Ice Camping and Survival School

Boss Jenny gave me a wake-up call at 8:00 AM yesterday. She goes, "Cody guess what, you're going to Happy Camper!" I sat there for a minute trying to wake up. "Happy Camper?" I said. "Yes, Cody you need to pack up all your extreme cold weather clothing, eat something and get to the field safety training center in 30 minutes", she replies. "Sure I'll try", I mumbled. Hung up the phone, opened the window to see the bright world, and began packing.

Within 30 minutes I made it to the FSTP (Field Safety Training Program) building.

I had a few minutes so I just walked around. Didn't see much field gear at first, just some cool toys.

Ah ha, so this is where they keep them.

Lil' Ducati in Antarctica... priceless.

Upstairs I came across a couple boxes of matches and tents. Next to this was a classroom where our guide awaited the Happy Campers.
Our guide all dressed up in his ECW. He gave a really good intro presentation covering everything from frostbite to communications to the purpose of field work.

After that we packed up all the gear and headed out back of the FSTP to await our Delta Bus.

The giant bus dropped off us next to Willy road, which is out on the permanent ice-sheet bordering the volcano.
We organized all the gear into a straight line so we knew what was what, then we loaded up the sled.

Dude pointed us to where we needed to hike next.

So we hike. Dude pulled all our gear to the meeting hut on a snowmobile.
The sled arrives and we are told to go inside.

Inside the hut we play fire and eat a bunch of sandwiches, chocolate, and granola bars. Our guide instructed us on a few safety tips and how to operate the stoves.

I noticed a few solar panels hanging up, they are used to charge up the HF radios.

After that it was time to go find a campsite. Dude was going to pull all of our personal gear on his snowmobile sled, but we were told to carry all the field gear (tents, saws, stakes, stoves, etc.) on sleds. Where are the dogs?

No dogs, just men.

We arrived to our camping destination. Full, excited, warm, happy. We unpacked the sleds and began making our priorities. 1. Shelter 2. Snow wall 3. Kitchen/Food/Water 4. Have fun

We began with our first tent, the Scott Tent. It was relatively easy to set up and I learned a few knots along the way.

The door was referred to as a "birth canal" by the guide.

Twas a gorgeous afternoon... 45 degrees, little wind, and not a cloud in the sky.

We proceeded in setting up the second style of tent. This one is less bulky and more widely used in cold climates, yet the Scott tent (above) is warmer and safer to cook in. The only problem with the Scott tent is that it takes a few people to carry it. Most often field camps will set up a few of the smaller tents and use one Scott tent as a kitchen and emergency tent in case their other tents get blown away (happened last year to a backcountry research team in the mountains).

Then dude shows us how to make a snow wall. First, cut snow blocks with a saw.

This wall only took about 30 minutes. The snow wall blocks the tents from wind and snow. I've read in a few survival manuals that if you get stuck out in a bad Antarctic storm, build the wall first just to get out of the elements. One issue we came across... the wind is anticipated to come from the S and SE, so we built our wall that way, but come 9 PM when the wind became strong it was comming from the N. Happens all the time our guide dude said.

While we made the wall he made our kitchen. Just a few blocks of snow and a gas stove.

After a snack and water he let us loose to go build our own survival shelters. There are several ways to build them. He focused on the quick and most time efficient snow cave, which is basically a 6 feet long x 4 feet deep x 3 feet wide trench dug into snow and covered with snow blocks or sled or whatever you have. I began walking around trying to figure out what I could different. There were already 4 gophers digging the trench our guide had showed us, the other 4 opted to sleep in the tents, and I chose to remodel an older Quinsy (?) snow house from last weeks camp.

I found this giant lump of snow and beneath it there were a few holes. I thought to myself, dig out the holes, make a surrounding moat, dig a dungeon, make an underground escape slide that goes deep into my volcano emergency shelter/basement/dungeon/wine cellar, and surround the moat with a wall made from the dug our snow.

This took some thinking. So, I sat down and munched on a big bar of chocolate the guide gave us. First bite was like biting into...

14 year old chocolate. Mmmmmmmm.

With the tasty burst of fermented glucose and blood sugar high I began digging out the entrance.

1 hour later I began the moat.

5 hours later I was stripped, sun burnt, sweating my butt off, my hands bleeding from rubbing against sharp ice and I was getting sick of all the melt layers I had to beat my way through. I probably dug through at least a years worth of snow cover and with each warm period during the year there was a thick layer of ice. I went through 5 layers of ice, about 3'' thick each, separated by layers of cushy and quit after that. I had to keep switching from shovel to ice ax and ice ax to shovel, and then having to shovel the snow out of the 2 meter deep hole.

Well the moat wasn't finished. Neither was the basement. But, I've set up a nice start for whoever camps there next week. All they need to do is dig a tunnel from the bottom of the deep hole to the bottom of the snow house floor and they'll have an emergency route slide. Then cover the giant hole and the walkway.

The inside was a 5-star, luxury suite. You could throw a king-size bed in it.

The day went by so fast and it was a blast. After all that digging my energy reserves were nearly out, so I ate a few more granola bars, drank some water, and passed out.

2 hours later I woke up, stared at the ceiling. The sun was peering through the ventilation holes and I liked the colours it was making. I grabbed my camera and took this.

I looked to the right, towards the entrance, and saw this. Wow. Another great shot.

I awoke every couple hours, barely sleeping. I had no clock, should have made one with holes in the ice and the sun. Everytime I heard the ice crack beneath me or the snow fall off the house I thought someone was comming. Then I would think it's time to get up and help everyone pack down the. I probably did this at 10 PM, 12 AM, 2AM, 4AM... by early morning I was exhausted and really did get some shut-eye.. only to hear footsteps a couple hours later and a Kiwi pop his head in the window. "G'day", he says smiling. Popping my head out of my mummy bag I reply, "What time is it?" "6 AM". He then leaves. I laid there and realized I ain't getting much sleep today. I crawled out the cave and felt the chill wind. Loved it. The scene around me was beautiful.

After we dismantled the camp and got some more food in us, we had to spend several more hours doing field training. Here's a shot of VHF and HF radio class at 9 AM. Note: only 1 person out of 10 campers slept at least 6 hours consecutively. Not me. Thanks 10 year old freeze dried coffee!

Now I have to focus on getting some rest for the marathon tomorrow right after work. :)