The Winter Journey: Part XII

Frightfully Hard Pulling

When we left the men of the Crozier party yesterday they were in slightly better spirits as the temperature rose to a relatively balmy -50°F (-45.6°C). However, their arduous efforts were rewarded with a meager 1.66 miles of progress after several hours of pulling their sledges through dense fog. When the men turned out on the morning of July 8th, 1911, not much had changed:

Position: Camp 10

Time: 10:30

Temperature: -51.8°F (-46.6°C)

Wind Direction: SW

Wind Force (Beaufort): 1 (1-3 knots)

Wind Chill: -67°F (-55°C)

Sky Condition: Partly cloudy w/ stratus

Weather: Fog

Overnight Minimum Temperature: -59.3°F (-50.7°C)

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

The journals of the men were fairly sparse with regard to the details of the men’s activities on July 8th, but all accounts mention the difficulty of navigating through the fog and finally getting on to some better pulling surfaces. Cherry-Garrard summarizes the changing snow surface:

On 8 July we found the first sign that we might be coming to an end of this soft, powdered, arrowrooty snow. It was frightfully hard pulling; but every now and then our finnesko pierced a thin crust before they sank right in.

The Worst Journey in the World, pg. 243

After another day of grinding relay work the men had a little bit more to show for their efforts, making 2.25 miles of progress towards the rookery at Cape Crozier. At the end of the day’s march, Bowers reported the following weather conditions:

Position: Camp 11

Time: 01:00 (July 9th)

Miles Made Good: 2.25

Temperature: -36.2°F (-37.9°C)

Wind Direction: N

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

Wind Chill: -56.5°F (-49.2°C)

Sky Condition: Overcast w/ stratus

Weather: Fog

British Antarctic Expedition 1910-1913, Meteorology, Vol. III Table 69
Progress of the Crozier party after 12 days

One of the things I found interesting about the day was that the temperature had risen to -36°F (-37.8°C), an increase of 40°F over the span of 48 hours. What makes this even more impressive is that it happened in the midst of the polar night, in the complete absence of incoming solar radiation (insolation). The temperature rise can only be attributed to the combined process of warmer, moist air being transported poleward (advected) from the Ross Sea and the greenhouse effect. The combination of the moist air from the Ross Sea flowing over the ice shelf and the cold air damming in the Windless Bight likely contributed to the density of the fog as well.

Will the Crozier party’s luck improve during the ongoing heat wave? Perhaps, but I wouldn’t count on it; this crew are the ultimate gluttons for punishment. What will Antarctica have up its sleeve tomorrow?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s