Snowboarding in Antarctica!

Well, I’ve snowboarded on the harshest continent in the world.  Something not many people get to do.  I was very happy and excited to do it, but it’s not like snowboarding on the deep soft fresh snow we have at home in Colorado.  The snow here is sastrugi and is basically like icy drifts that set up like concrete.  It’s so hard that it breaks many of our snowmobiles.

The only decent area to snowboard here is about a 9.5 mile walk round trip and as a result it deters many from trying it.  Because of that my coworker  Dave and I wanted to get people out there without all the hassle and risk.  A proposal was sent in to station management and the NSF to use a Pisten Bully to shuttle people out there and also to use to get them up the hill.  We were really excited when it was approved, but it happened right before Dave left the ice so I led all of the trips while he was surfing on some tropical island.  I led about a dozen snowboard trips during both day and night (the sun was up 24hrs a day) so that everyone who wanted could go.  It was really awesome when people said that they had their best day on ice during one of my trips!

A self portrait outside the Pisten Bully.  As you can see the visibility is terrible... the snow is also not like home.  We have sastrugi snow here in Antarctica.  Basically it means that the snow blows into very hard drifts and sets up like concrete.  I used the Pisten Bully to drive over it repeatedly to soften it up a little.

A self portrait outside the Pisten Bully. As you can see the visibility is terrible… the snow is also not like home. We have sastrugi snow here in Antarctica. Basically it means that the snow blows into very hard drifts and sets up like concrete. I used the Pisten Bully to drive over it repeatedly to soften it up a little.

Leaving the station in our trusty Pisten Bully.  I had to stop to see the icebergs floating by and check for Orcas.  I have seen quite a few whales in this area.  You can get really close to shore and the whales will swim right by you.  I'll have a post on whales coming up.

Leaving the station in our trusty Pisten Bully. I had to stop to see the icebergs floating by and check for Orcas. I have seen quite a few whales in this area. You can get really close to shore and the whales will swim right by you. I’ll have a post on whales coming up.

Standing on Castle Rock enjoying the views of the ridge and a smoking Mt. Erebus in the distance.  The frozen Ross Sea is in the middle of the picture.  You don't want to fall off this part of Castle Rock as there are big crevasses between the rocks and the bottom.

Standing on Castle Rock enjoying the views of the ridge and a smoking Mt. Erebus in the distance. The frozen Ross Sea is in the middle of the picture. You don’t want to fall off this part of Castle Rock as there are big crevasses between the rocks and the bottom.

Dave and I making our way down.  Very flat light made it really hard to see.  You could barely tell what was ground vs what was sky!

Dave and I making our way down. Very flat light made it really hard to see. You could barely tell what was ground vs what was sky!

Looking along the ridge towards Mt. Erebus.  We snowboard down the right side of the ridge as the left has big crevasses to fall into.

Looking along the ridge towards Mt. Erebus. We snowboard down the right side of the ridge as the left has big crevasses to fall into.

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Leading trips to “Room with a View”

It takes a lot of people to keep McMurdo Station running.  Everyone’s job is critical in this process, no matter what they do.  Humans are not meant to survive in this place so we need shelter, special clothing, power, drinkable water, reliable transportation, etc.  We rely on each other to keep things working and to stay alive.  A lot of these jobs are not glamorous, yet they are done by really awesome people.  They say McMurdo has more graduate students doing dishes than any place on earth.  Where am I going with this you ask?  Well, most people never get to leave McMurdo in the course of their jobs… in fact some never leave their building!  The NSF and station management have outings or “morale trips” to ensure people get a chance to get out and see something off the station.

One of these trips is via snowmobiles to a place called “Room with a View” which is located on the flank of Mt Erebus.  Since I am the Snowmobile Instructor, I had the pleasure of leading these trips and training the other guides.  This is something I take very seriously as Antarctica can be extremely dangerous and conditions can change in a moments.  Whiteouts can blind you and you can’t even tell which way is up. Crevasses can swallow you.  Temperatures can cause frostbite, hypothermia, and death very quickly if you can’t seek shelter.  Normally we don’t go outside if conditions are really bad, but sometimes weather moves in before you can get back to station.  Because of that we keep “survival bags” with us at all times when off base.  We also have very strict checkout procedures so that a search team can be called upon even if someone misses a check-in by a few minutes.  I’m happy to say that I kept all my students safe all season.

