Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Harsh Continent...

A monument to some of the many lost souls that met their last here. Everything I go through pales in comparison to the truly heroic explorers who pushed the limits of human survival to learn and discover this beautiful land.

Hey Reeders,

Sorry for the radio silence for the last few days. It's been a pretty intense (in tents?) few days down here. Although the term Harsh Continent is mostly used ironically down here to describe the lack of some luxury items - like good beer and good coffee - or amenities - like fast internet and swimming pool, Antarctica really does deserve the title.

It is the coldest, driest, and windiest place on Earth - and it has demonstrated each of these traits with gusto over the last few days. While the average summer temps here can be in the high 20s (F) or even on rare occassion above freezing, it rarely feels like that because the wind kicks up pretty strong. Yesterday it was 16F, with a 22mph sustained wind. That may not seem too bad, and it isn't with the right gear, but it was snowing!!! This is a rare occurrence down here, but it does happen. And snow blown into your face in those conditions is a bit nippy. At least i'm not at the south pole, which is currently -28F (wind chill -47F). Brrr.

It's easy to overdo it here, because there's no way for your body to really adapt. They do remind us during all the orientations to recall the indigenous human population of this continent is 0. I learned this the hard way. After a lot of exertion - drilling, digging, driving, working and staying out late, I paid for it. Last thursday I felt a nasty spasm in my back - enough pain that I was worried I had cracked a rib. Fortunately, after a visit with the truly awesome medical staff here, I found out I had only strained my intercostal muscles - those between your ribs. I've been on tylenol, ibuprofen, and muscle relaxants since then to manage the pain. X-rays are all good - nothing serious like pneumothorax (air embolism) or internal bleeding or a fracture, but the pain is impressive. Sitting, standing, turning, pulling a door open, all make me feel like someone is stabbing me in the side. For the first couple days I would spasm at random, which i'm sure was amusing to anyone watching me walk like a marionette. Good news, the pain is starting to subside now - which indicates that nothing is torn (cartiledge or soft tissue) but simply strained. The estimated recovery is another 3 days of significant pain, and then 1 more week till I should be back to full speed. Unfortunately, it has put a halt to my marathon training, but I will refocus - carefully and safely - when I repair. In the mean time, i've been staying out of trouble, avoiding field work, and doing a bunch of lab work.

That is....until tonight when I might have caught the dreaded "Crud"! It's basically inevitable that at some point here you'll get a respiratory sickness. It's known at McMurdo simply as The Crud. We are all overworked, living and operating in close quarters, so once one person gets anything, we all will. Tonight I started getting the tell-tale signs of a dry scratchy throat and a little stuffed up sinus. I've dosed up with Vit C, nasal spray, Ricola, lots of water, multi vits, and grit. Hopefully I can outwill this - i'm not looking forward to a hacking cough with a strained back muscle.

But with all of this griping, I can't express how amazed I am that I am even here. I mean where else could I see things like this?

Mt. Erebus - the most southern active volcano in the world, with a penguin in the foreground. Yes, it's that little dot on the snow in the mid-left. Really, I promise!

See? Told you it was a penguin!

Now, that should just be a postcard. I should charge you just to view this awesome shot. ;)

Hanging tough,

1 comment:

  1. Geoff-

    You are absolutely amazing. Your posts are awesome and I have loved reading them. It's a great respite from preparing my slides for my defense. I can't wait to hear more about your adventures. I am sorry to hear about your back pain and the Crud. Your're strong and I'm sure you'll overcome!

    It's official - you are the coolest scientist I know, Dr. Dilly :)

    Best, Kristina