GOLF 1-8-2 Antarctica Expedition 2006/2007
Keeping Warm in Antarctica – Happy Camper Survival Training

The kind of weather they have in here is unlike any other weather in the world. It has the potential of becoming wickedly cold, wickedly quickly, but worse than the temperature is the wind! Thankfully, as part of our training, we’ve learned how to deal with ice, wind, sun and snow – all the harsh elements of this wintry white continent …

Cold Injuries and Keeping Warm in Antarctica

The mean air temperature around McMurdo is 20°C below, and since frostbite, hypothermia and snow blindness are ailments worth avoiding, it is important we take proper measures to prevent exposure. We keep warm by wearing our extreme cold weather gear, lots of layers (no cotton, which holds onto moisture), and by eating frequently to constantly fuel our own internal combustion engines (our bodies). Not only do we try to stay warm, we also try to stay dry. On a cold day, any sweat or moisture will freeze instantaneously, which is most uncomfortable – or so we’re told. It is also important that we protect our eyes. Ice and snow are very reflective, and we are at high risk for "snow blindness" if we don’t wear full protective sunglasses or glacier goggles. On that same note, we always slather on the sunscreen to avoid serious sunburn. Not only are we responsible for ourselves, we are also responsible for checking in with other members of our team to make sure that we are all fully hydrated, warm, and happy while doing our field work.

What to do When the Weather Turns

Every time we go out into the field we lug around not only our geologic sampling equipment (drills, pump cans, orientation instruments), but also a very hefty survival bag and our extreme cold weather (ECW) gear. Should the weather get so ugly that we are unable to snowmobile back to base or that the helicopters cannot fly in to pick us up, we are expected to set up camp and wait out the storm. Happy Camper training prepares us for such a situation. We learn how to operate a Whisperlite stove, how to pitch a Scott tent (a hundred-year-old idea, and still the most widely-used shelter in Antarctica) and how to build our own shelters (quinzees, caves, walls and trenches) out of snow. We also learned that a Nalgene bottle full of urine (a "pee-bottle") can be more cozy than your favorite teddy bear. Whatever will keep you warm, right? Armed with this information, Julie and Elise spend a night on the Ross Ice Shelf. Click here for photos from their adventure.


Elise Sbarbori
2 December 2006


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