Jen communicating with the locals (pic: Shane Mitchell)

Jen communicating with the locals (pic: Shane Mitchell)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Jungle Jen Vs the Silence

View over the seaice from the DavisMet office 27 April- with a sundog through diamond dust (c) jfeast

I'm not even sure the moon went down today.

As we speak (as I write) I am watching the sun descend below Anchorage Island to my left, scattering oranges and pinks and purples across the lightly clouded afternoon sky, as the full moonface watches on through the window on my right flanked by its unbiquitous purples and blues indicating that although it's only 4pm, night is falling. The tinted windows on the office do nothing for the photos, and the cold dusk air outside sends a burning sensation down your throat like you've run a marathon in the early morning frost.
Plus, by the time I've donned the required twelve thousand three hundred and forty seven layers, the moment would be passed. I'm not going outside...
The colours reflected off the sea ice today have been really lovely.

I write to you from the Met office at Davis, heading towards hour 12 of my shift (only five and a half to go woohooo) during another rather unremarkable day weather wise. The wind has dropped off and the cloud has finally cleared to affirm that



the sun DOES still exist..


(you would think I would know better than to complain after two and a half straight months of 24 hour light.... how quickly I forget)

Its only a couple weeks now until the sun takes it's winter holidays from Antarctica and heads for warmer waters (probably feeling the absence of the seals, penguins and other assorted animal life who also declared it damn cold down here and staged a mass exodus), we will have almost six weeks where the sun does not come above the horizon beginning June 3rd... Not so good for tanning (that is if I could convince my freezing fingers to remove aforementioned layers of clothing to glimpse the sun in these temperatures).

It's going to be interesting.

Already a headtorch has become my best pal to and from work while negotiating the ever changing obstacle course of moving snow drifts. It's interesting to see the sprawl marks freezing solid into the drifts while the wind isn't blowing, you can see where people have misjudged the gradient over some sastrugi (picture small, steep sand dunes randomly appearing over what you recall being a flat, well worn road you tread multiple times each day) and landed face first in the snow.

They aren't all from me...

But it is definitely difficult to stifle the laughter when you see it happen.

I find it almost disappointing when I cop a faceful of snow and there is no-one to snicker.

But then I suppose I wouldn't be out of bed at 5:30 in the morning if they didn't pay me to either!

Anyway, the inspiration to post came from the prologue of a book I picked up in the wallow (station lounge/ recreation area) called:

Slicing the Silence;
Voyaging to Antarctica

By Tom Griffiths

I liked the cover.

The book explores the human history to Antarctica. Tom Griffiths spent some time at Casey a few years ago, and ties in stories from the early polar explorers and his own experiences travelling to the ice.The chef down here (I think) has been through and underlined a few sections that he found interesting, The final paragraph of the prologue is what immediately caught my eye....

" History down south, as in any society, is a practical and spiritual necessity, but especially so in a place where human generations are renewed every summer and the coordinates of space and time are warped by extremes. And on a continent claimed by various nations but shared by the world, history carries a special international obligations. It is the fundamental fabric of a common humanity.
Antarctica has become, in the words of Barry Lopez, 'a place from which to take the measure of the planet'. It is a global archive, a window on outer space and a scientific laboratory; it is also a political frontier, a social microcosm and a humbling human experiment. It offers us an oblique and revealing perspective on modern history, an icy mirror to the world. To voyage to Antarctica is to go beyond the boundary of one's biology towards a frightening and simplifying purity. It is a land of enveloping silence. How does life sustain itself in the face of such awesome indifference? In Earth's only true wilderness the fundamentals of existence are exposed.
To survive, you need food, you need warmth, and you need stories. "

I like that. With winter on the mind, more and more people taking advantage of the good weather and diminishing sunlight to get out into the field, and the lack of animals and movement as the sea ice has frozen the swaying icebergs into a relative stillness, I liked his summary of this place......

You haven't experienced silence until you have sat on a rock, on a still night, under a flickering aurora peppered with stars in antarctica, and realised that the only sound for thousands of kilometers around you is the rustle of your hood against your jacket, and the sound of your own breath.

It's another world

(Altocumulus through Campbell Stokes Sunshine Recorder, earlier in the year at Davis 2011)
(photo Jenny Feast)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Jungle Jen all consumed...

I thought it important to point out....

Fresh fruit and vegetables are SEVERELY UNDERRATED.

Just in case you were curious as to what is all consuming my world right now....

(I love antarctica, and i loved willis island, but the absence of a steady supply of cherry tomatoes is inhumane)

That is all.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Jungle Jen Vs Windows 7

Current Standing:
Windows 7 - 2
JJ: - $2500
Two useless laptops in antarctica: priceless....



