had just finished breakfast and were sitting inside the hut of our main
base camp, F6. Something seemed awry.
The wind-driven rattle of windows and
doors was quickly becoming a full on racket sporadically punctuated
by even noisier outbursts that made it sound as if the hut was having
a coughing fit. Outside, gusts of wind lifted the recently-fallen snow
making it difficult to see beyond the complicated swirls. When we stepped
out onto our door stoop, we noticed that the wind was coming from the
west, which was strange, and that the wind was relatively warm, which
was stranger still. It was strong enough for the periodic gusts to knock
us to the ground - and strong enough to do some serious damage to our
Justin pushed his way to his tent to
check on it. Chris and I went back inside to grab our coats and follow
suit. But before we made it out the door again, another big gust hit.
Justin was lost in a blur of snow and dirt. The gust subsided. Justin,
who had crouched to brace himself against the wind, popped back up.
He had been trying to save his tent by unsnapping his poles, but it
was too late. The poles had already been warped. Ben's tent was blocked
somewhat by the hut and was in pretty good shape as was my tent tucked
in behind a little hill. But Chris's tent that he had staked and tied
down with 25-30 guy wires using deadman anchors and big rocks was now
flattened - except for a lone-snapped pole that had punched up through
the fly. "Yep," said Chris surveying the damage, "This
is a katabatic wind alright."
Winds are generated by the sun's heat. Solar radiation warms an air
mass, causing it to rise and creating an area of low pressure. As the
air mass rises it cools and spreads. Once cooled it starts to sink back
to earth making an area of high pressure. The movement of air from high
to low pressure areas creates wind.
Winds are a fact of life in the Valleys.
You quickly learn to tie down or put rocks on everything otherwise you'll
end up chasing wayward bags, papers, and cardboard boxes to the chagrin
of the environmental folks back in McMurdo and to the amusement of your
teammates. It is the wind that will suck the heat from your body and
chill you to the bone. It is the wind that will rub your face raw and
make you feel like you have been burned. And it is the wind that helps
shape the valleys and make them what they are.