Looking down the Erebus Glacier Tongue in the frozen Ross Sea.  The glacier tongue is where the glacier leaves land and is literally floating in the sea.  The tongue floats out into the Ross Sea about 7+ miles.  A couple years ago a 2 mile section of the tongue broke off and floated away when the annual ice melted.  In the background you can see the Royal Society Mountain Range.  The islands are Tent Island and Razorback from left to right.

Looking down the Erebus Glacier Tongue in the frozen Ross Sea. The glacier tongue is where the glacier leaves land and is literally floating in the sea. The tongue floats out into the Ross Sea about 7+ miles. A couple years ago a 2 mile section of the tongue broke off and floated away when the annual ice melted. In the background you can see the Royal Society Mountain Range. The islands are Tent Island and Razorback from left to right.

This picture is looking down the peninsula with Mt. Discovery in the left background.  The US Antarctic base McMurdo Station, and the New Zealand Scott Base are located at the end of the peninsula.   On the left side of the peninsula is the Ross Ice Shelf, and on the right side is the Ross Sea.  This is one of the most southern areas accessible by ship which is why Robert Falcon Scott chose this location for his Discovery Hut.

This picture is looking down the peninsula with Mt. Discovery in the left background. The US Antarctic base McMurdo Station, and the New Zealand Scott Base are located at the end of the peninsula. On the left side of the peninsula is the Ross Ice Shelf, and on the right side is the Ross Sea. This is one of the most southern areas accessible by ship which is why Robert Falcon Scott chose this location for his Discovery Hut.

Cracks and crevasses in the snow on the side of Mt Erebus.  These cracks are deceiving... they are actually large enough to swallow a house... and who knows how deep.  The are opened up by snow/glaciers moving down Erebus and flowing over the uneven terrain below.

Cracks and crevasses in the snow on the side of Mt Erebus. These cracks are deceiving… they are actually large enough to swallow a house… and who knows how deep. The are opened up by snow/glaciers moving down Erebus and flowing over the uneven terrain below.

More crevasses in the side of Mt. Erebus.  This side of Erebus is very deadly and not safe to travel on.  The safer route up the volcano is on the opposite side.

More crevasses in the side of Mt. Erebus. This side of Erebus is very deadly and not safe to travel on. The safer route up the volcano is on the opposite side.

Looking across the Ross Ice Shelf near Windless Bight.  It's definitely not windless though... The winds can actually blow at hurricane forces out here.  Antarctica is the windiest, coldest, driest, and highest mean elevation continent on Earth.  The snow/ice just keeps going and going and going.  Distances are very deceiving and are actually much further than they appear.   This part of the ice shelf moves up to 400 ft per year.

Looking across the Ross Ice Shelf near Windless Bight. It’s definitely not windless though… The winds can actually blow at hurricane forces out here. Antarctica is the windiest, coldest, driest, and highest mean elevation continent on Earth. The snow/ice just keeps going and going and going. Distances are very deceiving and are actually much further than they appear. This part of the ice shelf moves up to 400 ft per year.

A storm moving in quickly on Room with a View.  When it hit you couldn't see more than a few feet in any direction.

A storm moving in quickly on Room with a View. When it hit you couldn’t see more than a few feet in any direction.

A group cartwheel session on the route to "Room With A View".  I am on the far right in the blue jacket.  This pic was taken on my birthday which is why I'm wearing the Birthday Boy cape!

A group cartwheel session on the route to “Room With A View”. I am on the far right in the blue jacket. This pic was taken on my birthday which is why I’m wearing the Birthday Boy cape!

Me in my birthday cape.  I tried to fly, but it didn't work.

Me in my birthday cape. I tried to fly, but it didn’t work.

