We 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 tents.

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."

Ben's Tent

Karen's Tent

Justin's Tent

Chris's Tent

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.