Friday, 2 December 2016

Day Two: Friday 2 December

Antarctic Field Training (AFT)
One of the first things you have to do at Scott Base is Field Training. And everyone does this - VIPs, visiting MPs and all. So less than 24 hours after we arrived, we were putting up tents out on the ice and preparing to build an outdoor kitchen and table out of blocks of snow.

Field training is to help you understand more about Antarctica’s unique cold-weather environment, and how to cope with its challenges and recognise potential hazards, including the signs of hypothermia, frostbite and snow blindness. The field trainers teach you basic survival skills and safety routines and show you how you could cope in a crisis situation. Everything from the most basic (how do you know what the weather is doing, what do you wear to go outside, what colour flags do you follow?) to how do you pitch a tent in snow and ice? How do you anchor a tent peg? How do you build an emergency shelter?

OK to tell the truth, I wasn't totally looking forward to this. But it has been amazing.

The 6 of us who came down on the plane together were matched up with Mark, one of the field trainers. We spent Friday morning going over theory stuff, and after lunch Mark took us outside for an intro walk over the pressure ridges (where the sea ice meets the land). First thing  this morning, it was snowing! The snow had stopped by then, but there was still a sharp wind blowing which made us realise that we really might need all that outdoor gear.

Mark's favourite three words are "let's boost" and "wicked". So we did a lot of boosting - in fact we never seemed to stop all day - and everything was pretty wicked. (That's not quite true, Mark did allow us 15 mins for afternoon tea, which came with three different choices: muesli slice, caramel slice or lolly cake, all delicious. Morning and afternoon tea are taken very seriously at Scott Base.)

Later Mark let us have a go at sorting out which clothes to wear, preparing the food boxes, practising lighting the portable stove and getting our sleep kit together. Then we got into our outdoor clothes, packed all our gear plus some Polar tents into a Hagglund, signed out and set off about 6pm.

"Got into our outdoor clothes" sounds easy, but it takes us newbies a ridiculous amount of time. Even lacing up boots takes forever, and by the time we've struggled into all our layers and jackets in the locker room, we're hot and thirsty and already worn out! 

More on AFT soon!


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