Cape Royds – Penguin Rookery and Shackelton’s Hut

A while back I had the opportunity to visit Cape Royds.  This is where Shackleton’s Hut is located.  It was built for the 1907-1909 British Antarctic Expedition led by Shackleton who sailed down on the Nimrod.  Robert Falcon Scott lost a little respect for Shackleton during their Discovery Expedition partly because Shackleton became very ill with scurvy.  Shackleton had asked Scott if he could use the Discovery Hut for his expedition and Scott said no as he was planning on using it for another expedition of his own.  This forced Shackleton to build his own hut at Cape Royds.  During this expedition, Shackleton and his men were the first to make it to the South Magnetic Pole and they were a mere 97 miles from making it to the South Geographic Pole!  They were also the first to climb Mt. Erebus, the Southernmost active volcano in the world.  Erebus rises right out of the Ross Sea to an altitude of 12,448 feet and is covered in dangerous glaciers and deep crevasses.  In addition to Shackleton’s hut, there is an Adelie Penguin rookery at this spot.  During the time I visited, the Adelies had young chicks.  Cape Royds has a lot of volcanic features such as a black sand beach, and ventifacts which are rocks that have been sculpted into cool shapes by thousands of years of wind.

A selfie of me at Cape Royds, Antarctica.  This pic was taken overlooking the Adelie Penguin rookery.  There were up to 4000 penguins here nesting and hatching their young chicks.  In the background is the Ross Sea with the ice breaking up.  The penguins like to hang out on the ice floes and are amazing swimmers.  They are like little torpedos shooting through the water and leaping into the air and landing back on the ice.

A selfie of me at Cape Royds, Antarctica. This pic was taken overlooking the Adelie Penguin rookery. There were up to 4000 penguins here nesting and hatching their young chicks. In the background is the Ross Sea with the ice breaking up. The penguins like to hang out on the ice floes and are amazing swimmers. They are like little torpedos shooting through the water and leaping into the air and landing back on the ice.

This was my ride out to Cape Evans... A Bell 212 helicopter!!  It was so fun!!!  It makes me want to be a pilot.  : )

This was my ride out to Cape Evans… A Bell 212 helicopter!! It was so fun!!! It makes me want to be a pilot. : )

Me inside Shackleton's Cape Royds hut pretending to warm myself over the stove.  The great men that occupied this hut were truly amazing and to experience and feel the history of this place cannot be put into words.  I have read of many of the hardships and have experienced Antarctica personally, but to actually do it they way they did, without modern technology and communications, is mind boggling.  These men were hearty souls who experienced great hardships for little or no glory.  Any of the stories of these men, such as "Shackleton's Forgotten Men" or "Endurance" or the story of RF Scott are well worth the read.

Me inside Shackleton’s Cape Royds hut pretending to warm myself over the stove. The great men that occupied this hut were truly amazing and to experience and feel the history of this place cannot be put into words. I have read of many of the hardships and have experienced Antarctica personally, but to actually do it they way they did, without modern technology and communications, is mind boggling. These men were hearty souls who experienced great hardships for little or no glory. Any of the stories of these men, such as “Shackleton’s Forgotten Men” or “Endurance” or the story of RF Scott are well worth the read.

The inside of Shackleton's Hut at Cape Royds, Antarctica.  This was Shackleton's base during his British Antarctic Expedition of 1907-1909.  Of the three huts I have been to (Scott's Discovery, Scott's Cape Evans, and Shackleton's Cape Royds) this one was the nicest by far.  It' is also the least visited.  I was very lucky and fortunate to be a hut guide and have access to these amazing historical places.  I enjoyed sharing them with others.  This was also the hut where they found Shackleton's lost whiskey which has been duplicated by a modern distiller.  I had some of his whiskey poured atop a chunk of iceberg that was broken off a glacier.  The ice was pure and actually hissed in the glass due to the ice being compressed over thousands of years.

