Cormorant Island

This weekend I went camping. I think it is best summed by what Pam had to say. "I wanted to go camping with Marc and Jaime. The weather was bad on Friday so they didn't head out until Saturday morning to return Sunday. A woman's intuition told me to stay and rest up this weekend instead. It's now Monday and they aren't back yet..."

On Saturday, it was a little windy but generally nice. So being the eternal Boy Scout, I packed extra food, fuel, radios, and other survival gear. It was a good thing that we were "car camping" as we had a lot of stuff to haul with us to Cormorant Isl. Dave and Alex dropped Jaime and I off and we started to set up camp. We picked a nice sheltered place next to a large rock wall. There was big snow drifts about waist deep, against the wall, and where we set up the tent there was about six inches of compact snow. Jaime and I had a really nice dinner of steak with onions and garlic, baked potato, green beans, whole wheat bread baked that morning, and some wine. With full tummies we slept pretty well. I got up about 4am and looked up at a cloudless sky and tried a little night photography. We got out of bed about 9:30 am and made radio comms with Palmer. The wind had picked up to about 35 knots (a fresh gale on the Beaufort Scale) and was too windy for the boats to come get us. No problem, we fixed a great breakfast of hashbrowns and sausage and watched the penguins as we ate. We made hourly checks with station. The winds weren't calming down, so it looked like we would be spending another night. Surprisingly, except for the wind, it was a beautiful day.

But, having camped in high winds before, I knew that it was time to really secure the tent well in case the winds shifted. Unfortunately, most of the rocks around were buried under inches of snow and frozen into the ground. So the big rocks had to be hauled in from other parts of the island. After that workout I was ready to kick back. We got inside the sleeping bags as it was starting to get dark (4pm). This is about the same time as the wind shifted and started picking up. The wind was warm (4C at station) and rain started coming down. At 4:30pm Jaime went out to make comms for the last time that night, and we had a little surprise. All that waist deep snow was GONE. There was about six inches of standing water and the rain was still really coming down. The biggest problem was that we had staked down into the snow and it was no longer there. Good thing I had placed rocks on the stakes. It was really starting to pick up as I re-secured the lines with rocks. The wind was now coming from a direction parallel with the rock face instead of perpendicular, as it had all day. Now, we were in a brand new North Face tent here, but it soon started failing. The main guyline off of the rain cover that was facing the wind tore out the fabric at the cover. The next guyline abraded itself away on the securing rock. The dome tent was collapsing about halfway in when one of the composite poles shattered and tore through the rain cover. And there were places next to the zippers on the rain cover that tore completely along the seam. I was laying next to the side that was receiving most of the wind trying to use my body weight to help keep the anchors in. The tent was bending over my body and slapping Jaime who was lying right in the middle of the tent. We estimate that we had sustained winds in excess of 70 knots! Palmer, sheltered by the glacier, was receiving 60 knot sustained winds with gusts to 66 knots. Now 70 knots = 78 Mph = 125.6 Km/Hr = a force 12 on the Beaufort Scale which is Hurricane force winds!

This morning we saw how the tent had taken the force of the night. The rain cover and three of the composite poles were completely trashed. This is why aluminum poles are a much better choice when buying a tent (just a helpful hint when buying my Christmas gift ;^) <wink> ).

The winds were still about 30 knots so we were prepared to set up the tent in the emergency cache if the winds didn't die down enough for the boats to come get us. We were still good for about another five days with food and water if we needed to, but at the first break of 20 knot winds, we had the boat come take us home. You never know how long the winds could keep up... Most of the day they have kept up just above the limit for safe boating. Good that we had a momentary lull.

Quite the little camping adventure over the weekend. But work awaited us when we finally returned. Picking up the bits of the station that had been blown around. Also an elephant seal seemed to think that the weather station was a good place to scratch its back and lean against. However, the designers didn't quite have that application in mind when they built it, so the base is all bent to pieces. Ahh Life on the peninsula....

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