The tents are heavy and hot, with not a breath of wind in them. During the day anyone staying inside swelters and though dusk brings relief from the heat, it also heralds the arrival of unusually large rats.
Along with a large red rooster, the rats have become the unofficial - unwanted - mascots of the army squad sweating through the humidity and heat to prepare the site for asylum seekers. At night as the soldiers eat and rest, the rats creep through their tents looking for scraps.
When Fairfax visited the Topside site on Nauru - a postage stamp of an island of 9400 people halfway to Hawaii - more than a week ago the only tents erected were those being used by the army.
At the time, the major in charge of the construction squadron, James Dugdell, pointed to a series of wooden crates that contained similar, though newer, tents waiting to be unpacked.
It is in those tents that the first group to arrive on Nauru - slated by Immigration Minister Chris Bowen to occur later this week - will live, under a reinvigorated Pacific Solution for asylum seekers.
Major Dugdell said that by the time his squadron was finished, the tent city they were building would have enough room to house 500 asylum seekers. Power points would be run to the tents - though given Nauru's rolling blackouts they will not always work - and shadecloth would be put up in two places to provide "recreation areas".
The asylum seekers, like the soldiers, will sleep on army cots of canvas and metal. Major Dugdell did not know whether the detainees would receive bedding or pillows; that was the Immigration Department's responsibility, he said.
Showers and toilets - ablution blocks, as the military calls them - will be erected but the detainees will have to rely on a small desalination machine the army has brought as well as bottled water for drinking, as most of Nauru's bore water is tainted by sewage.
If pregnant women are among the asylum seekers sent to Nauru they may find the hospital unable to cope with them. When Fairfax was there locals expressed concern that the hospital's recently refurbished maternity ward was already struggling to deal with the number of pregnant Nauruans.
If asylum seekers want to leave the camp to travel to town - most of Nauru's inhabitants live on the coast where the sea breeze makes life more comfortable - they will have to endure a 45-minute walk past a rock quarry and the island's only rubbish tip along a dirt road.
Decades of phosphate mining on the island have left the path they must take denuded of any shade, and their only companion will be the hundreds of rusted, abandoned vehicles that line the road.
"This must be where cars come to die," one of Major Dugdell's soldiers remarked of the area around the site.
Now, it is also where Australia's asylum seekers come, to wait and to sweat with the rats until Australia deems them refugees, or sends them home.