30 December, 1996
In 1902 a young seaman from Scott's crew lost his footing on the slope near one of our dive huts. He fell to his death and his body has not been recovered. There is a cross near Scott's Hut in memory of him and the region is now called Danger Slopes. Whenever I go there I think of a young man, sliding out of control, toward the edge of the cliff in a blinding snowstorm.
In order to minimize the risk of that type of tragedy, anyone who needs to work on glaciers or move on steep slopes must go through glacier and crevasse training. Chris and I are planning to collect alga mats on the Ferrah Glacier. In preparation, we spent the day practicing how to arrest a fall with an ice ax, and how to get a companion out of a crevasse. There were a few tricks we had to perfect. One was how to move across the ice connected to each other by a long rope. The next was to recognize were the crevasses were likely to form. We had to be certain that both of us would never be in a danger area at the same time. The last trick was how to react when one of the people on the rope actually disappeared through the ice. To make certain we could deal with this, each of us had to fall into a crevasse and be rescued by the other. This would have been great to photograph but as Chris was dangling at the end of the rope and I was on my belly trying to keep from being dragged in after him, no hands were left for a camera. After spending what seemed like an hour getting him out, I was completely depleted of energy.
On many of the early explorations into the continent, falling into crevasses was a common occurrence. Not only would it happen to the men, but also the dogs and the sledges carrying equipment necessary for survival. These explorers didn't have the luxury of VHF radios to call for help or SAR teams trained and available for emergency rescues. A person injured in a fall would have no medical facilities, an injured dog would be killed and used for food. I sometimes wonder how I would have responded to an offer to come to Antarctica with one of the early exploration groups.
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