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25 November, 2002

Preparing for our Shakedown

Almost everyone who comes to Antarctica is given a bit of survival training after arriving on "The Ice." For ANSMET team members, we must do a bit more. This includes a complete shakedown overnight trip that will take us on snowmobile about 12 miles from here. However there is a great deal of preparation that goes into this.

John Schutt and Jamie Pierce are our mountaineering guides and safety experts for our expedition. This truly is an expedition, much like the ones held in the early part of the 20th Century. Despite our technology and knowledge, the same dangers are here as existed 100 years ago. Jamie and John made that very clear to all of us yesterday through a serious lecture on what can happen to us in the field. There are many hazards to the work we'll be doing, and as long as we're smart and prepared, the risk should be lessened. However, as John and Jamie showed us, a little first hand experience goes a long way.

Jamie needed to demonstrate methods for performing CPR and the Heimlich manuver if someone was choking. He used me as the model for this. I trust Jamie in that he is confident and experienced. But at one point Dan Glavin came over to get a feel for where to press when doing CPR, and Dean Eppler nearly had a heart attack himself. He was worried Dan would start CPR on me, which can be deadly to a healthy subject. Luckily, Dan knew this too.

The afternoon was spent learning some rope techniques that could save us if any of us should fall into a crevasse. We learned how to put ourselves on a rope securely, and how to climb a rope if necessary. Afterwards, we learned about setting up a pulley system to rescue a victim. I pointed out that we learn about and calculate the mechanical advantages of pulleys in 9th grade Intro to Physical Science at DCHS. This brought a good laugh in that here was a room of scientists and experienced mountaineers trying to figure out something that we do in 9th grade.

We got a little break from our preparation this morning when Cady Coleman arranged for us to speak to the astronauts on the Space Station. Each of us got to introduce ourselves over the phone and say a few words. I mentioned that one of my astronomy assignments is to visit:


and to find out when the space station is passing over. I asked that they wave to my students at DCHS next time they pass over Colorado and they said they would be happy to. We all got a huge rush out of getting to talk to people orbiting above, as did several others who just happened to be passing by. One gentelman approached Cady at dinner and thanked her for the opportunity to be a part of our call to the astronauts. Once again, much like last month when I visited Mission Control, I felt like I was 10 years old again creating imaginary NASA missions with my toys.

It's so hard to put everything we do into words, because there has been so much. We're all exhausted this evening after a day of preparing our meals for the expedition, and hauling all our equipment to the ice edge to be loaded in the morning for our shakedown. I will be up bright and early (~5:00AM) for my first webcast. I'm already looking forward to some down time this Thanksgiving weekend.

Hanging around doing rope training.

Still hangin' around...

Phone call by Cady to the Space Station (photo by Daniel Glavin).

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