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Home By Christmas?
Tuesday, December 14, 1999

Dirk Collins
The Team's Call from Antarctica
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Hello Mountain Zone, this is Dirk Collins with the Antarctica Ski and Snowboard Expedition. Today is the 13th of December, or the 14th of December and it is 11 shopping days left until Christmas, and we are stuck in Patriot Hills.

Doug and Dirk
It's "condition one," which means that the weather is so bad that you're not supposed to go outside — huge storm, ground blizzard — it's been going on for the last 36 hours. The average wind speed in the last eight hours has been 80mph with max gusts at almost 100 mph. Visibility outside is 0-10 feet. You can't really go anywhere; you're pretty much stuck to go between your tent and the cook tent. The forecast for the next 24 hours is more storms — at least 24 more hours of bad storms, they're predicting — and hopefully some clearing after that.

Tents are being blown over and crushed all over the place. So far our tents have made it through with a bit of maintenance every hour or so. We had to go help the pilots check on their aircraft which is about 350 - 400 feet away, so they came and asked us for some help. We got all our ropes together and tied them up and went out. You can't see at all, so it's pretty dangerous. You can get lost and die just a few feet from your tent. So we strung about 350 feet of fixed line together to reach the airstrip, and when we got out there, the plane was fine, which made the pilot happy since it's about a one-and-a-half million dollar aircraft sitting out there in 100mph winds. We added a little bit of fuel to it. We put two big drums in the back — 300-pound beasts to help hold her down — and put another tie-down on it, and that should keep her good.

The wind is so strong that it knocks you over when you're walking. You get wet instantly; spindrift goes through zippers, everything is just caked. Your goggles last a few minutes before they're finished. So your jaunts outside are from 5-15 minutes, and then you've got to come back in and clean everything up.

Let's see hear, oh yeah, the group that flew to the Pole — the tourist group flew to the South Pole yesterday, and, obviously, they have not been able to return. They're camped on the ice down there. The weather is better there, but cold — negative 40 degrees Celsius, which is negative 40 degrees Fahrenheit as well. Word is that they're doing well, but they'd like to get back as well.

The crews on Mt. Vinson that flew in after us are getting beat up a little bit by the storm. They're at Camp II. We're really glad that we didn't have this kind of weather when we were there. Hopefully the weather is going to improve in the next 24 hours or so and the C-130 can get in to get us off the continent so we can get home before Christmas. But even with good weather, we're still three to four days from here to Jackson Hole, with travel. So we're hoping for the weather to improve so we can get home and have some Christmas and that kind of stuff. But all is well. We're just hanging out, playing chess, reading and digging. Have a good one, bye.

— Dirk Collins, Correspondent


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