The inside of Shackleton’s Hut at Cape Royds, Antarctica. This was Shackleton’s base during his British Antarctic Expedition of 1907-1909. Of the three huts I have been to (Scott’s Discovery, Scott’s Cape Evans, and Shackleton’s Cape Royds) this one was the nicest by far. It’ is also the least visited. I was very lucky and fortunate to be a hut guide and have access to these amazing historical places. I enjoyed sharing them with others. This was also the hut where they found Shackleton’s lost whiskey which has been duplicated by a modern distiller. I had some of his whiskey poured atop a chunk of iceberg that was broken off a glacier. The ice was pure and actually hissed in the glass due to the ice being compressed over thousands of years.

An Adelie penguin walking towards me at Cape Royds, Antarctica.  There is an Adelie penguin rookery at this spot, and they lay their eggs here.  During the time I was there, the Adelies had young chicks.  They are so cute and curious.

An Adelie penguin walking towards me at Cape Royds, Antarctica. There is an Adelie penguin rookery at this spot, and they lay their eggs here. During the time I was there, the Adelies had young chicks. They are so cute and curious.

I took this picture from a beautiful black sand beach at Cape Royds, Antarctica.  I love the little Adelie penguins and especially this one because of it's movements and the contrast between its black color and the surrounding ice.

I took this picture from a beautiful black sand beach at Cape Royds, Antarctica. I love the little Adelie penguins and especially this one because of it’s movements and the contrast between its black color and the surrounding ice.

The Barne glacier flowing down to the Ross Sea from the side of Mt. Erebus.  The picture is deceiving but believe it or not, this glacier is huge!  The face of it is 100-200 ft high and is massive!  This picture was taken out the window of the helicopter I rode in to Cape Royds.

The Barne glacier flowing down to the Ross Sea from the side of Mt. Erebus. The picture is deceiving but believe it or not, this glacier is huge! The face of it is 100-200 ft high and is massive! This picture was taken out the window of the helicopter I rode in to Cape Royds.

The Ross Sea ice breaking up with the Royal Society range in the background.  The Royal Society mountains are part of the Trans-Antarctic mountain range.  I have painted them more than a few times this season.  I never get sick of looking at them especially as the light and shadows change.  The best was during the mornings of "Winfly" where the alpenglow made them pink and purple.

The Ross Sea ice breaking up with the Royal Society range in the background. The Royal Society mountains are part of the Trans-Antarctic mountain range. I have painted them more than a few times this season. I never get sick of looking at them especially as the light and shadows change. The best was during the mornings of “Winfly” where the alpenglow made them pink and purple.

 

Antarctica Search and Rescue

I’m beginning to think that there is some sort of weird time warp down here in Antarctica.  Time really seems to get away from you.  Originally I thought I’d have all this free time to do stuff, but it’s definitely not the case.  With only one day off a week, time blasts by.  In addition to my full time job as a snowmobile instructor and mechanic, I am also on the Joint Antarctic Search & Rescue Team.  (JASART)  It’s called a joint team because the team is made up of personnel from the US Antarctic Program, and the New Zealand Antarctic Program.

Our team can be deployed to any situation on the continent, from plane and helicopter crashes to missing persons or vehicles.   There have been two helicopter crashes recently (one Australian, and one Korean) but our team leader only got involved in one of them because the victims were flown out through our station.

We practice a lot of different scenarios because we never what situations we might be involved in.  Our training started with knot craft and then moved into rigging rope systems for raises and lowers.  We also covered pulley systems with different mechanical advantages such as 3:1, 5:1, 9:1, etc.  I’m grossly understating how much info this really means, as we have to go into such depth as to understand how much load is put on every piece of equipment used in a rescue system as slopes and angles change.  We need to ensure that our systems have a 10 to 1 safety factor.  Meaning that it can support ten times the load in every component.

