Friday, January 20, 2012

Happy Camper!

Last week I was given the opportunity to attend a Snow Survival Course often referred to as Happy Camper. The word "Camper" in the nickname is pretty spot on since you do spend the night outside camping on the sea ice. The word "Happy" however can be somewhat confusing depending on who you ask. I think some people really do have a lot of fun out there (myself being one of them) and others are just miserable and don't want to talk about it.
So here's the quick breakdown: Its 2 days 1 night out on the Sea Ice learning how to survive on your own with limited resources. They teach you how to pitch a tent, build a snow wall, make a "kitchen", sleep in a snow trench, and strategies on how to find someone in a whiteout.
It was a lot of work, but I had so much fun. It was great to get out of the office, and out of town at that, and be outside on a pretty nice day experiencing the real Antarctica.

First thing we did was grab our supplies, load then onto some sleds, and pull them out to our site about 1/4 mile away. Then it was time to set up the tents

Then we learned how to saw snow bricks to make a wall. This helps break the wind from hitting your tent, and can keep you a lot warmer.

(If you notice in the picture above, the bathroom is that tiny black box on the left. So we had Pee bottles we could use instead. Pee bottles are not easy for women. I made the trek to the bathroom 3 times over the course of our stay.)

Next task was to set up a kitchen so we could start melting ice for our dinner.
At one point we had 7 people shoveling out the kitchen and not one person got hit with a shovel or thew snow in someone elses space. I thought this was pretty amazing and had to stop and take a picture. You cant plan something like that, talk about teamwork.

We were then shown how to build a snow trench. This would come in handy in an extreme survival situation. You can dig down into the snow and build yourself a little cave. This keeps you out of the wind and can be pretty warm if you can get the top covered properly.
Here is some of the team starting on their trenches.

And about how big it should be when you are done.
About 6 feet long and 4-5 feet deep

I opted to sleep in a tent since I was so exhausted and didn't want to keep digging. The wind started to pick up around 8pm and things started getting really cold. 8 out of 10 people built a trench. By morning, only 3 had slept in them through the entire night. The 50mph winds got so bad that we ended up with huge drifts around our tents in the morning. This drift was about 2 feet tall. Alex had to kick her way out of the tent.

This is whats left of an abandoned trench. There used to be stairs but the wind blew them out and drifted a bunch of snow in there.

After we packed everything up, we headed back to the "classroom" (a building in the middle of nowhere.)
We covered other survival skills and how to use HAM radios.
Then it was time for 'Bucket Heads' One of the more famous Happy Camper moments. Everyone puts buckets on their heads to simulate what it would be like in a whiteout. You then have to navigate yourself around outside and attempt to find someone who has gone missing. It looks extremely silly, but is actually very educational and gives an idea of how dangerous it can be to go outside in extreme conditions.

By the end of day 2 I was exhausted and ready for a soft bed. I had so much fun and learned a lot about survival out in the cold. I met a few new people and ended up with a great group that worked together. Definitely one of the highlights of my Season.

Now where are those darn Penguins!!!!

Autumn :)

No comments:

Post a Comment