Tuesday, January 22, 2008

How to Sleep like an Antarctican

Elizabeth and I are back in the field now! We're staying on Lake Fryxell again for the next five days. While we're here, we're going to look for more mosses, measure photosynthesis from mosses, and run a test measuring carbon dioxide flux in soils.

So, we'll be sleeping at Lake Fryxell for the next several days, instead of at McMurdo. I should tell you about how we sleep while we're on Antarctica!

While we're in McMurdo, we live in dormitories. There are usually two people to a room, and each person has a bed, closet, and night stand. I share a room with Elizabeth. Here is what our cozy room looks like:

However, many nights we sleep out in the field (like this week!). When in the field, we sleep in tents. There are two types of tents we use here: mountain tents and Scott tents. Mountain tents are the regular dome tents that most people use for camping. Scott tents are the tall yellow pyramid-shaped ones. They are specially designed to be safe during high Antarctic winds. For example, they don't have bottoms, so that if the tent gets ripped up by the wind, the person inside is not blown away, too. During a high wind, such as a katabatic, a mountain tent would be crushed flat, but a Scott tent would not fall over.
Since the ground is loose gravel, it's hard to stake down our tents. We have to tie them to piles of rocks to keep them from being blown away!

It's cold in Antarctica, so we have lots of sleeping gear to help keep us warm when we're sleeping in tents. The picture below shows what I sleep in each night in the field. I have two sleeping pads. One is made of foam, and the other is filled with air (I have to blow it up each time I unpack at camp). I also have a sleeping bag rated for freezing temperatures, a fleece liner inside the bag, and a small pillow. Plus, when it's really cold, I also use my big red parka as an extra blanket!
We work very hard while we're in Antarctica, and don't always get enough sleep each night. So, sometimes we can't wait for our beds or sleeping bags and take naps wherever and whenever we can.