Windows 7 claimed another computer, this time a brand new one, sent down on V3 (Voyage 3 to Antarctica in the 2010/11 season). The first one died due to the fact that I introduced the "incurable unscrupulous unimpressive undiscriminating (insert other adjectives here) disease" of Windows 7 (its a driver update from Vista/ XP etc yay for microsoft and yay for anyone who didn't know what it was that I had to explain... impressive!!) to said computer- which was feeling fantastic before the "upgrade" and took a spiralling turn for the worst, deleted all it's precious cargo on the hard drive, including expensive software (that's programs for you... mum hehe), and then the computer gave up the goat. entirely.
Decided it had had enough of life and self destructed, hard drive and all.

Yay for computers.

RIP Toshiba Satellite:
2008- 2010.

On the plus side, the computer died just in time to order a new one to come down on the next ship- with only moments to spare before the cargo cut off. Said computer arrived, intact, and joined the impressive leagues of JJ cutting edge technology including a hand cranked wireless, pedal powered car (flintstones style) and a 1980's walkman, which periodically devours bad eighties cassette tapes. I should have gone for the eight track player. (I exaggerate- i'm farrrrrrrr too young to still own an 8 track). It worked.
And then it didn't.

And my friendly Toshiba representative was very impressed that I was calling from Antarctica with a problem with their computer...

I however, was not so impressed.

So, new computer now has another very clean hard drive after being completely scoured of any worthy (expensive) software, again, and sits, taking pride of place amongst my dust gathering collectables until my fear of killing it wears off enough to replace the photo editting software...

Hence. No photos.
And also. No blog.

And Hence. Because I felt like using that word again.

But there is really no excuse so I thought I would enlighten you to some interesting webpages with news from Davis and Surrounds, including and awesome timelapse of some Auroral Activity by the masterful Boj (Sparkie)

I was going to explain a little about what Aurora's are and how they occur, but Ray, our resident Atmospheric Scientist did a great write up in last week's Icy News... a newsletter produced each week at each station to give the general public, friends and family a run down of what is happening on the ice. Check out his explanation here:

Living and Working At Davis; This Week at the Station

And! The Antarctic Division website has lots of fun stuff about Davis like...

Fun Stuff about Davis!!

And in case you were wondering, There are two Jenn's on station- the roving/raving reporter is not this jenn, but another far more entertaining form of Jenn- for now we'll refer to her as Jolly Queen!

(JJ and Jolly Queen comparing notes at Nina's Bar, Davis)

So yeah, each week the station does a little write up with some photos to show what's been going on, its a good way to get a gauge on how it is living down here, what the vehicles and station look like, and follow along with the escapades of the local tribe of davisites- a strange looking, highly irrelevant group of people who for strange reason's choose to congregate in very cold places.

Other than icy news, Davis has been cold and windy for the last couple of weeks. The days are getting shorter and shorter (we are losing about ten minutes per day now)
(check out the Davis Sun Rise and Set Times here)
And soon we'll have total darkness for about six weeks. It's messing with my sleep patterns, but lucky for me, I work shiftwork, 5:30am until 10:30pm when i'm on- yay! That means that atleast three days a week I'm out of bed before it gets light (at 11am at the moment..... i KNOW!!!) . Its tough! Even having lived in miserable england, this 5 hours of daylight thing is odd! I think I preferred the 24 hours of sunlight! Not helped by the fact that the sun has been hiding behind a thick layer of cloud for the last couple of weeks, so it's actual existance is questionable in the least.

Bring on Winter! Give us some Blizzards!!

It's getting cold down here, and the wind gave rise to a very interesting quad trip up the sea ice to Bandit's Hut- one of the furthest field huts from station- in 60kt (110km/hr) winds. It was... interesting. The ride back through the icebergs with the wind at our backs was pretty glorious (photos to come), but vaguely interesting as soon as you felt the need to turn the quad- getting blow sideways down blue ice alleys makes for some interesting body positions.

Other than the jollies out in the field, there's plenty of time to join the gym, spa, sauna and private zumba classes ( for one, run by competent confident american instructors via DVD- saving all humiliation for participant (singular haha) administered by those who happen to open the door to the yoga/pilates/zumba room wondering what all the banging, crashing and cursing is about)... There's sewing projects, art projects, carpentry projects, and a whole lot of TV series on the go- including weekly station viewing of Airwolf, Season 1.
Although we haven't got as far as seeing them in purple flight suits. Something to look forward to!
Yay for bad eighties TV Box Sets.
You can thank my brother Stephen.

I mean really. Who can resist a TV show with a lead character whose name is Hawk and flies a helictoper and plays a mean cello to woo a bird- (a hawk can you believe)
All the good guys wear all white.

Dramatic Gold