Friday, 2 December 2016

Still Day Two: Friday 2 December

Antarctic Field Training - overnight!
Glamping in Antarctica

We packed every single item of clothing we'd been issued with, ready for anything, but it was the most amazing weather. Such a gorgeous night - sunny, hardly any wind at all, and the ice crystals were glittering in the snow.

Mark, our field trainer, drove us in the Hagglund about half an hour out of Scott Base. We unloaded the gear and started practising our outdoor and survival skills (which some of us have more of than others). This meant, first of all, putting up the survival tent and three Scott Polar tents, and laying out our sleep kit - four layers of sleeping bags - so it was ready to climb into.

Scott Polar tents in the gear storeroom
The Polar tents are modelled on the style that Scott and his teams would have used, which is pretty incredible to think about. In fact you can't help wondering, even just such a short distance from Scott Base, what it must have been like for them ploughing and manhauling their way to the Pole, in far worse weather and less adequate clothing than we were experiencing last night.

Setting up tents
Want to know how to build a snow kitchen? I can tell you! It involves digging out cubes of ice with a snow saw and spades (I didn't even know there was such a thing as a snow saw.) The ice cubes get built into a wall to give you shelter from the wind. (There wasn't much wind - but you have to be prepared for a change in the weather.)

Still no wind!
There were six of us plus Mark in our group: me and Guy, Jeremy from NIWA and Gerry, Chris and Andrew from LINZ. When we were working  out who would go in which tent, Jeremy said he'd like to sleep in a snow trench, so that's what he was making while we were constructing our kitchen. I hope he wasn't just being nice to me, because he really did seem to want to sleep out in his trench (which did look pretty cool), but as you can see from the list of names, I was the only female in our group. I'd been happy to share - but actually it was pretty nice to have a tent to myself. (And I ended up with so much stuff spread all over it that I don't know how the others managed with two to a tent.)
My home for the (sunny) night
And me!
The sun slowly circled around the horizon, and away in the distance, but looking so close, Mt Erebus was wreathed in a shawl of clouds, with a faint puff of smoke sometimes coming from the summit.

By about 8.30pm we were all set up and sitting in our camp kitchen, eating cheese and crackers and drinking cups of tea. It was still sunny and warm and we stayed there for nearly two hours, talking and having dinner (dehydrated meals from the Scott Base store) and more cups of soup, tea or milo. 

I discovered that eating is quite hard when you are wearing snow goggles and can't see what you are doing, and when you want to be very careful not to spill anything, because it will have to be scooped up in its bed of snow and put into the food contamination bag. The aim is always to keep the Antarctic environment as pristine as possible, so there are  lots of processes for waste management that have to be carefully followed.   

The sun was high in the sky and still bright as day when we started getting ready for bed at about 11pm.Then everything went very quiet, for hours - apart from a plane that came in sometime around midnight, and a few gusts of wind that set canvas flaps fluttering. But it was light all night, which was so weird. 

PS The toilet arrangements could have been a lot worse. There were a series of buckets (enough said). But at least it was inside a tent!


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