Survival on Ice


So, before we can get out on the sea ice, we need to attend a series of trainings to make sure everyone is safe here in Antarctica. What sort of trainings do we do? “Light vehicle training” covers how to drive and inspect the trucks (Ford F-350) we use to transport our heavy gear around town. We were briefed on fire safety, which is especially important here because water is really scarce. We learned how to properly sort our waste, which is all sent back to the U.S. for proper disposal, so we do not impact the sensitive environment here. We also learned about the (limited) medical services available; that way we know what to do if someone feels sick or gets injured.

Of the many trainings I attended, my favorite training course was the Antarctic Field Safety course, where we learned about how to survive the unique hazards we might encounter in the field. As part of this course, we got to unpack a survival bag, a 60-pound bag designed to provide food and shelter for 2 people for up to 3 days. It is definitely about survival and not about comfort… It contains items like dehydrated food packs, a two-person tent, a small camp stove and fuel, and a bit of extra clothing. It even has some reading material and playing cards to keep busy while you wait out the storm. We learned how to light our stoves and how to set up the tent, which actually has the poles on the inside! I’m sure it was much easier to do these things in the comfort of the Science Support Center building than it would be if we ever needed to use it in an Antarctic storm, but I’m glad we know how to do it. Of course, we hope we never need to use these bags, and we often grumble about having to lug them along with us whenever we go out on the sea ice; but having the essentials you need to survive an epic storm is nothing to grumble about!

Written by: Heather Liwanag

Heather Liwanag