16 November, 1996

November 16th, 1996

Happy Camper School: Day 2

I woke up just after one needing to use the restroom. It wasn't a problem to put on all my ECW; it was of course, still light. Outside the wind had really started to pick up, the snow was blowing about and the sun had a very strange halo around it from the clouds and drifting snow in the air. The long drops they use at snow city don't smell like those at Sycamore girls scout camp; everything is frozen.

When we woke up at 7:30, Suruj and I had been snowed in. One of the other people who was on wake up duty, was tunneling up to us. It wasn't a hard job as we had put our duffel bags of ECW in the tunnel to block the wind. Evidently we had left a gap in the entrance as there was the strangest shaped snow drift where snow had been blown in past our bags. It as strange because the igloo was really quite and warm.

Breaking down camp in the wind was more difficult than putting it up. Everyone had to tunnel out of their tents and we had to dig out some of our equipment that had been covered in snow drifts. We also had to dig out the tents and tent stakes. We had hot chocolate and oatmeal for breakfast, as well as granola bars and GORP (trail mix). The last thing we did was to take down the Scott tent and head to the instructors hut where we ate a midmorning snack.

We went through a lecture on radios. There are two types of radios we use in the field. The first is VHF (very high frequency) which resemble walkie talkies and are line of sight radios. To talk to MacOps (at Mcmurdo) the frequency is boosted by a relay station. The second type is HF (high frequency) and is much different to operate. It has a long antenna which you stretch out along stakes in the snow. You then remove the colored plug for your frequency (which shorts out the signal causing the antenna to be the correct length). Next you select the frequency and are able to place your call. You also attach a solar panel so that the battery is recharged. Finally you can call somewhere. We did a radio check with the south pole base!

Finally we ran "scenarios". In the first we imagined we escaped from a helicopter crash with only minimal equipment. As a group in 16 minutes we had set up a radio and contacted the south pole, light an emergency stove and set up a firmly anchored tent. Next we pretended to help a trauma victim. He had sustained neck and back injuries in a crash. We practiced a lift to move him. In Indiana, the best thing to do is to let a certified EMT assist. You should call 911 and wait for help. In Antarctica, help may be several hours away in the best of circumstances. In bad weather it might be much longer. A victim laying directly on the ice will die of hypothermia much faster than that. Instead we lifted him to slide insulation underneath. Then we moved the tent to cover him.

The last drill we ran involved finding someone who had been lost in white-out conditions, that is, in conditions where blowing snow prevents visibility and communication. Someone pretended to be lost and unconscious. We had white plastic buckets over our heads and we fanned out along a rope making sweeps. When we found the victim (our instructor) he was suffering from severe hypothermia. In that condition, moving him roughly can send cold acidic blood that has congregated in his limbs back to his heart, causing a massive heart attack. We lifted him gently and carried him inside. We then discussed how to treat him.

Finally we loaded up in the Nodwell, a tracked vehicle that looks like a cross between a tank and a florescent orange, truck and drove back to McMurdo, where after showering and changing into regular clothes, we ate a hardy dinner.

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