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Author: Sue Bassett

Date: 21/02/14

 

 

With environmental awareness, survival skills and effective team processes topping the agenda, the incoming AHT winter team got stuck straight into Antarctic Field Skills training following our arrival on the ice last week. This included a couple of days out on the ice shelf (in spectacular weather, thankfully), forming teams to carry out a variety of tasks and learning or refreshing some vital skills.

 

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Getting started and discussing the design

 

After selecting appropriate layers of clothing for the minus 12-degree temperature, preparing our individual sleep kits and pitching our polar tents, we set about designing and building our kitchen in which to shelter from the breeze, light our stoves and boil water to prepare our dehydrated dinners-in-a-bag. Using saws and shovels to cut and lift ice blocks, we simultaneously created a pit and constructed walls, not forgetting some seating and a bench for cooking. Being somewhat easier than it sounds, before long our far-from-perfect but nonetheless perfectly adequate little ice-kitchen took shape.

 

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Looking good - the team relaxes in the ice-kitchen

 

In we piled, and some reasonable curries and pasta dishes (and considerably better camaraderie) were enjoyed late into the bright sunlit night.

 

Good training … good fun!

 

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N-ice work!

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Author: Sue

Date: 24 February 2013

Temperature: -5 C

Wind Speed:  5 knots

Temp with wind chill: -9 C

Sunrise: 23:51

Sunset: 04:10

 

 

Anyone spending time in Antarctica needs to learn how to live and work safely and how to survive in the harsh environment … and that includes conservators! Taking part in Antarctic Field Skills training is a basic and early part of the induction process following arrival on the ice, and the five members of the AHT Winter Team headed out overnight with the other ten people who will winter-over at Scott Base this year.

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Setting up camp below Mt Erebus

 

The field skills training involved an introduction to Antarctica New Zealand's zero-harm philosophy, applying its risk assessment process, and learning the protocols surrounding the Antarctic Specially Protected Areas (ASPAs which the heroic-era huts come under). And then there was understanding how to effectively use our many layers of supplied clothing, what is found in a 'survival bag' (such as a shelter and dehydrated meals) and how to use it, polar-tent pitching (using tents of much the same design as those used by the heroic-era explorers), sleep-kit construction for different conditions, stove lighting, toileting and waste management, and communications planning and procedures. All very useful and necessary skills.

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Base engineer Dave barbequing, Antarctic style

 

We were fortunate to have spectacular weather, and for those of us who are new to this, no darkness, allowing us to find our way in and out of our tents and multi-layered sleeping kits successfully! We also picked up some useful tips from old hands on barbequing Antarctic style, keeping drinks off the freeze, and frisbee-playing in deep snow, with gloves. A fun trip!

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Polar Tents

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Author: Jaime

Date: 10 February 2013

Temperature: -15C

Wind Speed: 5 knots

Temp with wind chill: -21C

Sunrise: Always

Sunset: Never

 

Since arriving Antarctica the winter team has been immersed in the intricacies of life at Scott Base, learning about new people, places and processes, and at the same time beginning our winter conservation programme. It can be a world of baffling acronyms, but eventually you do understand the true meaning of AHT having AFT briefings in the HFC.  (Antarctic Heritage Trust having Antarctic Field Training in the Hillary Field Centre).

 

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Huge crowds at the ski field © AHT/Jaime

 

Thankfully there is also time to relax and to join the season’s last trip to the Scott Base ski field, a simple rope tow emerging from the inevitable green shipping container and running up the same hillside where Scott's men learnt to ski over a century ago. It was a huge treat to be skiing with both great snow and stunning views across the vast ice shelf to the distant mountains. We made our final descent from Castle Rock and headed home in the warmth of the Hagglund with plans for our next day out. A skidoo ride possibly or a trip down a crevasse. Not literally of course.

 

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Sue plans our next excursion © AHT/Jaime

1

Posted by Cricket

 

Date:                           7 September 2010
Sunrise:                       8:36am
Sunset:                        5:11pm
Temperature:                -33C
Wind Speed:                20 knots
Temp with wind chill:    -60C

 

Antarctic Field Training (AFT) is a prerequisite for any solo travel outside of Scott Base. It is an eye-opening experience culminating in an overnight in a tent at a site well beyond the Base.  Everyone living at Scott Base, whether their work is here or in the field, goes through this training.


There were three of us going through AFT together, Diana, Doug and myself.  We began with a slideshow presentation about the Antarctic environment, survival principles and horrible cautionary images of trench foot and frostbite – ailments we could get here if we ignore the warning signs.  We then went through the emergency bags, assembled and packed our 4-layer sleeping bag system, and were shown how to use two different camping stoves.  Finally, it was time to put on all our ECW (Extreme Condition Wear), get into the Hagglund and head out.

 

We got to the campsite around dusk, and hurriedly set about putting up three tents – one for Diana and myself, one for Doug and the third, a latrine.  With our headlamps on, we started building a kitchen shelter by first digging a trench then building a snow wall behind that offered protection from the wind while cooking.  It was a cold evening with temperatures reaching almost –40C and winds at 10-15 knots.  Cold enough that we melted snow for water, quickly ate some dehydrated dinners, sucked on a few frozen fruit sticks and called it a night.

 

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Setting up the tent © Antarctica NZ/Doug

 

“Are you asleep?”  “What are you doing over there?” is what Doug must have heard Diana and I asking each other all night long.  We laugh now, but it was a cold night even buried in all those layers of sleeping bags with handwarmers in our socks.  Through the night, I often thought about what a spin instructor at my hometown gym said during a hard workout: “if you’re hurting now, you better start thinking about something else.”  I thought of the beach on one of those days when it’s so hot under the sun that you can’t wait to get inside.

 

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Drinking a morning bowl of Milo © Antarctica NZ/Doug

 

We stayed in our sleeping bags for almost 11 hours, leaving them in the morning to start melting snow for a quick breakfast of Milo, an “energy” hot chocolate drink, and to take down our tents.  The Hagglund came around 9am to take us home, where we arrived in time to enjoy an opposite extreme - a mid-morning coffee from the espresso machine and freshly baked biscuits with butter.  Over breakfast, we wondered how the early explorers handled such cold day after day, especially during their sledging trips.  When we’re camping, I’m guessing we’ll be relying on the hand and toe warmers to keep us strong.