Thank you, Antarctica, you big, crazy, uncompromising, beautiful, brutal continent. You finally showed me Con1. My Antarctic wishlist is complete.
Warming temps bring wicked winds around here this time of year, and yesterday afternoon, as the thermometer began to creep up towards zero Fahrenheit, conditions began to deteriorate. I went to the gym after work, a distance of 45 steps, and arrived covered head to toe in white. It looked like I had been sprayed with that fake snow in a can. My favorite elliptical trainer happens to face a small window, and every few seconds it seemed someone was throwing a giant snowball at me.
By the time I got up to get ready for work this morning at around 0400, the weather ticker downstairs read “Condition One,” the worst weather rating and one that restricts people to essential movement between buildings–and even that movement must be done using flagged rope lines, in pairs and radioing to check out and check back in with the firehouse.
Not that I needed the ticker to tell me Antarctica was throwing a hissyfit and that we were all invited. I live and work in a sturdy, squat, two-story building with a design that screams “solidly built to last.” My room is in an interior hallway, roughly in the center of the building. And all night I heard the wind howling. My submarine-like room suddenly was full of drafts. At times it sounded like a jet engine was overhead.
But what really got me was getting up to go to the bathroom (also on an interior hall) and noticing–hey, wait a minute–the water in the toilet bowl was swishing around. Yes, the building was being buffeted by the winds enough to make the toilet bowl water shake.
I thought that was the coolest thing ever.
Then I tried to go outside.
In the covered entrance on the west side of the building, it was easy to take a few photos without actually braving the elements. Then I tried the east side of the building. My favorite part of the video below is opening the door… I had to shoulder it hard to get it open and then–BAM!–the wind was more than happy to take it from there. I had a devil of a time closing it again.
The winds have been officially gusting at a mere 75 mph but somehow seem more vicious, perhaps because of blowing snow. The best way I can describe what it looks and feels like in person is to imagine yourself in rapids made of air and snow. I’ve experienced worse winds (I’ll never forget being picked up and blown across the bailey of a hilltop castle in Wales) and heavier snow, but whether it’s the dry air, the darkness or just the sense that Antarctica is a living, breathing, sentient thing, the storm outside seems angry.
Of course, all the old-timers are dismissing it and telling us first-years how “lame” a Con1 it is, how they’ve seen way worse, how one guy’s eyeballs flew out of his head the wind was so bad one year, blah blah blah. Yeah, whatever. It’s a Con1, officially, and the toilet bowl water is quivering in fear. I’m satisfied.