A map tells a story of place. How we interpret that story is often the start of another journey. For me that is how the trip to Law Dome began. I looked at a dot on a map.
The main feature (and the only feature) at Law Dome is an Automatic Weather Station (AWS), and it was due to be serviced.
A trip to Law Dome is not the usual overnight stopover. It is 124km off station and at approximately 1300m elevation. Armed with these basic facts I put up my hand to be part of this trip.
Preparation and co-ordination included a shake-out overnight trip to test vehicles, equipment and trial camp layout. Once everything was ready we just needed a weather window. Luckily the Bureau of Meteorology gurus had put in the appropriate paperwork to the head office and we were granted a four day good weather window and were off into the sunrise.
Now everyone loves a drive in a Hägglunds, but after 124km at 13km/h we were all happy to stop and get out of those infernal beasts. We were ready to set up camp and explore our new destination. Exploring took all of 10 seconds. Law Dome has the million dollar view if you are into flat open expanses of ice and snow. But it is not quite featureless - it has an AWS, our purpose for being there.
The following day dawned bright, clear and thankfully no wind. It was a cracker of a day but it was still minus 30 something and the day was spent removing the old AWS and fitting a new one in its place. It was very much a tag team event with a constant turnover of people either working or warming up in the 'silver chalet', our sled mounted warm refuge. Once complete we did some more exploring and determined that it was still flat and white, but we were treated to an awesome sunset and then a moonrise in a sky so clear you didn’t mind standing in the cold...for at least 2 minutes.
Day three again dawned bright but with a little wind and camp was quickly dismantled and we started our return to station. Our little wind slowly increased throughout the day (so much for good weather paperwork) and by the time we were 20km from station we were into poor visibility, blowing snow and wind strong enough to almost tear your doors off. The last hour was pretty much zero visibility with ice-covered windscreens and driving via pure GPS. I, for one, was happy to see the station appear out of the wraith-like blowing snow, disconnect our trailers and park up our ice encrusted vehicles!
Once on station it was not long before we were in the comfort of the warm 'red shed' and recounting the journey.
This little journey is what I came to Antarctica for, to be part of the environment at is best and worst. To feel it and learn from it. Nowhere else can you experience an environment like this. Not bad for a dot on a map.
Bill S, fitter and turner