8 October, 1997
8 October, 1997
Today was I was scheduled for Ice Training. This is a specialized full day course that everyone must take before being allowed go out on the ice. Today's class had only 2 other people besides myself. We learned a lot about the movements of the ice and how to "read" the snow and ice for information that could save our lives. We also learned about the different types of cracks and pressure ridges that occur when the ice shifts or breaks. Much of the time we discussed how to determine if a crack was safe enough to cross.
After the classroom discussions we headed out on the ice in a track vehicle called a "Sprite" which looks like a cross between a Jeep and a bulldozer. We drove to a place where a crew was drilling holes through the ice to prepare it for the divers who would need them the next day. Later we drilled our own holes through a large crack that had refrozen so we could determine the thickness of the ice in the crack. It turned out to be about 5 feet thick so this crack was safe enough to cross.
Next we climbed to the summit of a small mountain near the edge of the ice shelf. We had to select our route very carefully so as not to fall into a crack or crevasse. Sure enough, at one point our probe sank in quite deeply and after some digging we exposed a deep crevasse. The bottom could not be seen so, needless to say, we were very careful in crossing over it. At the summit is a marker commemorating someone who fell to his death in a crevasse at this very spot. This made a strong impression regarding the importance of safety and preparedness.
One never ventures away from McMurdo without taking survival gear and enough food and water for three days. It turns out that two members of my research team, Dr. Donal Manahan, the Principal Investigator, and Dr. Adam Marsh, our diver, were caught on the ice yesterday while looking for a future dive site. Violent winds suddenly came up and they were trapped until the next morning. I recently met a teacher who was trapped in a storm last year that lasted three days! No one here takes the weather lightly, obviously for very good reason.
In the afternoon we made our way to a location where a hut was known to be. We spent the afternoon learning about hypothermia and frostbite and how to recognize, treat, and prevent them. We also practiced lighting stoves and setting up the survival tent in the wind before heading back to McMurdo for dinner.
Things to ponder:
1. Suppose you were in charge of planning a day trip on the Ross Ice Shelf. What would be essential things to pack in your
2. What is hypothermia? What are some of the signs of hypothermia?. How serious is it? Can it be fatal?
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