Monday, January 28, 2008

Windy weather

All it takes is a depression off the coast somewhere...

It has been windy ever since I set foot in Dumont d'Urville, normal, every-day wind of the "hold on to your cap" variety. Last night the wind got bored of being so reasonable and started blowing more convincingly. It has been increasing in strength throughout the night, and is now blowing a pretty decent gale, with peak speeds of 140 km/h.

Its roar is present everywhere, changing in tonality and volume depending on the building one happens to be standing in at the time. The buildings themselves rattle, creak and moan as the gusts blow over them. Sometimes a particularly violent gust whistles through a badly insulated opening, causing a temporary increase in air pressure that is felt by the eardrums, and makes everyone wince.

The sea is whipped to a frenzy of white-tops whose froth is launched upwards by the gusts. This is not a sea I would like to experience in the Astrolabe! The spray is thrown easily up and over the smaller icebergs in the bay. The larger bergs act as windshields, but are themselves slowly displaced by the moving air.

When we move about the base, we walk with bent knees, trying to keep as low a profile as possible. We are told to avoid running along the metal walkways that join the buildings, as a gust of wind can easily pick a person up in mid-stride. The Italia Antartide cap I have been wearing for the past few days has given way to the IPEV standard issue woolly hat, which fiits snuggly around the ears and is less susceptible to being blown off my head.

The meteorologists on the base tell us this weather should last another few days, until late Wednesday or early Thursday at least. Winds like these are apparently pretty common here in Terre Adélie... so I guess I'll end up getting used to being buffeted around whenever I venture outdoors..

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