Ice and Medicine at the end of the earth

Sleeping at WAIS Divide

We sleep in tents. They are called “Arctic Ovens.” They are very warm when the sun is out, but the sun hasn’t been out much this last week.

Going to sleep can be a bit cold.  I go to sleep at about the coldest part of the day, 2 AM.  The outside temperature is something below zero. The inside temperature is unknown – the “inside” thermometer only goes down to freezing.  Now, every night when I go to bed, it reads LL – which is just as well, I don’t want to know the actual temperature.

The Arctic Ovens are actually quite spacious – 8×8. I have it arranged as sleeping bag on one side, all of my crap covering the rest. 

I have a fair bit of stuff. Warm layers, more warm layers, and of course, a Penguin Onesie. 

Getting into my sleeping bag is actually a bit of complicated affair.  First, I changed into my sleeping clothes – sleeping bag socks and long underwear.  These are normally cold because I leave them in my tent instead of taking them into the heated structures during the day.

Then I climb into my sleeping bag liner, the red fleece thing. This keeps me warm inside my GIANT sleeping bag. I was given a large sleeping bag, good for a 6’6” guy, much too big for me. So I pack extra fleece clothing at the bottom to minimize the air space. I then lay the blanket over the top of the sleeping bag.

I spend the next five minutes trying to figure out how to get both the zipper of the fleece liner and sleeping bag to be up at the same time. Then I put on a hat, lay my head on my pillow, and try to cinch the sleeping bag so that cold air doesn’t sweep in around my neck.  If it’s really cold, I tie a wool sweater around my neck like a scarf. It may feel like I’m being strangled every time I move slightly, but at least I’m warmer.

After falling asleep, I slowly shed layers throughout the night, as the outside and inside temperature warm up.  I sleep a lot here – I’m in my tent at least 10 hours a night.  It’s always warmer in the morning, typically 40 or 50 degrees. Balmy.

And that’s sleeping at WAIS.  Overall, the plushest snow camping I’ve ever done!  

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4 responses

  1. Marcia

    It was really fun to see the penguin pj’s! My teeth are chattering just thinking about how cold it is – way too cold for me.

    January 30, 2011 at 2:12 PM

  2. Kristin

    I dig (especially) the beard and the SmartWool tent ornaments. Two things you never had more of before you went South!

    January 30, 2011 at 2:34 PM

    • Love it Kristin! I am hoping the beard disappears before he lands back at McMurdo 🙂 I don’t dig it. But, you gotta love the penguin Pjs. Only in Antarctica!

      January 30, 2011 at 5:41 PM

  3. Deb

    All I can say is…You are brave! (could mean being photographed in a penguin onesie – I bet Claire is jealous! – could mean going to sleep when it is minus out!)

    January 31, 2011 at 5:26 PM

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