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Published: November 23rd 2007
Happy Camper School
The instructers took the easy way to the School.
Happy camper School
If you were going to be working at one of the deep field camps, and had never been to Antarctica before, or had been away for some time, you were required to attend a two day course on survival basics known as Snowcraft I, Snow School, or Happy Camper School.
The class began at the Field Services Training Program (FSTP, or "F-Stop") office in McMurdo. Following a few lessons at FSTP on cold weather medicine, operation of VHF and HF radios, how things are done when working around helicopters, and how to operate portable camp stoves without lighting yourself, and/or your tent, and/or your tent mate on fire the class moved out into the field northeast of McMurdo near New Zealand's Scott Base.
Once there you learned how to pitch Scott tents, pitch mountain tents and build snow walls, build snow mounds (quinsy huts), and dig snow trenches. No, we didn't build any igloos. Igloos are actually somewhat difficult to build well, and when the name of the game is survival you don't want to be chewing up a lot of time and energy building anything fancy. A snow wall is your best bet. It gives
Happy Camper School
Happy Campers walking from the vehicle drop off point to the camping equiptment storage.
you protection from the cold wind, and is quickly put together by chopping out blocks of snow. Once you have enough of a barrier to get yourself out of the wind you can move on to more ambitious projects.
On the second day, assuming you survived the night, and after camp had been packed away, everyone headed back to the large, heated Jamesway where the instructors spent the night in nice, warm, cozy beds. Subjects covering how things went, and radio operations were discussed. Below we are stringing out the wire antenna for one of the High Frequency (HF) radios to do a radio check with South Pole Station.
The end of the course involved a couple of demonstrations of the practical skills learned. To simulate the whiteout we wore buckets over our heads. It was good for a few laughs until you found out how difficult it really would be to find someone if you had to go look for them in a whiteout, or with a bucket over your head.
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