On one of our recent training days we went out to Castle Rock, which is a rock formation on the peninsula.  It has some steep snow faces on this side and it was a great place to get familiar with putting our training to the test.  We practiced safe techniques of using our crampons and ice axes, and then progressed to self arresting in the event of a slip or fall.  This was particularly important as the slope we were on had a snow field at the bottom with crevasses!  Following this, we moved up the slope and setup a multi pitch lower.  This means we had two rope systems setup to lower a litter (place to put a victim) down to safety.  The litter had to transfer systems so that it was able to continue it’s path down the slope.  Each system had to be anchored securely in the ice and snow using pickets, dead men, and ice screws to support at least 10 times the anticipated load.  Each system also had a main line and belay line to ensure there were always two ropes in play to minimize falling risk to the team members and the victim.  I hope you enjoy some of the pictures.  I have a lot more SAR info and pics to follow.

Practicing a self arrest with an ice axe while sliding down a slope.  There was a crevasse at the bottom of the slope, so it was important to know how to stop a slide before going to the steeper terrain.

Practicing a self arrest with an ice axe while sliding down a slope. There was a crevasse at the bottom of the slope, so it was important to know how to stop a slide before going to the steeper terrain.

A sundog in the sky above Castle Rock, Antarctica.

A sundog in the sky above Castle Rock, Antarctica.

Calculating the load and safety factors of every component in a pulley system.  The loads change drastically as the angles of our anchors, directionals, and slopes change.

Calculating the load and safety factors of every component in a pulley system. The loads change drastically as the angles of our anchors, directionals, and slopes change.

Traversing a slope on the back side of Castle Rock  with crampons and ice axes.

Traversing a slope on the back side of Castle Rock with crampons and ice axes.

Practice with our crampons and ice axes.  The active volcano Mt. Erebus can be seen in the background.

Practice with our crampons and ice axes. The active volcano Mt. Erebus can be seen in the background.

Me in front of the cute little Hagglund.

Me in front of the cute little Hagglund.

Cape Evans, Antarctica. Part 2

Howdy again everyone.  It’s been a busy couple weeks as I have been training lots of scientists the art of snowmobiling, selling paintings at the McMurdo craft show, and doing Search & Rescue training.  I have lots of new material to post, just not enough time, so please be patient, but there is lots more exciting things to come. : )

Here is part 2 of my Cape Evans post.  I hope you enjoy the pictures.  It was one of the most incredible days I have had in this amazing place.

Some beautiful ice crystals near Cape Evans, Antarctica.

Some beautiful ice crystals near Cape Evans, Antarctica.

Ice crystal formations near Cape Evans, Antarctica.

Ice crystal formations near Cape Evans, Antarctica.

The Barne Glacier.  This is the end of the glacier where it runs into the Ross Sea.

The Barne Glacier. This is the end of the glacier where it runs into the Ross Sea.

Icebergs frozen into the Ross Sea at Cape Evans, Antarctica.

Icebergs frozen into the Ross Sea at Cape Evans, Antarctica.

The remains of a dog in the stable area of R.F. Scott's Hut at Cape Evans, Antarctica.  The chain and collar are still on the dog.  It looks like it simply laid down to rest on it's bed and died.  : (  The early explorers used dog teams to reach the South Pole and they were often used as food when they became weak.

The remains of a dog in the stable area of R.F. Scott’s Hut at Cape Evans, Antarctica. The chain and collar are still on the dog. It looks like it simply laid down to rest on it’s bed and died. : ( The early explorers used dog teams to reach the South Pole and they were often used as food when they became weak.

A snowshoe made for a horse.  R.F. Scott tried to use horses to reach the South Pole, but they proved to be unsuccessful.  When they could no longer make it though the deep snow, the horses were killed and used for food.

A snowshoe made for a horse. R.F. Scott tried to use horses to reach the South Pole, but they proved to be unsuccessful. When they could no longer make it though the deep snow, the horses were killed and used for food.

A huge stack of seal blubber.  The seal blubber was used to provide both food (which likely sucked) and was burned in "blubber stoves" to heat the historic huts of the early Antarctic explorers.  The blubber still appears to be oozing fats and oil as there is nothing here to cause decomposition.  No insects, rodents, and freezing temps year round.  The smell of the blubber is very distinct and quite noticeable in Scott's hut at Cape Evans, and the Discovery Hut located at Hut Point.

