Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Quinzee construction & Crows

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This week for the Earth Skills Seminar we constructed a quinzhee. The snow was far less than ideal for it. A quinzee is like a big down jacket that you can crawl inside and sleep in. Since the snow is so dense from the warm weather (about 10" of snow fell in the storm and by Monday afternoon it had compacted to about 3"), the fluffy loft that you want for insulation had all but disappeared. With our group and a bunch of snow shovels, it didn't take long to pile the heavy snow into an oval about 5'x8' and maybe 5' tall.

When building a quinzhee, it should be left to "sinter" for a couple of hours. Sintering's a natural process where snow crystals freeze to one another as water vapor stabilizes within the snowpack (all those points on a snowflake turn out to be a very unstable configuration). After it sinters for a while, you can hollow out the quinzhee. I poke sticks about 10" long into the walls of the quinzhee so when I hollow it out I know how far to go and don't make any thin sections. I also elevate the floor a bit and make the entrance lower so that cold air drains out. A soft bed of hemlock or pine bows makes a great comfy place to sleep.



We were planning on going into Centennial Woods and making a debris hut style snow shelter while we waited for the quinzhee to sinter, but then the crows started flying overhead and we decided to head out on a crow safari. We tracked the crows all around and finally pinned down what may have been somewhere between 6000 and 8000 crows making a ruckus at the golf course (near intersection of S Prospect and Ledge). I posted a video and some details on the crow roost in Burlington here and a video here.


As we were about to leave someone pointed out a crow that had been perched by itself at the top of an oak. It had been sitting there the whole time we were watching as the thousands of other crows circled frenetically around them. Its calm demeanor was striking and almost ominous with the tumultuous sky in the background.

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