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The Winter Journey: Part IX

Dreadfully Cold Work

When we last left the men of the Crozier party, they were holed up in their sleeping bags after snow and poor visibility forced them to take a day off. The temperature warmed up to a balmy -27°F (-32.8°C), and the men enjoyed the well-deserved rest after a string of extremely cold days and backbreaking relay work. Amazingly, some of the ice that had accumulated in their clothes and sleeping backs melted, though that may not have been for the best. On the morning of July 5th, 1911 the men found the following conditions:

Position: Camp 7

Time: 09:00

Temperature: -54.5°F (-48.1°C)

Wind Direction: NE

Wind Force (Beaufort): 2 (4-6 knots)

Wind Chill: -78.6°F (-61.4°C)

Sky Condition: Mostly cloudy w/ stratus

Overnight Minimum Temperature: -54.8°F (-48.2°C)

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

All in all, the men got a one day reprieve from temperatures below -50°F (-45.6°C). As they would come to find out, the snow that fell on the day prior only made things worse. As Dr. Wilson described it:

At 7 a.m. we turned out and the surface was the worst for pulling on that we had yet had. We relayed for 8 hours and only advanced 1.5 miles in the day.

Diary of the ‘Terra Nova’ Expedition to the Antarctic 1910-1912, pg. 145

As mentioned in an earlier post in this series, the extreme cold prevents the runners of a sledge from melting the top layer of snow crystals to provide the thin layer of lubricating water to glide upon. Compounding the issue was the fresh snowfall; sharply faceted crystals from new snow increase friction along the surface of the runners as well (Solomon, The Coldest March, pg. 223). After eight hours of brutal relay work, the men of the Crozier party only had 1.5 miles progress to show for it at the end of the day:

Position: Camp 8

Time: 21:00

Miles Made Good: 1.5

Temperature: -59.1°F (-50.6°C)

Wind Direction/Force: Calm

Sky Condition: Mostly cloudy w/stratus

Weather: Fog

British Antarctic Expedition 1910-1913, Meteorology, Vol. III Table 69
Crozier party progress after 9 days

The Crozier party has been able to get about two-thirds of the way through the Windless Bight after a week of heavy pulling. Will their luck improve once they get past Cape Mackay and back onto the windswept portions of the ice shelf? I wouldn’t count on it, but check back in tomorrow to find out!

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