Monday, December 05, 2005

Happy Camper School

As part of the training for Antarctica, we have to learn what to do if we are stuck outside when the weather goes bad. With this training comes a class that has become nicknamed "Happy Camper School". This is a 2 day class where we get to camp out for the night. This was the class that I wanted to complete more than anything else while I was here.

As you can see I started the day "Happy"

At this school we learned how to make "snow forts" or quanza huts to sleep in. The quick way to do this is to pile up all the bags you have and pile snow on them. The snow needs to be about 2 feet deep. We piled snow then packed it down with shovels until the 2 feet was obtained. Once we had our depth, we let it sit for about 2 hours so it could harden.

After it hardened we dug down in the snow and made a small opening at the base so we could pull all of the bags out. I was the smallest so it was my job to crawl in and get the bags. At first all I succeeded in doing was getting snow down my back, but eventually I was able to clear out all the bags. What you are left with is a hollow snow fort.
This is looking into the fort while the bags are still in it.

This is the hollow fort from the inside looking out the hole. The blue object is one of the bags used to make the form of the fort.

Crawling in and out of the fort. I am down at ground level at this point. This hole will eventually become the back exit to the fort.

The entrance to the fort is dug below ground level. This allows the cold air to stay out of the fort and in theory keep us warm.

The final dimensions of our fort was 6 feet by 7 feet round. It was suppose to sleep 3 people but we squeezed 4 of us in. It was so tight that I ended up sleeping halfway up the wall. I must say it was warm and the 4 of us were able to sleep though the night. Just a word of caution if you are ever caught in a situation and have to sleep in something like this, don't pick the 3 biggest guys to sleep with and make sure no one's feet smell and that no one snores....

There were a total of 20 of us in the class. With the amount of time it took to make 1 snow fort, not everyone was able to make or sleep in one. The other plan was to sleep in a regular mountain tent.

Because of how windy it gets down here we had to build a snow wall in front of the tent to block the wind and keep the tent in place.

The snow wall is made by cutting blocks of snow with a normal saw and stacking them. The snow is so compact that the blocks can be freed with shovel and lifted into place. Each block weigh about 30 pounds and the wall took about 100 blocks.
The blocks are made in back of the wall in a block quarry. The quarry serves 2 purposes. It provides snow for the wall and when the blocks are removed, the empty hole helps divert the wind away from the wall and tents.

While we were out there they had us pee in an outhouse. Normally we have to find a place away from the wind on the ice to go.

The outhouse was a luxury.

Another fun part was getting to eat dehydrated food. We melted snow for water and made a nice healthy meal of noodles.

Here is what it actually looked like. Let me tell you it was not as good as it looked. I was wishing I packed hot sauce to kill the taste. There was not enough water so the noodles were not totally hydrated and after eating it, the noodles expanded in my stomach causing major bloating. They did feed us as many chocolate bars as we could eat to keep our caloric intake up in the cold. I only managed to eat 2 during the day. I can now say too much chocolate is a bad thing.

This is a shot of the final "town" we built. Over all this was one of the best experiences I have had down here!


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