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Friday, August 13, 2010

This and that - passing the time

0400 Friday 13th

Yesterday evening just for fun, I pulled in the GRIB weather for Devon Island and Resolute. It was giving 10 kts from the north at midday today - perfect for flying out. I did not specify precipitation in the file...and it has been blowing about 30 kts and gusting ever since, with heavy rain. The rain is abating and the cloudbase is now about 1000 ft but still gusty 25+. Will be an interesting day!

There are still two hardy people camped out in personal tents - everyone else has moved into one of the sturdier permanent tents . I've just braved the frigid blast to go across to the mess tent and make some coffee (works better than tea when the water is tepid!) and Ben is sitting next to the stove, hoodied (twice, I think) and headphoned watching movies on his laptop. Slept all day yesterday, he said - what else is there to do? Actually, he worked his butt off yesterday. The kids from Grise Fiord are all wired into the information age - iphones and laptops - and they find it easier to pass the time than I do.

An over simplified explanation of the politics: HMP is just outside an area owned by the native peoples of Nunavut which includes the whole of the Haughton Crater. The Grise Fiord community come across from Ellesmere Island to hunt and fish in the bays and inlets just to the north. Nunavut now has a capital, Iqaluit and, at least in theory, all the communities are administered from there. I suspect that it is just in theory. Each community speaks for itself as far as I can tell, and with some force. Just as with native title areas in Australia, permission is required to enter native lands and NASA has to go through the process each year in order to gain access to the Crater. In return, the Project employs local people and whenever possible uses community facilities - the Co-Op shop and the Co-Op hotel in Resolute, for instance.

And the rain is back. We will call Resolute in a couple of hours and we are on standby for whatever is available given the conditions. The C130 is due into Resolute tonight - no predictions at this stage but we did learn 2 years ago that things change amazingly fast up here.

Tomorrow will be the second anniversary of Berrimilla's transit of the ice in Franklin Sound - that scarily beautiful 0300 pinkout with a solid ice centre that, to me, marked the critical point in our NW Passage transit. A sort of full circle if we actually make it to Resolute this time!

Another night in the boonies

The fog has lifted - just a bit. About a mile vis, lots of crosswind. No aircraft available - we are to call Polar Shelf again in an hour. Still a chance we could get out today but I think it's slim.

The best laid plans - while setting up to send the last one via Iridium I discovered that when I loaded the Sailmail application into this computer for this trip I forgot to transfer Berrimilla's address book and Sailmail only recognises addresses in its address book. And the blog address is complicated and I could not remember it - senile old fart that I am. So a phone call to my sister Isabella in the UK and she fired up my Gmail account and extracted the address from that. Egg all over face, but embarrassment tempered by fix.

The Humvee is jacked up on blocks for the winter - but not yet sealed. The mess tent still has power, the Palace of the Imperial Throne is cold and windy but functional - makes one wonder how the Franklin and Shackleton people managed in the icy and open conditions they faced, and for months at a time. The parts shrivel in sympathy! And I think about the need to go outside the shelter to empty the pee bucket on Elephant Island (and what to do about those who cheated) and I wonder how I would have survived - if at all. Hmm.

Everyone finding things to do - watching movies on their laptops, sleeping, writing blogs...again, how did the early survivors cope with the unknown - how long would it last; how to pass the time, day after day; peoples' idiosyncrasies that are ok when things are going well but grate under stress.

So who is left here - Steve Braham's team of communications heroes: Steve, resident super boffin, Parna, Isiah and Vik; the support team of John Schutt - amazing man and central pillar of the camp (Google him - astonishing career) with Jesse and Travis and the three kids hired from the Grise Fiord Community - Ben, Terry and Salya; then there's Geoff, the cook who now has no kitchen and Pascal and me. And, of course, Ping Pong.

Just heard no flights today - if we are lucky, then early tomorrow. We have all day to get to Resolute and load the Herc. Vancouver Saturday evening if all goes well.

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The logistics of evacuation - if you follow...

Fogbound and then some on the edge of the crater. Visibility about 50 metres in drizzle and wind. Cold, damp and dismal physically but still exhilarating to be here. We have closed everything down except one tent and one small generator - no running water, Coleman stove for hot water for coffee or instant noodles, nuts and raisins and biscuits to go and that's it. We have all the food stored in the Humvee and if we really do have to stick it out here we can unseal it and retrieve more food. Final close down when we know about the weather and available flights.

No internet, so this via Iridium if I can get it to work...

There are 13 people and perhaps a ton of gear to get out to Resolute - tight squeeze but might just be possible in two Twotter flights if we can get them into here. Ideally, a third flight to take gear to Humvee Beach just south of Domville point on the west coast of Devon Island and to retrieve a snowmobile left there with the Humvee after the North West Passage drive (google it or and find a link).

There is an Air National Guard C130 due into Resolute early tomorrow to load us and the gear bound for NASA Ames and depart on the first leg to Yellowknife in the evening - a deadline we really do need to meet if we can because the Herc is a one-off trip and things can get expensively pearshaped if we miss it. If we make it, I'll get off in Vancouver and make my way back to Ottawa for my flight back to Sydney.

So that's it - for the mo!. No more pics until I get somewhere wired again. If I can get this to go, then I can keep all y'all posted as things develop.
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