The pilots moved fast, sliding boxes down to us, and we waddled them off, stacking them out past the plane's wing. It was a five-minute unload, about a thousand pounds of gear. The pilots patted our shoulders, gave a thumbs-up, and climbed back into the cockpit. The left propeller kicked up into a loud drone as I backed away. The plane pushed ahead and skimmed over the wind. It rose into a dry turquoise sky, then it banked south.
José marched toward the two red work tents as I gave the place a slow 360. Any sense of distance was impossible to gauge. Cold and dense, the wind was racing down from higher ice in the east. I turned to see José stumbling up the high fin of a snowdrift draped up the side of the kitchen tent. Shouting over the wind, he said, "What the hell happened here?"
Now that I had a better look, I could see an open mouth in the lee of the tent where the door had sprung open during months of winter abandonmnet. Snow had poured in nearly to the top of the doorjamb. The platform was twisted. Built into the ice, it had shifted around.
"Oh, this is bad, very bad," José moaned.
As I looked around camp, more damage was obvious. Metal towers had snapped, half protruding from the sculpted surface. These were not from shifting ice. Storms had broken them. Pieces of plywood stuck out at odd angles. Solar panels were twenty feet from where they started, now facedown and barely exposed. Snowmobiles were gone, along with the platform and the metal posts.
"A third of camp is gone," José said, pacing around, pawing at his hood to angle it against the wind.
"Where are the snowmobiles?" I shouted back at him, wondering, too, there was a radio, right?
José waved his glove at the ice sheet. "I don't know, somewhere down there."
I looked under my feet. Down where? There was five thousand feet of 'down there' beneath me.