APECS OCEANIA IN ANTARCTICA
BY MANA INOUE
It’s been a week since we arrived in Casey station.
We are settling in well and busy preparing for our field trip, sorting cargo, testing equipment, safety briefing for working in high altitude and cold weather.
Malcolm, our field doctor, gave each of us a bag of medicine for the situation. We need to report our condition every day for first 10days when we get to the field for future reference. I hope We don’t need to use this much and adapt well in the special environment!
We are also helping other scientists out with their research by, shoveling snow, setting up instruments, and even doing house work, doing slushy in kitchen etc. Everybody down here are nice and are helping each other.
With our spare time, we went for a short walk to the wharf and Reeves Hill. I was expecting to see lots of penguins during this walk, but no luck. Well, we saw few penguins far far away. But it was too far that they just look like a few black beans in the snow.
My first Penguin was on Saturday night. After dinner, (people dressed up for Saturday dinner! This is special dinner for the week.) we were in the living area, relaxing with few glass of wine, when somebody looked outside the window and said ‘It’s a penguin over there!’ I ran back to my room and grab my jacket, got outside and there is a penguin wondering around nearby our heavy vehicles! He/she was just walking around the station for a while, then disappeared. Such an adorable little cutie animal!!
On Sunday with wonderful weather, field training officer James took us to Shirley Island. We walked on sea ice. Several little crack on sea ice reminds me of the possibility of danger and I think 'What if…. ' But the fear doesn’t last long with amazing view of ice/snow/blue sky/penguins/seals! Penguins are so friendly, of course, we are not supposed to get to close to them. But they are just coming up to us! A penguin came so close to us, and started walking on human track. He/she walk few step in front of me, looked back at me, walk few steps again, then look back me again. It’s like he/she is leading me to some wonderland! We then came to little junction and he/she choose to go left, while I went right. He/she stop there for a while, looking at me asking, why am I not following?!
A while later, he/she lost interested on me and just slide away.
We also saw few Weddell seals. They seldom move. They are just lying on ice. Sometime scratching their belly, rolling over to change sleeping position. We took a rest on top of the island, taking photo of everybody. Again, few penguins are come along to checking on us. They are really curious animals! That was amazing Sunday afternoon.
Highlight of this week was field training.
1st group of ABN on Casey station went to field training on Monday-Tuesday including Mark, Meredith, Jenny, Jerome, David, Trevor, Simon, Andrew, and me. First, we had a briefing.
We had to introduce ourselves and our role in the field, previous field and training experience, and something interesting about ourselves that nobody in the team knows. It was a funny moment when telling our ‘secrets’ to each other. James said this is not boot camp, this is for working together as a team and for getting familiar with your gear and equipment.
Next, we moved to field shed. All gear we need such as boots, gloves, sleeping bags etc in this shed.
We got a sleeping bag, sleeping mat, throw bag, 2 pee bottles, few hand warmers in a back pack.
Get all gear ready, packed our lunch, and ready to go!
We got on 2 hagglund to the Casey skiway, 30 mins drive from Casey station. We set up the mess tent first and put out the table and chairs. Looks like a comfy dining area little bit small for a total 10 ppl with big jackets.We then set up several polar pyramids as our sleeping tent, and for toilet.
Now some of you may be interested in how we go to the toilet in the field in Antarctica. As there are no toilets in Antarctica (except at field stations) we have to use a bucket. The bucket is lined with double black plastic rubbish bags, with a toilet seat attached, we sit down on the seat, a do our business. For boys, number 1's is much easier, just use a bottle and empty it into the big bin.For girls, however, things are little bit more complicated.We are issued special funnel for the small business. Use it to do in bottles as boys usually do, standing!!! Personally, I hate it. But when nature calls you have no choice.
Anyway, back to the field training. After we set up camp, we practice how to use our GPS. That is cool equipment. If we get lost in the middle of nowhere, it will lead us to the camp site. (previous setting required). We won’t get lost as long as the battery last! Viva technology!! We had a look skiway office, walked around airplane, took photos. Back to camp site, we practice how to use stove burner. This is also important to boil water/cook to keep warm. We are everyday working hard on first layer under skin! Keeping warm is crucial to survive in this environment.
Our wonderful chef, Jenny prepared our dinner before this training. We just need to warm up into boiled water. We got fried rice, pasta, beef stew, and lamb shank soup for dinner, several muffins, and chocolate cookies for extra. It’s really nice to have warm food on ice.
Then it’s bed time, even though the sun is still up and the sky is bright blue, it’s actually 10p.m. The weather was beautiful. It was -10 degrees, but didn’t feel like it. Because the weather was so nice, some people choose to sleep outside. For me, this is the 3rd time sleeping in tent in my life. I was afraid that I cannot sleep. But I slept very well the night.
Next morning, we woke up around 7a.m. After breakfast, we packed up tents, then practiced search and rescue techniques using our GPS and radio. We worked in pairs, with our commander telling us where to go through the radio, and follow the GPS. It was a little hard to walk around with big boots on snow, but it was good exercise.
Last training was blind walk. This is the training for in the case of zero visibility. 4-5 people connected in a line with a rope, eyes covered, and walked from shed to shed. We cannot see anything, just walk towards to next building. The surface wasn’t flat, so we had to walk slowly, and communicate with each other. We thought we are walking strait, but somehow we went to the left.
Hope we can do better in real situation. Well. Hope this kind of harsh situation won’t happen!
It was fun, useful training. Now we know how to build a polar pyramid, how to go to the toilet, how to sleep in cold camp. We are all ready to go to Aurora Basin!