Since some of the science
groups I am planning to work with this season are permanently staged on
the ice shelf, I needed to complete the Sea Ice Training course.
The Sea Ice Training is only a day long and covers a mix of topics.
Some, like first aid and survival skills, were fresh in my mind since we
went over them extensively just a couple days earlier at Happy Camper's
School. Other topics like vehicle operation on the sea ice and ice
drilling were completely new to me.
Like most classes in Antarctica,
we started out with a quick hour introduction inside at the Field Safety
and Training building, but we soon moved out to Ice Shelf. Our mode
of transportation for the day was a Hagglund, which is a Swiss amphibious
transport vehicle. They're cool to look at, but the ride is pretty
noisy and bumpy.
The first stop once we left town
was a small shelter on the ice that's used as a classroom setting.
Here we talked about surveying cracks in the ice and how to decide if it's
safe to cross in a variety of vehicles. We also reviewed once more
survival skills necessary if we were ever to be stuck on the ice.
After this last classroom setting, we broke for lunch, which included sandwiches
and snacks, and then prepared to travel further out on the ice and practice
Most Sea Ice classes learn to
drill by repeating the process over and over with no set purpose.
Our class was lucky that our drilling was actually going to be put to use.
In order to plan for the Coast Guard Ice Breaker's journey through the
sea ice, data needed to be gathered including the thickness of the ice,
amount of snow cover, and temperature of the water. All the holes
we drilled in class were used to gather this information.
After a successful day of drilling
and learning, our group was ready to cut loose. Usually at the end
of Sea Ice training the class will have a little recreation time and go
to visit the ice caves, our class on the other hand got a special visit
to the "Penguin Ranch." The ranch is located on the sea ice and is
a study site that looks at the diving biology of Emperor Penguins.
For that reason, they have penguins on site that they observe.
We spent a couple hours talking
with the researchers and just watching the birds. This was my first
sighting of Antarctic wildlife so it was a blast. And as if the visit
couldn't get any better, the researchers allowed everyone to take a turn
going down their observation tube. The observation, or ob tube, is
a three foot wide steel tube that goes through 12 feet of ice and sticks
out into the water below about three feet. This way it's easy to
watch the penguins as they're swimming underwater and while they're diving
As the afternoon went on, it was
finally time to leave the Penguin Ranch and return to town, now successful
graduates of the Sea Ice Training course. Now that I have this class
done, I'll be able to join any team that heads out onto the ice shelf.