling water for coffee and tea, and much to the amusement of my companions, my morning cup of "hot water." In the morning one hoped for a large pot of water on the Preway diesel heater, where we melted snow, but often after breakfast drinks, the snow collection would have to be started - and continued - to last the day and the following morning. (A 10 x 10 foot square was flagged away from camp and we collected the snow to be melted from within the flags hoping it was not contaminated with footprints or diesel exhaust.)

Breakfast was either organized (cold and hot cereals) or, for those more ambitious, prepared (eggs, french toast, pancakes, etc) on two 2-burner propane stoves. We met for breakfast at 0730 and suited up for work at about 0830. On went the extra layer, the radio chest pack, radio turned on and checked, big red, liner gloves, leather mittens, long underwear hoods, hat, neckwarmer, second neckwarmer, and finally, googles. A sigh of relief ushered by the cook as he or she had the place to themselves in which to begin the daily chores. There was always snow to collect for the hot and cold water pots, the dishes had to be done, the haven needed to be tidied, and lunch and dinner needed to be planned, pulled (from the outside cargo line behind the snow wall) and, if necessary, thawed.

Out to work, the workers went, usually to get the snow machines running, then start shoveling out the various projects. Eventually we uncovered the fuel bladders and found various other things including a pallet of bamboo flags, a radio antenna box, compressed gas canisters, coleman stove fuel, and a few other things. Once the bladders were cleared we transfered the fuel in them to some empty fuel drums we had found at the camp. We were all very happy to complete the bladder project as none of us wanted to be responsible for putting a shovel or probe through a bladder that was holding 500 gallons of diesel fuel.

Unfortunately, the flaggs and the bladders were both on pallets that were supported by empty drums that had to be dug out. Though digging out empty fuel drums was a lot better than digging down another four feet to get to the bladders had they not been raised in order to make the recovery process easier.

Back to the haven for a morning break, than lunch, usually around 1 or 2pm, then work until 6:30 or so when we would quit for dinner. Every few days though, we would work until 9 or 10pm in preparations for incoming cargo flights. Long days, but fun, physical days. A restful dinner was usually had, sometimes with an ipod playing through my $8 speakers, often with much book reading, journal reading, picture reviewing, and even some dancing. We stumbled off to our respective sleeping spots and hit the sack usually somewhere between 10pm and midnight.

The next day, we would rise again to do more archeology work. We worked off an old hand drawn map that had the locations of barrels and other items. But rarely did we find the right numbers of barrels in the right places. But in our 16 days there, about a hundred barrels were found, put on pallets and flown back to town.

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