On the evening of our arrival here at Summit Station, we were welcomed with a nice display of aurora. It wasn’t terribly bright, but it was very active, which makes up for some dimness (much like my x-girlfriend).
After that, it all went to shit. The winter crew was stuck here four extra days as bad weather beat down on us. They squeaked out on Sunday, and I mean squeaked. The Twin Otter pilots made an inbound pass at the skiway in a 20-knot side-wind and quickly abandoned it, choosing to forge their own landing strip into the wind instead. It’s good the winter crew made it out when they did, because the next few days were downright raucous.
Yesterday was the first time I saw blue sky. It was a beautiful crisp morning. It didn’t last. By evening it was another blinding fury of blowing snow.
Continuing right along, tomorrow’s forecast is for 45 to 60 knot winds. The following day’s forecast actually says “hopefully decreasing.” A 60-knot forecast is remarkable because the highest wind speed on record here at Summit is 57 knots. And we’ve already given that record a run for its money, coming in at a close second with 56 knots just three days ago. It was like nothing I’ve seen. In fact, it was exactly like the nothing I’ve seen in every other white-out I’ve experienced. Sheets of blown snow whip across your vision in thick pours, giving the occasional brief view of the flag line you’re attempting to follow, or if you’re lucky, a vague outline of the nearest building. You stumble over drifts and fall into furrows that weren’t there ten minutes ago. The windward side of your clothing rapidly develops rigor mortis while the deathly cold probes every potential weakness.
It’s steady, the wind. It doesn’t gust to 55 knots, it actually blows 55 knots. For the most part during that storm it was only blowing about 45 knots, not that I could tell the difference. It’s just another degree of lean while you’re walking with purpose. Serious purpose. Get-me-the-fuck-back-indoors purpose.
When we arrived here two weeks ago (has it been that long already?), the south door to the Green House (where we sleep) was not buried. It was a few steps down into a bit of a hole to enter, but the door was functional. At one point, when the south door was about half buried and the north door became too blocked up to use, we had to start using the roof hatch. For two days of raging storm and one of recovery (i.e. shoveling and fixing and more shoveling), that was our only egress.
When the roof hatch days began, we were climbing four or five rungs up the ladder to reach the roof. Now, the entire south and east sides of the building have disappeared under snow, and we actually have to take a small step down onto the roof. The west side of the building is a wild jungle of gnarled drifts, requiring wits and expedition equipment to navigate (this is of course a slight exaggeration, but I did nearly fall into a four-foot-deep furrow over there).
We just managed to clear the north door today (more shoveling), so we can enter and exit the building again like normal people instead of paranoid bomb shelter dwellers. But it won’t last in 45 to 60 knots. At least that kind of weather is a passable excuse for paranoia. As Guy, our mechanic, says, “We’re always just one generator issue away from a camping trip.” A very shitty camping trip, that is, with far too much shoveling.