My blog while I work for British Antarctic Survey

Camping in the Antarctic is not lightweight…

April 26th, 2009 Posted in Antarctica, Training

Loading up the sledges on WednesdayThis week has been one of much variety here at Rothera, well for me anyway! Amongst all of my usual work type stuff with the computers and the radios I’ve done a bit of boat driving (which was rather nippy at around -10°C), packing for my trip next week and a bit of training on the skidoos for linked travel.

“Linked travel” is how we move around over glacial terrain on skidoos. Ian (the Field Assistant I’m heading out with) will lead on his skidoo towing a sledge of gear 10m behind. Another rope, 30m long, will run back to the front of my skidoo and I will have a further sledge of gear 10m behind me. So, a 50m train of two skidoos, two sledges and around a tonne of gear (I’m not joking!), the idea being that if one of the ‘doos or a sledge ends up in a crevasse, the weight of the rest of the train will hold it and you can effect a rescue. Obviously the idea is not to drive into a slot in the first place though!

The BAS sleep system Anyway, our main aim is to head to the Stokes, the range of mountains you can see in the distance on the photo above and hopefully get a bit of climbing and skiing done if the weather allows. The daytime temperature on base has been pretty stable around -10°C for the last  week and it’s predicted to drop next week and will be colder still up on the glacier and particularly once the sun goes down. A comprehensive set of glovesNext week will finish with around 6.5 hours of daylight per day so we’ll have to be quick to make the most of the days.

On the left you can see a selection of some of the kit I’ll be taking with me. First we have the BAS sleep system which includes a foam mat, Thermarest, sheepskin, down sleeping bag, fleece liner, silk liner, flame-proof canvas cover, A selection of headgeremergency bivvy-bag… then we have a selection of gloves – you need to have the  right glove for whatever you’re doing and always have spare gloves so we take a formidable set with us (note the mighty ‘bearpaw’ mitts top right)… finally, a selection of headgear to choose from including a rather sporty neoprene face mask should we feel the need to make a horror movie.

So, despite the low temperatures, getting too cold isn’t part of the plan and hopefully we’ll have a splendid time and come back with some eye-popping photos in time for tea and medals on Saturday… that’s if we make it off base of course – the wind is due to pick up quite a bit tonight so we’ll just have to see what the weather allows and make the most of what we get.

  1. 7 Responses to “Camping in the Antarctic is not lightweight…”

  2. By Mum on Apr 26, 2009

    I didn’t know there were so many different types of glove!
    You seem to need a lot of equipment for a week’s trekking.
    What books & music are you taking?

    [Reply]

    Andy Reply:

    Couple of spy novels, didn’t get time to read them, we were too busy playing scrabble or melting snow in the tent.

    [Reply]

  3. By Tony on Apr 27, 2009

    And i thought i had a lot of stuff! Good luck mate expecting some cracking shots when you get back.

    [Reply]

  4. By Craig on Apr 29, 2009

    are you on a line to the skidoos just in case… ?
    long enough to bale out if it turns over but enough to stop a dive into the crevasse

    [Reply]

    Andy Reply:

    Yep, you’re on a line to the skidoo you’re riding and the engine kill-cord is attached to that.

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  5. By Amber on May 2, 2009

    Fantastic blog, Andy!
    That picture makes me miss the BAS sleeping system – I shivered half the night away last weekend in Wales.
    Looking forward to hearing about your winter trip!
    ~amber

    [Reply]

    Andy Reply:

    Hi Amber, yep the sleep system did a fine job but I never did figure out how to stop some form of ice forming around my face/head in the night without compromising breathing ability… well, it wouldn’t be fun if it was easy 🙂

    [Reply]

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