A huge stack of seal blubber. The seal blubber was used to provide both food (which likely sucked) and was burned in “blubber stoves” to heat the historic huts of the early Antarctic explorers. The blubber still appears to be oozing fats and oil as there is nothing here to cause decomposition. No insects, rodents, and freezing temps year round. The smell of the blubber is very distinct and quite noticeable in Scott’s hut at Cape Evans, and the Discovery Hut located at Hut Point.

Tea and other supplies inside of Scott's Hut at Cape Evans, Antarctica.

Tea and other supplies inside of Scott’s Hut at Cape Evans, Antarctica.

The dining table inside Scott's Hut at Cape Evans.  Both Shackleton and Scott's expeditions used this table.  Imagine the holiday celebrations the men had, the discussions, the planning for their attempts to be the first to reach the South Pole.  The history just oozes out of this fantastic place and you can literally feel it.  Amazing!

The dining table inside Scott’s Hut at Cape Evans. Both Shackleton and Scott’s expeditions used this table. Imagine the holiday celebrations the men had, the discussions, the planning for their attempts to be the first to reach the South Pole. The history just oozes out of this fantastic place and you can literally feel it. Amazing!

Medical supplies inside the hut.  Everything is still in place, as if the men would be returning at any time.

Medical supplies inside the hut. Everything is still in place, as if the men would be returning at any time.

A table containing artifacts and science projects of the early Antarctic explorers.  The emperor penguin is not stuffed.  It is just as it was originally left.  History is frozen in time.

A table containing artifacts and science projects of the early Antarctic explorers. The emperor penguin is not stuffed. It is just as it was originally left. History is frozen in time.

Here I am looking like I have bug eyes.  LOL.  In the background you can see an iceberg frozen in the Ross Sea, and Mt Erebus erupting!  Such an awesome day!!

Here I am looking like I have bug eyes. LOL. In the background you can see an iceberg frozen in the Ross Sea, and Mt Erebus erupting! Such an awesome day!!

Cape Evans, Antarctica Part 1

Howdy everyone… As a prize for winning the Halloween costume contest a bunch of us got the opportunity to snowmobile to Cape Evans. This is where Robert Falcon Scott’s Terra Nova hut was built for his failed expedition to be the first to the South Pole. The hut was completed in 1911 and was also used by Shackleton during his failed attempt to be the first to traverse across Antarctica. The history and stories of this hut are truly amazing. The courage, and strength of the men that stayed here is like no other on earth. They had to endure unbelievable hardships. To learn more about some of these men I suggest that you read the book “Shackleton’s Forgotten Men”. Just stepping foot in this hut you could feel the history and stories seep into you. The hut is preserved and maintained by the Antarctic Heritage Trust. They try to ensure that the artifacts are in the places that they were found. To walk around inside is like going back in time. There is no glass to separate you from the artifacts, just time itself. I feel so very lucky to experience it first hand and have really enjoyed reading books about these determined and hearty souls. Because this place has so much history, and I took over 250 pictures, I will post several entries dedicated to it. Enjoy the pictures and descriptions. Please know that I would love to tell you all more about this place in person (along with many pictures) when I get back to the states.

The Barne glacier.  This glacier flows down from Mt. Erebus and into the frozen Ross Sea.  The size of things in Antarctica can be deceiving... the flanks of this glacier are several hundred feet straight up.  It's a very dangerous place as you never know when the massive chunks of the glacier will calve off.  Some of the broken pieces are larger than several houses.

The Barne glacier. This glacier flows down from Mt. Erebus and into the frozen Ross Sea. The size of things in Antarctica can be deceiving… the flanks of this glacier are several hundred feet straight up. It’s a very dangerous place as you never know when the massive chunks of the glacier will calve off. Some of the broken pieces are larger than several houses.

R.F. Scott's Terra Nova hut at Cape Evans, Antarctica.  This hut was built for Scott's failed expedition to be the first to the South Pole.  He made it to the pole, but was beat there by Amundsen.  Scott and his men died on their return from the pole.  Behind the hut is a flank of the active volcano Mt. Erebus.

