Sleeping at the WAIS Field Camp

December 21, 2009 – Happy Solstice
WAIS Divide Camp at 79.47°S latitude, 112.06°W longitude – high on the West
Antarctic Ice Sheet Plateau.
Although there are segregated jamesways (a jamesway is a Korean era, modular
arch tent with a wooden framework) to sleep in, they are generally
overheated, and not very private. We all share eating, cleaning and relaxing
space, so having a place of one’s own, even if it is a tent, is a nice
The bedtime routine is different for me here. Tent city is a walk through
snow, so it’s good to be organized and take everything you will need for the
night. The most important item is a hot bottle of water. I stash everything
in the varied pockets of my Big Red (the massive, warm coat we are all
issued) and head out, ignoring the sun.
My tent is an 8’x8′ “Arctic Oven”. It is double walled; the outside a heavy
duty coated nylon, and the inside some type of insulating fabric. It is
almost tall enough to stand up in (darn it). My bed consists of two dense
foam pads and an inflatable thermo-rest pad. I stow my Big Red between the
pads and my sleeping bag, for downy cushion and to keep it warm.
My sleeping bag is amazing, huge and rated to -40F. It has thick tubes of
loft at the neck and zipper. I was issued a fleece liner, but I use that on
top and sleep in the silk liner that I brought.
While changing and organizing for the night, I toss the bottle of hot water
at the foot of the bag. I hang my clothes on lines strung across the top of
the tent (remember that heat rises??) and snuggle on in. I then slowly
migrate the bottle up the bag to warm my nest. By morning, the tent is quite
warm from my body heat and the sun, so getting out of bed is no more
difficult than at home. The biggest difference is what to do about middle of
the night trips to the loo.
There is an outhouse at the center of tent city, but my tent is on the outer
edge. Besides that, there is the hassle of getting dressed (easy on a
windless night, not so easy on a windy night). So we are issued a pee
bottle. Yes, a pee bottle. It is usually just a convenience, except for the
unlikely chance of having to wait out a white out in your tent.
We gals share words of wisdom, strategy and general sympathy about pee
bottle maneuvers. Let’s just say that I have to think very hard about the
trade-off between suiting up and making do. It’s a good thing that we are
also issued wipes and Purell.


  1. Herb Bastin (Anna's brother) on December 21, 2009 at 10:52 pm

    Don’t they make a “funnel” type thingy for girls to pee in tents? Sister Nancy has one she uses I think… In any case, I hope there’s no confusion with water bottles! :)
    Oh, yeah, your 18 month old niece Kate has the answer – DIAPERS!

  2. Tanya Shapiro on December 23, 2009 at 9:00 am

    Wow. I can’t wait to see your pics! Meanwhile, I am enjoying your excitement and adventurous spirit.

  3. Cameron Mason on December 23, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    They hand out pee funnels at Burning Man, a wonderful convenience in the middle of the night. If I’d only thought, I could have made you one! Here’s how they do it: one plastic cup, a length of tubing fit into a small hole in the bottom of the cup, and a little caulk to seal it up. Maybe if you can find the materials it can be a little girl bonding craft project for you all. Thanks for all your amazing posts. It’s like reading a mystery novel.

  4. Clint Bastin on December 24, 2009 at 3:58 am

    Anna, good thing that you are not pissed.

    Off, at someone.

    Hope to communicate somehow around the holiday if possible. We all miss you! Love, Clint