Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Snowcraft I course

I returned back to McMurdo Station yesterday after two days out on the McMurdo Iceshelf. To be able to fly in helicopters around here we were required to take a Snowcraft I survival course. What you learn is to survive for some days after a helicopter crash (or if you get stuck with some other snowcraft) using the standard survival gear that is present on every snowcraft. We were camping on the McMurdo iceshelf with a group of 18 people and were left by the instructors for the night. We manhauled our equipment to the site on sledges. We built a snow wall to stay out of the wind, pitched tents, got the burners going and made hot water. At night the temperature dipped to -22F/-30C and we were all cold. Some got up to walk around to stay warm in the middle of the night. We used our skills that we just learned to get through the night (it never got really dark). I ate a lot of candy bars and cookies, drank my water that I had taken into my sleeping bag and closed my sleeping bag so that only my nose was sticking out. I slept a few hours, but not much: I would wake up shivering and then I had to eat and drink some more. Hydration improves circulation in extremities (hands and feet) and eating gives the body energy to burn (=heat). All was far from comfortable, but in the end we all did survive and that was the point!
To the right a picture of the cold weather clothing I used on the trip: several layers of insulation, two layers of underwear, one midlayer and an outer windtight shell (Big Red and windpants), three hats, neck gator, several types of gloves and mittens (including large sledge mittens), goggles and mucklucks (big blue boots).
On the science front things are gearing up: core is expected this Sunday and we need to convert to night shift soon. We have a lot of meetings at the moment to discuss procedures and data storage. Some of us are also involved in teaching. More on that soon.
The photo at the top is by Diane Winter (my camera did not work properly, unfortunately).

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