Ice Stories
Exploratorium Home

Going Camping in Antarctica

SOUTH POLE STATION, ANTARCTICA– On December 12/13, I did the Antarctic survival training course, also called “Happy Camper.” This course is a prerequisite for going off-base on unguided tours. Eight of us were driven to the foot of Mt. Erebus. It was a beautiful windless 37F evening.

Mt. Erebus and its volcanic plume blowing to the right.

Above Mt. Erebus was the sun with incredible sun dogs and a halo around it. This spectacle is caused by ice crystals in the atmosphere, and the north and south poles may be the best places in the world to see this effect.

Our instructor, Nick, said that we were in an excellent area for cutting up snow blocks for building structures (you use a saw). Some of my fellow campers tried to build an igloo (a major technological challenge, and they almost succeeded, but they gave up around 1:00 AM).

My fellow campers and their igloo.

Some built a duplex, and I built an ice cave but ended up sleeping in a Scott tent.

An ice duplex.

My ice cave.

Scott tents are famous for their durability in storms.

The next day we were debriefed on how the night went (the low was a balmy 24F, so we were all pretty comfortable during the night), and we then completed the course (the survival training course is good for five years of traveling in remote parts of Antarctica). Overall the course was a lot of fun, and very interesting!

Tags: , , , , ,

One Response »

  1. Hey Mark,

    I was just down on the Ice as well and had to do the AFT training. I must say I’m pretty impressed with your igloo and ice complex. I had big ideas of building an awesome igloo but found it was much harder than it looked. It truly is an art. With the help of some friends I managed to finish my second attempt of an igloo. It was a lot of fun to build but a little cramped to sleep in.
    I would love to hear more about IceCube and how the work is going!

    Have fun,