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18 November, 2003

Happy Camper School

All Antarctic residents must take Snow Craft I (aka: Happy Camper School) before being allowed to go out in the field. During this two-day course students learn important skills necessary for working in such an extreme environment. These include learning about potential medical hazards, constructing emergency shelters, operating camp stoves, helicopter safety, and operating communication radios. While the class begins in the Science Support building, the majority of the class is held in a field site just a few miles from "town". The field site truly made you realize that you are in Antarctica. Located near castle rock and Mt. Aurora we could easily see New Zealand's Scott base and had a great view of Mt. Erebus.

After learning about potential health hazards and learning how to operate the stoves, the remainder of the day was dedicated to learning how to build a proper shelter. First we started constructing a Quincy hut. We piled up all of our bags and then covered them with snow. Later we dug a hole in the mound to dig out our bags, thus creating an entrance into our ice hut. We also learned how to properly pitch several types of tents. Since the winds in Antarctica can be quite fierce, we learned that we must carefully consider the placement of the door in relationship to the wind and learned ways to ensure that the tent is securely grounded. We also learned the importance of building a snow wall and how to build emergency snow trenches.

After a full day of teaching us the basic skills, our instructors left us alone for the night-confident that we now had the skills to prepare our own supper and build appropriate shelters. In just a few hours our classroom of individuals formed a little community. Like the Amish barn raisings, we helped each other cut and carry blocks of ice, assemble ice shelters, and pitch tents. A few campers eagerly built a neighborhood kitchen/dining area big enough to hold the majority of the campers. Our stoves provided us with boiling water needed for hot drinks and dehydrated food, which were welcoming nourishment after a full day's work. About 11pm our little community began to retire to their tents, trenches, and Quincy huts for an amazing night under the sun; and truly alone in Antarctica.

All ready for Happy Camper School.

This is not your regular school bus, but then again, this is not your regular school. Why are the tires on this vehicle so big?

Campers walking to class. What do you think might be in that little black "hut"?

Learning to build a Quincy hut. Why might one prefer to build one of these instead on an igloo?

A Scott tent. How do you think it got its name? What might you do differently when pitching a tent in Antarctica verses a more temperate environment?

Here I am helping a fellow happy camper build an igloo.

Campers cutting blocks of snow in order to build a snow wall. Why is a snow wall important when setting up camp?

Campers cooking dinner and eating in our community kitchen/living room. Well fed campers results in happier campers. Why have we placed flags all throughout camp?

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