The Winter Journey: Part VII

A Beastly Cold Business

At this point in the journey the men of the Crozier party have been out from Cape Evans for six days, half of which have been at -50°F (-45.6°C) or colder. The last few days have been particularly trying, with temperatures dipping below -60°F (-51.1°C) in the overnight periods and the days filled with exhausting relay work that nets little in the way of forward progress. Not much had changed when the men emerged from their tent on the morning of July 3rd, 1911:

Position: Camp 6

Time: 11:00

Temperature: -51.5°F (-46.4°C)

Wind Direction/Force: Calm

Sky Condition: Few clouds (cirrostratus)

Overnight Minimum Temperature: -64°F (-53.3°C)

British Antarctic Expedition 1910-1913, Meteorology, Vol. III Table 69

By this point, the specter of doubt was foremost in the minds of the men. The cold was intense and unrelenting, and simple tasks like lighting matches and getting into and out of sleeping bags required the utmost patience and effort. Cherry-Garrard felt that the party didn’t have the “ghost of a chance” of reaching the rookery at Cape Crozier (The Worst Journey in the World, pg. 237).

The men were able to navigate by what little light was present on the horizon early in the day, and by moonlight into the late afternoon. The surface over the Windless Bight was very heavy again, and the men were only able to advance about 2.5 miles through grueling effort. At the end of the day’s march, Bowers observed the following conditions:

Position: Camp 7

Time: 22:00

Miles Made Good: 2.5

Temperature: -57.7°F (-49.8°C)

Wind Direction/Force: Calm

Sky Condition: Partly Cloudy w/ cirrostratus

British Antarctic Expedition 1910-1913, Meteorology, Vol. III Table 69
The Crozier party’s progress after 7 days

As far as today’s conditions in the Windless Bight, it is far, far warmer than it was this time 109 years ago. The most recent observation from the Windless Bight automatic weather station indicates the temperature is -7.6°F (-22°C). The conditions over the greater Ross Ice Shelf region have been fairly turbulent over the last few days, with high winds contributing to mixing of the boundary layer. However, satellite imagery shows skies are starting to clear and model data is predicting mostly clear skies and lighter winds, which will allow things to start cooling off again.

Day/Night Band (DNB) Image from the VIIRS instrument onboard the Suomi NPP satellite (via NASA Worldview). The greater Ross Island region is featured here.

Will anything break the cold snap the Crozier party is facing? Or will the deep freeze continue?

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