Happy Camper School

November 27-28th, 2001

"If they were advertising the Nodwell during Monday Night Football, what do you think the jingle would be?"
- Brennan, our survival school trainer.

In order to be qualified to go out into the field one must attend a snow survival class. We camped for a night on the Ross Ice Shelf and in doing so learned how to use the survival gear issued by the USAP. Here are some snapshots from my class, which just concluded today.

I've gone to happy camper school so I know how to pitch a tent now. I know how to layer my clothes and keep dry when I'm sweating so that when it's thirty degrees below zero I won't freeze to death after digging blocks of snow for my igloo. I've eaten freeze-dried goop from a bag. When I woke up in the morning after spending the night in a scott tent only 40 miles from where Scott, Bowers, and Wilson perished, the first thing that went through my mind was, "I could be sitting in traffic on route 101 heading to work listening to the news, but instead I'm waking up on the Ross Ice Shelf." I was surrounded by students and scientists trying to keep warm in the light breeze. Plumes of gasses rose from the peak of Erebus. Black and White islands showed the way south.

Look for bad weather to come from that way , the guides taught us. Now I wonder how I will use that information in the rest of my life. As I'm sitting in a staff meeting reviewing progress will the fact I know Herbies come from the south and the south is that-a-way make my life any easier?

Always build your wind wall with a prow pointing south. Pitch your tent with the door either 90 or 180 degrees from the wind. Pee on the yellow flag with your back to the wind. When your extremities get cold, move. Note the way people act when they're warm. When they're in the final stages of freezing to death they'll act differently. Wear multiple layers of clothes. Stay away from cotton. Take stuff off when working so the sweat will wick away. Put it back on as soon as you stop. Conserve heat. Get into your sleeping bag when you're warm, not when you're cold. Keep a spare pair of socks in the bottom of your sleeping bag. Put stuff you want to keep warm between your sleeping bag liner and the outside of the bag itself.

Stay away from the freeze dried chili called "Black Bart".

This is what I learned. How will this information serve me when I'm giving a presentation to a customer?

One gets to happy camper school in this Canadian-made treaded vehicle called "the Nodwell" The little building beside the Nodwell is an outhouse.

Our kitchen in the ice. Simon and Tina are mixing up a tasty batch of freeze-dried foods.

Jeremy is shoveling an entrance to our "ice cave". The ice cave is an igloo formed by piling your duffle bags and packing about 2.5 feet of snow onto them. Once the snow settles, a hole is dug in the snow mound and the duffles are pulled out. The hole is filled and a true entrance is dug by going first down into the snow and then coming up into the hollow snow mound. Jeremy, Emily, Simon, and Tina all spent the night in the snow cave.

Here is the finished snow cave our four friends spent the night in.

And this is not a standard part of the survival course, but it is a way to keep warm.

I slept in this Scott tent. My fellow campers can be seen milling in the background. The weather was exceptionally good for our course. Temps in the 20s and 30s with only a light breeze.

We got bored once the instructors left us for the night. We hiked to a small hut and retrieved a deck of playing cards. Simon demonstrates his deft hand in front of Mt. Erebus, which is obscured by clouds.

Christina "Tina" Calvin, A Happy Camper

Our instructor and king of happy campers, Brennan.