R.F. Scott’s Terra Nova hut at Cape Evans, Antarctica. This hut was built for Scott’s failed expedition to be the first to the South Pole. He made it to the pole, but was beat there by Amundsen. Scott and his men died on their return from the pole. Behind the hut is a flank of the active volcano Mt. Erebus.

Hundreds of dead starfish outside Scott's Terra Nova hut at Cape Evans, Antarctica.  The starfish appeared earlier this season and nobody knows why.  It's been a big mystery down here.  My guess is that there was a very high tide during the "supermoon" and the starfish flowed through the tidal cracks in the ice and became stranded along the shore.

Hundreds of dead starfish outside Scott’s Terra Nova hut at Cape Evans, Antarctica. The starfish appeared earlier this season and nobody knows why. It’s been a big mystery down here. My guess is that there was a very high tide during the “supermoon” and the starfish flowed through the tidal cracks in the ice and became stranded along the shore.

R.W. Richards writings on the wall of his bunk in Scott's Cape Evans Hut.   He was a member of Shackleton's unsuccessful Trans Antarctic Expedition when Shackleton  attempted to be the first to traverse across the continent.  Richards was keeping track of the men who died.  He was part of the expedition that setup food depots on the second half of the continent for over two years, not knowing that Shackleton would never even start the traverse.  The story is even more amazing than Shackleton's Endurance story.  I highly recommend reading the book "Shackleton's Forgotten Men"  Two of the men listed in the picture were Haywood, and Macintosh, who both died trying to get back to Cape Evans from Hut Point.  They were stranded at Hut Point in the Discovery Hut and were waiting for the sea ice to be safe enough to cross.  They didn't listen to their comrades and decided to have a go at it.  They ended up on unsafe ice that flowed out to sea and were never seen again.

R.W. Richards writings on the wall of his bunk in Scott’s Cape Evans Hut. He was a member of Shackleton’s unsuccessful Trans Antarctic Expedition when Shackleton attempted to be the first to traverse across the continent. Richards was keeping track of the men who died. He was part of the expedition that setup food depots on the second half of the continent for over two years, not knowing that Shackleton would never even start the traverse. The story is even more amazing than Shackleton’s Endurance story. I highly recommend reading the book “Shackleton’s Forgotten Men” Two of the men listed in the picture were Haywood, and Macintosh, who both died trying to get back to Cape Evans from Hut Point. They were stranded at Hut Point in the Discovery Hut and were waiting for the sea ice to be safe enough to cross. They didn’t listen to their comrades and decided to have a go at it. They ended up on unsafe ice that flowed out to sea and were never seen again.

RW Richards bunk at Cape Evans, Antarctica.  His writings were on the boards just left of his pillows.

RW Richards bunk at Cape Evans, Antarctica. His writings were on the boards just left of his pillows.

Bunks and eating area inside R.F. Scott's Terra Nova Hut at Cape Evans, Antarctica.

Bunks and eating area inside R.F. Scott’s Terra Nova Hut at Cape Evans, Antarctica.

Emperor Penguin on a desk in Robert Falcon Scott's Terra Nova Hut.  Cape Evans, Antarctica.

Emperor Penguin on a desk in Robert Falcon Scott’s Terra Nova Hut. Cape Evans, Antarctica.

Happy Camper

I just completed a course called Happy Camper.  The purpose of this course is to teach winter camping and survival skills to anyone who may work out in the field camps of Antarctica.  We are given supplies which would allow us to survive, but not necessarily camp comfortably or be warm.  The gear provided is very basic and the rest is up to you.  My boss said it’s not only to teach us how to survive, but to overcome the mental hurdle or limitations we put upon ourselves.

The sun is up 24 hours a day now and doesn’t set, but it was far from warm on this trip.  We had very cold weather so we had to stay bundled up and not expose any skin.  It only took a couple seconds of exposure to start to feel stinging cold.  I was wearing as many as six layers with multiple pairs of gloves and mittens.  Even the moisture of your eyes was freezing and causing icicles on your eyelashes.  We threw boiling water in the air and it instantly froze.  It was almost like an explosion!  I will try to post the video as it was very cool!

