Finally this weekend I
got out of McMurdo!!! I got to travel out to the McMurdo Ice Shelf
and participate in a field safety training course (here in Antarctica we
just call it Happy Camper School). The whole idea behind Happy Camper
School is to prepare anyone who's going to the field for survival situations
they might have to face. It's not meant to be a rough weekend, in
fact it's the exact opposite. Most people that go out to Happy Camper
School love it, it's the highlight of their season.
We started off our weekend on
Friday morning in a classroom going over cold weather medicine, but soon
we piled into a Delta transport and were off for our camp. The Delta
that we took was huge with tires easily six feet tall. It easily
took all nine students and our instructor Chris out to the field.
Once we reached our camp we had
another indoor class, this time going over stoves and other tools like
VHF and HF radios. After a quick break for lunch we dressed back
up and headed into the cold to set up our camp.
The first task in setting up our
camp was to put up our Scott tent. These big yellow tents are great
for large groups and performing tasks like cooking. Later that night
when it came time to cook and eat, we had all nine students, plus three
stoves in the Scott tent and it wasn't that uncomfortable. After
setting up the Scott tent we practiced making a windbreak. To make
a windbreak we used three foot long bow saws to cut into the snow and take
out blocks. The windbreak was made by simply building up a wall with
Once we had created a rectangle
area surrounded by our windbreak, we set up two Sierra Design mountaineering
tents, which are apparently very commonly used in the field. Once
we'd set these tents up, our instructor cut us loose and we were own our
own for making dinner, which I already said we did in the Scott tent.
After dinner we ventured off into
old Happy Camper camps that were filled with old windbreaks and other creations
of snow. The greatest thing was a chessboard made out of snow.
Everything was perfect down to the very last pawn. My friend Troy
and I got plenty of pictures pretending to play. Another creation
we found was a Quinze, which is a primitive igloo formed by piling bags
on the ground and then covering that with snow. After the baggage
is completely covered, one person digs into the ground and back up into
the Quinze where they pull out the bags to find a snow shelter perfect
for sleeping two. One of my classmates, Geoffrey and I decided this
would be an awesome place to sleep, so we slept there that night.
The next morning we woke back
up and broke down camp. We went back into the classroom with our
instructor to talk about how everyone slept. Most were warm enough,
but the two that slept in the Scott tent said it was pretty cold.
Upon returning to McMurdo, we concluded our weekend training with two safety
videos. One was one helicopter safety and the other on environmental
protocol in the Dry Valleys.
The weekend was fabulous and all
my classmates were great people. I am sorry to see it's over, but
now it's time for a warm shower and dinner in the galley.