The program started with a briefing about cold-weather injuries and vehicle survival packs. From there they drove us to an intersection between Scott Base and Willie Field. We hiked the mile or so from there to the program site, which is a cluster of small buildings and open camp space. There we were instructed on the use of portable stoves, and then we went to the actual camp site. We were instructed on how to build snow walls, how to put up various types of tents, and other survival skillz. Early evening the instructor left, and spent the night at the small instructor hut down the road. We finished up the snow wall and made dinner, which consisted of hot beverages and dehydrated food. Here is a picture of the finished camp:
We were free to chose our shelter for the night. The options were in one of two Scott tents, smaller mountain tents, in ditches, or in a quinzee (a snow hut). I found an old quinzee that I shared with another guy. All of these were built by the classes earlier in the season that had more people. Here is a picture of the quinzee I stayed in for the night:
The entrance is to the right. The quinzee was actually very nice. It was quiet, and for the most part warm, although it got a little chilly at night. There was plenty of space for two people and our gear. I put hot water in my water bottle and put that in my sleeping bag, which helped. I didn't sleep that well, not from the cold but just being uncomfortable (I'm a light sleeper). It's light out 24 hours a day, which doesn't help either. The next morning I managed to get dressed in there, and we packed up camp and went back to the camp buildings.
The rest of the day we had a couple briefings, some practice using HF and VHF radio, and some survival scenarios. The first one was a "burning vehicle" situation, where we had to quickly make camp and establish communication with Mac Center. I ended up digging yet another trench to make snow blocks from. Then in the bucket game, we have to find someone (in this case a duffle bag) in white-out conditions, which is simulated with having buckets on our heads. A rope is attached to a fixed point and we have to find the victim. We didn't do it the most efficient way, but I actually found the bag and we eventually got back to the building.
After that we cleaned up, hiked back to the intersection, and went back to McMurdo, where we watched some videos on helicopters and the environmental impact on the Dry Valleys. Then we were done, and it felt great to get out of the ECW gear, take a shower, get some hot food, and sleep in a warm bed.
So overall it wasn't too bad. We had great weather (mid 30's both days, low teens at night, sunny skies, for the most part light winds). The views of Mt. Erebus, Mt. Terror, and Castle Rock were impressive. There were plenty of snacks and water, although dinner wasn't that great (I got stuck with a black beans and rice dehy meal). I didn't get sunburned, since I vigilantly applied sunscreen, I just have more freckles on my face. The group was good, we had twelve people from diverse careers (several base support staff, two Raytheon techs, an oceanographer, a teacher, and a grad student (me)). One of the Raytheon techs is from Cudahy, so we had a good time talking about Milwaukee. Several of the people are ex-military, so I enjoyed talking with them. One of them has been to Iraq at least once, I believe in more of a logistical support capacity. But it's interesting talking to those people about their experiences there, and the positive changes that have occurred in that country that are not reported in the media.
Here's a picture of me (the first one of the trip)
Hopefully I'll get another post out tomorrow about my overall experiences here at the base so far.