Monday, April 27, 2015

16. Professor Numb Nuts in Antarctica

Excerpt from Chapter 16
Blizzard in Fosdick Mountains, Marie Byrd Land. Photo © Steve Richard.

[Scene: The Team is now at their deep field site in the Fosdick Mountains, northern Ford Ranges of Marie Byrd Land. Bruce and Dave are sharing a Scott tent and riding out an Antarctic blizzard for the first time. Bruce feels the call of nature and must face a cold reality…]

“Damn Dave, I need to go out for a BM. It’s a f**kin’ blizzard.” I said.

“Ha, ha, ha Bruce, send me a postcard, ha ha ha.”

This will be unpleasant. We didn’t have time or energy last night to build a latrine made of snow blocks we cut, and didn’t have a toilet tent. Geez, can I wait unit the blizzard stops? That could be days. Our training warned about constipation, a common problem with field parties. That would make my situation much worse.

With reluctant determination I put on fleece pants over my long johns, wind pants over the fleece pants, a windbreaker over my fleece jacket and another pair of socks. I moved to the entrance and grabbed my boots, put them on and then my balaclava hat and goggles. I put on my parka and gloves last, put TP in my pocket. I untied the canvas tunnel and started to crawl out through it. Dave drank his Raro, looked at me, shook his head, grinned.

I pushed open the tunnel, crawled into it, stuck my head out into the blizzard. I saw only violent white, could just see the shadow of the Chris and Steve’s tent. I jumped out into the snowstorm and stood up, wind blew horizontal across my body and pushed me sideways. From inside Dave grabbed the loose tunnel fabric and tied it closed.

“Good luck Bruce, if you’re not back in a couple of days we’ll look for you,” he said, and laughed some more, faint. I could just about hear him over the wind.

Is there a windbreak around, close? I knew that answer was no. I’ll try on the downwind side of the tent. I stumbled around, found a shovel and went behind the tent but found no quiet. Snow swirled about with force. The wind and snow ignored the puny tent in its path.

I was about to try out our fancy drop seat mountaineering pants. Suspenders attached to the front and each side, and side zippers in back of the suspenders, this design marvel allowed the seat flap to drop without a need to pull down your outer pants. I made my commitment, dug a snow hole, took off my parka and wind jacket, hung them on the shovel. I turned to face the wind, unzipped my pant seat, pulled down my fleece pants and long johns, dropped down and proceeded.

A swarm of angry Antarctic ice bees attacked, stung the skin of my bare buttocks again and again. Blasts of snow invaded my clothing. At first I was cold, then I hurt. This is like a jump into a frozen lake. Would I get frostbite on my privates, become infertile? As quick as I could, I put myself back together, put on my jacket and parka now invaded with snow, buried my evidence, left the shovel to mark the spot.

Back at the tent entrance I shouted, “Dave, untie, let me in, I’m freezin’ out here.” I crawled back through the tunnel aware that my long johns and all else were full of snow. Dave greeted me with several more laughs.

“OK, Professor Numb Nuts is back,” I said.

Dave’s response, “ha ha ha, ha ha ha.” He enjoyed the moment.

“Not funny! We see how long you can hold off.”

“Remember to dig up your special present after the storm and put it in a night soil bucket. That needs to go back with us,” Dave said.

“I got that message Dave.” Rules are number two can’t be left in the wilderness.

In a flash I stripped off all my clothes and toweled myself, shivered and shook. I hung up my snowy wet underwear on the clotheslines that ran around the tent peak. Dave melted more snow on the stove, which added a bit of heat to the tent. I grabbed dry clothes and hurried to get them on as fast as I could.

As soon as this is blizzard is done, first job is to build that snow block latrine.

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