Date: 11/17/03
Latitude: 77 degrees, 51 minutes South
Longitude: 166 degrees 40 minutes East
Temperature: −20°C( −4°F)
Wind speed: 15 knots
Wind Chill: −22°C( −7°F)
Wind direction: Northeast
Elevation: Not Given
Kilometers traveled: 0

Notes on daily life:
By Tom reports from McMurdo

Today, Dan and I attended Snow Craft II class. In this all−day class, also known as crevasse school, we review basic mountaineering skills and crevasse rescue techniques. In the first half of the class, which was inside, we worked on several of the basic mountaineering knots and hitches (such as the overhand, figure eight, and bowline knots and the clove, munter, and prussik hitches) and sketched out several different techniques to extract a person from a crevasse.

After lunch, our instructor Matt Szundy took us to a large snow and ice covered hill nearby to work on the art of self arrest. The goal of self arrest is to stop yourself after you begin to fall or slide down a steep slope. Usually, we carry an ice axe when traveling in steep and snowy terrain. It is important to practice using your ice axe to stop yourself if you lose your balance and begin to slide. We practiced self arresting in a variety of scenarios: sliding feet first on the back or stomach, and sliding headfirst on the back or stomach. Self arresting occasionally involves rolling over or spinning around. Dan had perhaps the most acrobatic stop of the day after sliding downhill head first on his back and flipping feet−over head to come into a self−arrest position. Tens all around!

The last part of the class involved the 'crevasse simulator': a 7−8 meter deep trench dug with a bulldozer. Matt showed Dan and me how to set up a 2:1 and a 3:1 pulley system to pull a person up out of a crevasse. After that, Dan and I both rappelled down into the 'crevasse' and then ascended up and out without assistance. It was a fun day, but a little bit cold and windy; it was a good introduction to the type of weather we will encounter on our trip.

Although it is unlikely that we will encounter any crevasses (and even less likely that we will be on any steep slopes), it is important to practice these skills so that we are prepared in case we ever need them. Based on the satellite imagery of our route studied by Gordon Hamilton and Leigh Stearns at the University of Maine, the only crevasses we will pass are near the end of our route at Taylor Dome. We will also be carrying crevasse−detecting radar on the leading vehicle to help us avoid any other rouge crevasses lurking out there.

Dan and I are just about ready to go, and are looking forward to our flight down to the South Pole on the 19th.

click on a photo to view a full size version
Mt Erebus   Using fancy footwork to climb the slope   Unloading at the Silver City ice fall   Tom and Dan at the Silver City ice fall   Tom descending into the 'crevasse'   Instructor Matt belays Tom   Tom begins his ascent   Tom ascends from the crevasse   Tom finally crawls out