Happy Camper School
Happy Camper School (Photo credit: Guy)

Week 2

Survival Training

What would you do if the helicopter you were on had to make an emergency landing on the polar plateau? Or what if one of your teammates left the shelter of your hut to go to the outhouse and didn't come back? When you open the door you discover that it's snowing so hard, you're in a virtual white out. You can't even see your hand much less a person some distance away.


Suppose you're heading out to a field camp in Antarctica. What kind of training do you need to have? Here are some of the courses that Stream Team members must take:

· Snowcraft 1 - survival training (a.k.a Happy Camper school)
· Radio operation
· Helicopter safety training
· Snowmobile driving and repair
· Global Positioning System training
· Generator and solar panel training
· Antarctic driver's license training
· Waste management training

These kinds of situations can happen in Antarctica, which is why all personnel stationed at field camps and all those who might visit them at one time or another must have survival training -also known in McMurdo as Happy Camper School.

Many of our "boomerang gang" attended Happy Camper School together including Claire, Guy, Jen, Scott, Shawn, and Tim. School started out Comfortably in a heated classroom. There, our instructors, Erik and Brian, discussed various types of cold injuries. They talked about hypothermia, which is a lowering of body core temperature, and frostbite, which is the freezing of body tissue. The other half the lecture focused on another cold weather problem - dehydration.

Dehydration is the state in which the body's normal water content is reduced. And when it's frigid outside and extremely dry, like it is in much of Antarctica, it's easy not to drink enough.

Since it's dry, you don't necessarily notice yourself sweating and losing water, and since it's cold you don't tend to feel as thirsty. Moreover, as Jen pointed out during our class, when you have one or two pairs of gloves on as well as three, four, or more layers, going to the bathroom can be a hassle. So sometimes, we intentionally dehydrate ourselves so we don't have to. Not good say Erik and Brian.


The McMurdo weather office classifies weather into one of three categories, conditions 1, 2, 3. Depending on the classification, activities around McMurdo station may be restricted.


Condtion 1
(the worst condition)

Over 5 knots Less than - 100 deg. F Less than 100 feet All personnel must remain in buildings or the nearest shelter
Condition 2 48 to 55 knots -75 to -100 deg. F 100 ft to ¼ mile Pedestrian traffic restricted to between buildings.
Vehicular traffic allowed in radio equipped vehicles only.
Condition 3
(normal for McMurdo Station)
Up to 48 knots Down to -75 deg. F Over ¼ mile Unrestricted travel and activity.