Geoff Sims @ UNSW
Home South Pole Diaries 2012/13 29th December, 2012


Saturday, 29th December, 2012

Happiest Campers ever! (John)

"Happy Camper" snow school has a reputation for being a lot of fun, but ours was simply awesome. We're all kind of exhausted, so this will be just a sort of photo-essay.

On Friday morning we sat in a room while our instructor, Jen, took us through the basics of risk management, hypothermia, and scared the daylights out of everyone with horrific photos of frostbite injuries. Fortunately it was +5 C outside, with zero wind...

Suitably charged up, we all climbed aboard the Delta and were driven out of McMurdo, past Scott Base and onto the ice shelf.

All aboard the Delta.

The Delta is an unfortunate-looking truck that appears to have been designed by a committee, none of whom had ever actually seen a truck before. Instead of the front wheels steering, giant hydraulic rams cause the whole vehicle to articulate in the middle. Comfort of the passengers, confined in a tin box stuck on the back like an afterthought, is a very secondary consideration, to the point that their only communication with the driver is via walkie-talkie.

Nic and Geoff arrive at "Happy Camper".

Jen explains where we are.

After some more instruction in the instructor hut, or iHut, we ate lunch and walked a kilometer or so to a clean and empty expanse of snow. Jen taught us how to put up the tents, build snow trenches to sleep in, and how to build snow walls. So, up went four tents, a snow wall, and an amazing kitchen. Cutting blocks of snow for use in construction is a fine art, and our quarry was a masterpiece.

Jen shows us how to quarry for snow blocks.

Once satisfied that we were OK, Jen left us and retreated to a safe distance in the iHut.

Gail demonstrates the fine art of leanin' on yer shovel.

Our next task was to cook dinner. We boiled up some snow, then made it more nutritious and marginally more palatable by adding some packets of dehydrated stuff to it.

Evelyn, Marci and me in the amazing kitchen.

The next task was to cook dinner. We boiled up some snow, then made it more nutritious (and marginally more palatable) by adding some packets of dehydrated stuff to it.

Things got a bit crazy then, as no-one had the slightest intention of sleeping in a ...gasp... tent.

Daniel, Gail, Kari, Chad, Marci and John are building snow trenches, Alex is quarrying snow blocks, and that looks awfully like an igloo under construction...

It turns out this was the easy part... round about midnight we called it quits. Sort of a "low profile" igloo.

Although Nic is putting on a brave face... turns out that building an igloo is really hard work.

These are the tents we didn't sleep in. The two small ones in the foreground are the ones we'll take to Ridge A.

My snow trench was snug but comfortable.

The view from my snow trench, just after midnight.

Next day we took the camp down and headed back to the iHut, where we learned about radios. Outside again, we strung up an HF dipole and talked directly to South Pole some 1600 km away. The radios are ancient but effective: with only 20 watts we were able to make good contact. We're definitely taking this radio to Ridge A!

Geoff comes through loud and clear. "South Pole, South Pole, South Pole, this is Happy Camper on 7.995 MHz, over".

The final exercise was of the course the best. In total whiteout conditions, the gallant team rope themselves together and head out from the hut in search of a lost colleague. Wearing a bucket on your head creates a passable imitation of a whiteout, minus the risk of death. Needless to say we didn't do very well.

The search party have just gone around in a circle, and are looking confused.

Tomorrow we're off bright and early to the South Pole!


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