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Happy Camper School

Antarctica Camping 101   



A Happy Camper School Graduate



Car camping takes on a whole new meaning down here. There were ten of us packed in the back of this snow cat on our way to survival school. This shot was taken on our return trip after the storm. We departed McMurdo in a condition one. We have three weather levels here. Condition three is beach weather, bright and sunny with a tropical 3 degrees Fahrenheit. A condition one on the other hand is issued during severe storms of howling winds, no visibility, and bitterly freezing temperatures. All travel and outdoor work is restricted during this condition except for Happy Camper School. Our introduction to survival school during a condition one was definitely a practical experience.



During a survival situation the first priority is to get out of the offending environment. In each our survival bags we have enough food and gear to sustain two people comfortably for three days. From the gear we learned how to put together two different types of tents. Here we are struggling with a Scott tent. These are the same design that Scott used on his expeditions in the beginning of this century.



Out on the glacier there is no hiding from the wind. Securing the tent is vital to avoid tumbling off toward the South Pole.



For added protection we cut blocks of snow. With these we also create a protected spot for our kitchen and living room.


For the discerning camper we learned how to build a snow cave. This takes considerably more effort but the end product is worth it. Snow caves are warmer than the tents and muffle the sounds of raging winds. For me the most desirable feature is its relative darkness. As our next sunset will not be until February 21, night must be created on your own.


As with all camping trips a good hike rounds out the day. We had no mountains to climb on the glacier but the thought of walking 200 feet above the ocean on a solid sheet of ice was exhilarating.


After our hike we learned how to use the HF radio. By this point we were all ravenous and hoped to reach Dominos for a delivery. Even though the pizza fairy failed us we did manage to reach the South Pole Station and the near by Italian base Terra Nova. To our amazement we also contacted the Palmer Station on the Antarctic Peninsular clear across the continent


Mountaineering tents fit nicely with in our new wall.


The sun continued its perpetual arc around the horizon as we prepared for bed. We added many new tools to our tool belts today. One of the best was………


For a good night sleep in Antarctica dig yourself a dark snow cave and cuddle up with a hot water bottle. Yes, a hot woman would be the ideal choice but at the bottom of the world, choices are limited to Penguins and seals. Both of which have the worse breath you could imagine.


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