The first thing we did was setup shelter in the form of a Scott tent.  This is named after RF Scott as it’s the same basic type of tent he used on his expeditions over 100 years ago.  We then mined snow blocks using hand saws and shovels to build a wall to protect our tents from wind.  Then a kitchen pit was dug out so that we could use small stoves to melt snow for our water.  I had a Nalgene bottle of water inside my snowpants and it still froze solid!  We all had Pee bottles as we are not allowed to pee in the snow. 🙂  Believe me when I tell you that it’s actually great to have them because you can tuck them in your sleeping bag for warmth!

We also went through an exercise called “Bucket Head”.  The purpose of this is to simulate whiteout conditions otherwise known as Condition 1.  This is the worst weather we could have down here and you can’t see or hear anything.  We had to simulate a lost person and try to recover them while using the buckets on our head.  I proposed a strategy to our team and it worked really well.  It was a really fun experience and I want to thank our instructor Alasdair Turner.  It’s important to look out for your teammates, and our entire team came back with all their fingers and toes and no frostbite.

The Delta vehicle.  We rode in the back of this vehicle on our way to and from "Happy Camper" training.

The Delta vehicle. We rode in the back of this vehicle on our way to and from “Happy Camper” training.

Mining snow blocks to make our wind protection wall.  Since the snow sets up like concrete you cut the blocks with a hand saw and break them out with the shovel.

Mining snow blocks to make our wind protection wall. Since the snow sets up like concrete you cut the blocks with a hand saw and break them out with the shovel.

Constructing the snow wall.  This is used as a windblock for the tents.

Constructing the snow wall. This is used as a windblock for the tents.

This is our Antarctic camping setup.  We used two Scott tents, which are the pyramid looking tents.  The other two are standard mountain tents.

This is our Antarctic camping setup. We used two Scott tents, which are the pyramid looking tents. The other two are standard mountain tents.

Mt. Erebus, the southernmost  active volcano in the world.  It has a lava lake in the crater.  You can see steam and smoke coming out of the top.  We camped on the ice shelf below the volcano.

Mt. Erebus, the southernmost active volcano in the world. It has a lava lake in the crater. You can see steam and smoke coming out of the top. We camped on the ice shelf below the volcano.

A selfie of me.  : )  You can see Mt. Erebus and our Scott tent in the background.  It was really, really cold!  You couldn't have any exposed skin or it would frostbite very quickly!  I covered my nose after the picture.

A selfie of me. : ) You can see Mt. Erebus and our Scott tent in the background. It was really, really cold! You couldn’t have any exposed skin or it would frostbite very quickly! I covered my nose after the picture.

Me in a snow cave... or maybe a snow grave depending on whether you would survive sleeping in this.  The top is not completed as you would normally cover it with snow blocks to insulate you from the wind and cold.  I was originally sleep in it, but decided not to based on how cold the weather was.  I tucked my water bottle in my snowpants and it still froze!

Me in a snow cave… or maybe a snow grave depending on whether you would survive sleeping in this. The top is not completed as you would normally cover it with snow blocks to insulate you from the wind and cold. I was originally sleep in it, but decided not to based on how cold the weather was. I tucked my water bottle in my snowpants and it still froze!

Me walking out into the eternal snow with a bucket on my head! LOL.  This is used to simulate a "condition 1" or whiteout where you can't see or hear anything.  Thanks to Alasdair Turner for this photo of me.

Me walking out into the eternal snow with a bucket on my head! LOL. This is used to simulate a “condition 1” or whiteout where you can’t see or hear anything. Thanks to Alasdair Turner for this photo of me.

Me wearing a bucket on my head!  I am also wearing 5 layers of long underwear, fleece and snowpants!  On top I was wearing 6 layers to keep warm!

Me wearing a bucket on my head! I am also wearing 5 layers of long underwear, fleece and snowpants! On top I was wearing 6 layers to keep warm!