Monday, 15 April 2013

Winter Trip No 1 – Monday

Digging the hole for the tent.

Finally the day has come to leave for my winter trip. The excitement is roughly at least as high as before Christmas when I was a little kid. We left base around 8am. Poor Malcy (the field assistant who took my out on my trip) pulled a sledge 1/3 of the way up the ramp until Steve (another field assistant) picked us up on the skidoo.
For about 9 weeks, 4 people are always gone from base. 2 field assistants take one person each out for a week to camp in the middle of nowhere, go climbing, mountaineering and sightseeing. It was amazing to get a week off base and to properly experience Antarctica. The tents and equipment has not changed much since Scott, however, the survival rate is significantly higher...
We drove across the traverse to the caboose and had to repack the sledges to get the last bit of kit on them. We originally wanted to get through the pass to get to the other side of the island. It requires very good weather to drive through the pass which has got mountains on either side as there are lot of crevasses on the way which are not very safe to drive over. Bad weather means bad visibility/contrast which means that the crevasses are not easily spotted.
Tent going up.
So, we ended up putting our camp up at Trident East. Often (but not always) the two couples camp at the same location which is quite nice as we can get together in the evenings. A tent here is not as easily put up as one back at home on grass. First we had to dig out a square for it in which we put the tent up. The flaps on the outsides (called skirt I think) are covered with snow to prevent the tent from being blown away if the wind picks up. On the inside we have got several layers on the floor to keep the cold out. The stove and boxes with food go in between the two occupants. Last but not least the radio has to be set up with which we talk to base every night at 7pm. For the rest of the day we had lie up (meaning that the weather was not good enough to go on adventures). For dinner we had Pasta Bolognese. On scheds (that is the 7pm radio chat) we had Issy and Mike who talked to us (general chat of what we did, what happened on base, some news from the world and the weather forecast after which we tell them our plans for the next day). Afterwards, Tom (our Communication Manager) and Steve (one of our lovely field assistants) came for a visit.
Travel arrangement for the week.
Now, everyone might (or might not) have the burning question of what to do when bodily functions require attention! For this reason, a poo tent is being put up (another orange tent with a bucket). However, we are not allowed to pee into the bucket (much easier for guys than for girls I guess ...). Peeing outside is quite cold though in the old fashioned girlie way. Hence, she-wees were invented (absolutely brilliant once you get the hang of it!). I will spare you going into too much detail here of how they work but it basically is a highly engineered funnel. If more details are required, I am sure google can help! 

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