Notes on daily life
Lora and I spent the last 2 days attending Snow School, informally referred to around here as ¦Happy Camper School²; it is a safety-training class that teaches basic outdoor survival in the harsh Antarctic climate. This 2-day field course must be successfully completed by anyone who intends to do work at remote field sites on the continent. The great people at the McMurdo Field Services Training Program (FSTP) teach this class. The FSTP personnel are highly trained and experienced in outdoor survival, they are also members of the Antarctic Search and Rescue (SAR) team. The morning of the first day was spent in the classroom. We learned how to properly prepare for the extreme climatic conditions, and how to recognize signs of hypothermia and frostbite, not only on ourselves, but also on others around us. We then drove out to a location on the sea ice not far from the New Zealand Antarctic station, Scott Base, which is located about 2 miles from McMurdo. There we learned how to operate all the equipment contained within a survival bag; these are issued to each person working in the field. The bags contain an MSR Whisperlite stove, fuel, food, a sleeping bag and pad, a mountaineering tent, a snow saw, and a shovel. We also learned how to properly set up a camp with a wind wall made out of blocks of snow to protect it from the strong winds which are notorious on the continent. Part of the training included how to construct various types of shelters made out of the snow itself. One style was the "quinzee hut", a large igloo-like snow shelter. The quinzee hut is roomy and relatively warm, but is rather energy intensive in its construction. The other more basic emergency shelter, which is more practical in a survival situation, is the ¦snow trench². This is a small coffin-type hole in the ground that sleeps one. Lora and I chose to sleep in the mountaineering tent, but other more adventurous members of our class spent the night in the snow trenches and quinzee huts. It was pretty cold, but we managed to get at least a few hours of sleep. The temperatures were quite a bit warmer (it got down to about 5-10 F at night) then those we will experience on the traverse, so hopefully this experience helped acclimatize us a bit. The second day was spent learning about risk assessment, how to operate HF and VHF radios, and practicing our skills in a couple of emergency scenarios. Our whole group was completely exhausted by the end of the day.
Back in McMurdo, Andrei, Brian, and Dan were busy testing the 2-inch ice coring drill to make sure there were no problems. In the field, even small repairs can be problematic. They also worked on getting all of our gear properly tagged and into the cargo system so that it gets on to the correct flight out of town. There are many different science and support teams based out of McMurdo and a lot of gear associated with them. Proper organization is crucial their success. The tremendous help from everyone at the BFC (Berg Field Center) and the Science Cargo building was fundamental in getting all our gear ready for the field. Thanks guys!