Training time around the station

Katie Joy | 24 Dec 2018

The weather is mild — hovering around 0°C — and the weather has been a mix of cloudy with some light snow and beautiful sun today.  Depending on weather and plane operations there is a plan to try and get Julie and I out to the field towards the end of this week, and so get ready for departure to the field I have to undergo several training sessions to learn how to been in a BAS field party.

Pyramid tent up and snow cat

Last night we took a snow-cat vehicle and went up to the top of a hill close to reptile ridge and  spent the night camping out to test out the field p-box (personal kit bag — there are a lot of acronyms to learn) and how to put up and take down the orange pyramid tent we will be using for our field stay. We have nice warm thick down sleeping bags and a thick set of mats to protect us from the snow below. As it is 24 hours of sunlight here, we need face masks to sleep well – I need to do a bit of practising with mine so that it doesn’t try and slide off my face at night. We will be using primus stoves for cooking and a tilly lamp for heating the tents – I haven’t used either of these before (last time I saw a tilly lamp I think was when I was in the Scouts…) so will take a bit of practice to use mentholated spirits to heat up the element that vaporizes kerosene. These systems are BAS field camp tried and tested, and require little fuel (good for light weight field party travel) and only simple maintenance.  The night past quickly — it was still and quiet up on the hillside outside of station – and we made it back for a late breakfast.

Learning the ropes

Later on I did my snowmobile induction training, learning to drive the different types that BAS use and try out driving on a range of slopes. I haven’t driven on one for about 6 years, but was easy to remember what to do and great to wizz along on the snow (it will be a lot bumpier on the blue icefields we are heading to as the surface is scalloped by the wind). Julie and I did some ropework practice on a local snow slope for how to rescue people from crevasse situations — setting up safety belay points, pulley systems and different types of anchors using snow stakes and ice axes. I have been practising taking out the GPS on all these trips to record the travel so that I am prepared for collecting our in field tracks and ground cover. I am pleased to say (thanks to Andy’s training and patience back in Manchester) that I seem to be able to operate the thing ok and get the data safely into my mapping software to plot out the travel — a small victory!

Looking under the hood – learning what the snowmobile engine looks like and how to check for oil and fuel levels

Tomorrow, Christmas day, is a holiday here on station where all the staff get a chance to relax and eat a big meal (the food here is plentiful and really tasty) so a chance to relax in between training and packing preparations.