What kind of training?
December 24, 2005
Hi there! First off, "Happy Christmas and New Year" to you all. I hope you have a good holiday!
Marquan, grade 8, Columbus Co., and Imani, grade 4, Bulloch Co. (Georgia) asked, "What type of training did you undergo to prepare for this [expedition]."
Hmmm... Training is a big, broad subject. It probably started years ago in school when all these 12 people got fired up about dinosaurs, fossils, and rocks. These people specialized more, through senior school and college, went to University, and trained to become geologists. They became really interested in the planets and meteorites.
They heard about the U.S. Antarctic meteorite collection program, applied to join, and got chosen to go - lucky them!
After lots of e-mails from their leader, Ralph Harvey, about cold weather clothes, web logs, medical checks, and a million other topics, they packed their bags, said lots of "Goodbyes," and in November flew to New Zealand - 12 hours from Los Angeles, California across the broad Pacific Ocean. Then on from Christchurch to Antarctica.
Geologists train in field work and camping in their degree days, but now we were all going to train for Antarctic field work:
* how to put up a big, 80-pound, pyramid-shaped Scott tent
*how to light a very cold cooking stove
*how to chop and melt ice for water and cook meals.
*how to drive a ski-doo
*how to drive as part of a line abreast of 8 carefully looking side-to-side and ahead for meteorites lying on the ice
*how to photograph, number, bag, mark the position, and make notes on each meteorite as it is found *how to use ropes to get someone out of a crevasse (a hole in the ice), should they fall in.
So many things to learn all in one short week before flying 400 miles closer to the South Pole, and getting out of the plane into a wild, cold day.
Suddenly the training is real!! The wind is blowing 40 miles per hour, the temperature is 0 degrees F, and you have to put up the tent without it blowing away. Then cook some dinner, and dress warmly for 8 hours of work out on the ice. You have to fuel, maintain, and cover your ski-doo, and sometimes take a bath in a wash basin to stay clean and healthy.
Well, I have to say, 3 weeks into our field season, that the training has worked! Everyone is happy, with sun-browned faces. Some have peeling lips and noses from frost nip. All 4 tents are cozy homes well anchored against the wind. All 8 ski-doos are purring along. The team looks fit, well fed, and no one has had to be rescued from a crevasse!
I hope this answers your question, in a round about way.
Do you want to go meteorite hunting?
All the best!
New Zealand Mountaineer and ANSMET Safety Officer
And now a few words regarding Shaun's training and experience (of which there is enough material for a very fascinating book!):
This is Shaun's second ANSMET expedition. We all feel very lucky to have him as our mountaineer/guide. Shaun is a veteran of 18 seasons, including 3 winters, in Antarctica (totaling about 6 years on the ice with 750 nights in the field). His experience on this continent started in 1966, before many of the present team members were born, when he came here as part of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). He was here with the BAS when Deception Island erupted and forced the evacuation of bases in that area. During his first few years with the BAS he spent time running dog-sled expeditions. He has been part of many survey and geologic field trips all over the continent. Shaun is a world-recognized mountain guide, and also has mountaineering experience in Alaska, the Himalayas, and New Zealand. We have learned a great deal from him, and we never tire of hearing his stories of exotic places and mountain-climbing adventures.
Compared with some of Shaun's previous adventures, we live (happily and thankfully) in relative luxury out here, largely due to his and John Schutt's (a veteran of 25 ANSMET expeditions) efforts in preparing us for this expedition. Our mountaineers were also responsible for making many of the preparations for our arrival in McMurdo, our transition to the remote sites, and our support while in the field.