|Geoff Sims @ UNSW|
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.
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.
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.
Once satisfied that we were OK, Jen left us and retreated to a safe distance in the iHut.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Tomorrow we're off bright and early to the South Pole!
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