Credit: Mike Gillies

Antarctic Field Training for Beginners

This has been a busy second week, with a lot of the work focussed around the TAE/IGY Hut. However, the highlight for me this week was attending Antarctica New Zealand’s Antarctic Field Training (AFT). This is a course which all event members participate in and is designed to equip people with the basic skills required for overnight camping in the Antarctic.

Conservation Ambassador Mike Gillies in front of Mount Erebus

We began by setting off under the leadership of Chris, our resident West Coast ANTNZ field trainer, in a Hagglund along the Ross Ice Shelf. After about half an hour of putting along we reached the AFT camping site. There were seven other participants on the course, all from a range of backgrounds and nationalities: scientists studying seals, a member of the Antarctic Society, and a new ANTNZ staff member.

Field training camp

Our first task was to erect the Scott Polar tents; a tent design which hasn’t changed a whole lot in a hundred years. The next task was building a camp kitchen, which would also allow the group to get out of the wind and weather. We decided upon the ‘spa pool’ design. In other words, dig a round pit with a bench seat big enough to sit a dozen people, and then cut blocks of snow to build a wall surrounding the pit to keep the wind away. The group 'dug into it' and after an hour we had our home-away-from-home!

Having a well deserved rest after building the camp kitchen

Dinner was cooked on Primus stoves; all manner of dehydrated backcountry packet meals were on offer – Sweet and Sour Lamb, Beef Curry, Chicken Tikka Masala – yum, yum! The cloud cleared during dinner and provided a great opportunity for taking photos of Mt Erebus and the surrounding landscape.

Camping out in front of Mount Erebus

Then it was time for bed. Now for the million dollar question...? Was I warm enough while camping at -15C on the ice. Yep, absolutely. ANTNZ has a sleeping bag arrangement which is second to none, and if anything, I was too hot and wouldn’t have minded if the temperature dropped a little more during the night!

Time out in the camp kitchen

The next day it was up for a quick cuppa and porridge. After breakfast we packed up camp and headed back to Scott Base. What a great experience.


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