Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Life at a Field Camp

We have been at the Lake Fryxell Camp for a few days now. There are a few permanent buildings here. The circular building is called a Jamesway. That is where we spend most of our time in camp. It has a kitchen for cooking, tables for eating and working, and wireless internet access! The other smaller buildings are laboratories for doing our science. Outside there is a lot of equipment needed for the science we do here.
We don't sleep in any of these buildings. We sleep outside in tents, like the one in the front of the picture. Because the ground is so rocky, it's hard to pound in tent stakes that won't easily fall out, so we tie our tent down to large rocks. We have very warm sleeping bags and lots of padding. When it's sunny out, the tent feels a lot like a green house, and some nights I get so hot that I actually end up kicking off most of my layers as I sleep!

Because the dry valleys are a polar desert, we have to be very careful about our water use. The water we use is taken from the lake. Water for drinking is filtered or cooked on the stove. We have to be careful that we don't spill any water outside, because in a desert, any small addition of water we make to the soil will make a huge difference to the ecosystem! So, we save all of the water we produce from cooking, washing, and our science. It gets put into barrels like the orange one outside the Jamesway and shipped off the continent at the end of the summer for proper treatment.

Since we have to be so careful about our water, we have no running water or plumbing. Our bathroom is an outhouse where we collect everything we produce. In the picture, the blue door behind my tent is for the outhouse. (I think that's where Elizabeth is walking...) No running water also means we can't shower! We use very little water to wash our faces and brush our teeth.

But, we do have some modern amenities here at the field camp. There's a gas-powered refrigerator, stove, and oven, just like in a normal house. We have a telephone, though the connection isn't always very good. We also have electricity from a big solar panel that you can see all the way to the left in this picture of the lake-side of Fryxell camp:The electricity is mostly used for science. We need to recharge batteries, run our equipment and computers, and of course the wireless internet! But, sometimes we use the electricity for fun. Sometimes we relax after dinner by watching a movie together on a laptop in the Jamesway. (You can see the laptop on the chair in the bottom, left corner). The "couch" we're sitting on is made of plywood with foam sleeping pads strapped to it and covered with an old blanket. Very classy! It's our most comfortable piece of furniture.

(P.S. If our supervisor, Ross, is reading this, I just want you to know that we neeeeever have time to watch movies. We're working all the time, of course! This picture was posed for educational purposes. No relaxing going on here...)