We’ve finally hit the magic number: 100 degrees below zero! I woke late this past Sunday, our one day off each week. There were a number of people sitting in the galley working on crosswords and chatting. The ambient temperature outside was in the mid 90’s and everyone was keeping a close eye on it betting whether or not it would keep falling. The legendary 300 Club was potentially eminent! Most years temps reach -100F in winter, but not all.
At -98F… Someone ran down to turn on the sauna.
-99.8F… We were all running for our gaiters, boots, and towels.
-100.1F… Thirteen of us were crammed into the small sauna which was cranked up as high as it would go. Boots on, gaiters in hand, a head lamp or two and nothing else but towels we sat sweating, watching the thermometer in the sauna creep up to 180F…190F…195F…
A radio call to our contact at a computer who was watching the temp outside – “Is it still -100?!”
“-99.9F, but hold on…” A loud groan from everyone around me “Noooo, Come on! So close!” We waited, people moving to the lower benches, stepping out for water bottles. The thermometer in the sauna moved slowly to 200F…then 205F.
A minute later another radio call temp check…
“-100F!” then “-101!! GO! GO! GO!”
We piled out the door and down the metal encased stairs we call the ‘beer can.’ Tossing towels on the stair railing we donned our gaiters and dashed out the door. There’s a steep drift like a bow wave in front of the station. Some people stumbled. Out to the Geographic South Pole and around. Hooting and hollering we shouted into the night. Pausing for a moment I watched a gorgeous aurora stretch itself undulating across the sky, a streak of blue green color through the bright stars and velvety black sky. Thick steam rose from my hot skin, now numb against the cold. I looked down to see every hair on my arm sticking up, coated in frost. Stumbling over sastrugi, guided by the sound of heavy footsteps in the snow and the beer can glinting in the star light I finally made it back inside. Clutching my towel around me I ran up the stairs to join the others in the sauna to warm up, gasping and laughing as we recounted the adventure: who fell, who almost ran into someone else, who saw the auroras, who accidentally grabbed the wrong towel, who didn’t wear their gaiter and would cough for a day or two…Craziness.
A 300 degree difference between sauna (200F) and ambient outside temperature (-100F) = The 300 Club.
The Wikipedia entry for 300 Club: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/300_Club
Komo News even did a short cover on the 2010 event: http://www.komonews.com/weather