...and his girl left behind. Justin Chambers is going to Antarctica as a chef, and leaving behind all that is normal, for a whole year. Together, but apart, we will document our experiences (well, he'll give me the info verbally and I will turn that in to a blog post!!) as we live in two quite different worlds for those 12 months.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Field training

"As I write this it’s currently -2 deg and snowing with a 10-15 knot wind.
So after a very busy week again I was looking forward to 2 days off..................well........... to be able to venture out into the field everybody must be field trained. This is done by a Field Training Officer (maybe one of the best jobs in the world.......other than mine).  So I needed to be trained. There goes the down time I needed to sort the ever growing pile of clothes and dust in my room.

 First of all a small group of us was kitted out with the essentials like rucksack, bivvy bag, foam mat, sleeping bag, liner, pee bottle, chocolate, compass, map set, signal mirror, micro spikes, ice axe, and trow bag.  At Kingston we were issued with clothing and to do this training we needed to bring our thermals, fleece, windproof jacket, beanie, neck gaiter, walking boots, sun hat, sunglasses, and lots of sunblock................in addition to this I also packed a camera, toothbrush (that never got used,) a small measure of Jack Daniels, tinned pies for the troops and some pancakes for brekkie along with some maple syrup.

German Basler
The day we left a plane landed carrying some German scientists doing studies around the Antarctic. The plane is a Polar 5 AWI Basler.... it’s an old turbo-charged DC3......I took a quick snap before we left.
Justin on quad taking photos

Our objectives were to ride out on quad bikes to Platcha Hut and spend a night there then proceed with field training for the rest of the day.  All rugged up we took off from Davis riding over the sea ice on our quads.  The scenery was spectacular, icebergs frozen, for a time trapped in metre thick ice just waiting to continue their journeys when the thaw comes.  Fat slug-like seals could be seen every now and then sunning themselves on frozen snow under a cloudy sky, the fat’s there for a reason. We didn’t see any penguins on the first day but wow some of the ice and rock formations  were just as cool.  We arrived at our destination within two hours, went inside the hut and made ourselves a brew, warmed up a little then went back outside to unload the quads.  Next we got busy with a little training,  field rations, aka dehydes. Using our portable gas stove we proceeded to follow the instructions on things like Beef and black bean, Grilled beef stew, Himalayan chicken, Lamb and pasta etc....

The wind was blowing a bit so it took some time for the snow to melt in order to add boiling water to our culinary delights. The stew I had was just fine and I could quite happily survive on it for a time. For most chefs, often in our down time food is only fuel in order to achieve the simple domestics in life.  I must say though the cheese cake was a bit average....................I tried my best to jazz it up with half a packed of crushed shortbreads on top. The crew seemed to like this.

A few wines with dinner and some pre-sleep fun of sliding down the icy snow was undertaken by all.
An icy coffin
We dug ourselves into the snow........I dug a coffin shape about a foot deep. There we slept/stayed overnight by ourselves inside our bivvys.  I must say I was warm enough inside my sleeping bag, but all the condensation from my breath formed ice inside over everything.  As the wind picked up early morning it began to snow inside my bivvy. The tug by the wind on the canvas outer made all the iced up condensation above me fall like heavy snow. This lasted for about only 4-5 hours...............well until I got up.

The sun did set for about an hour but the sky never really darkens. Sleeping out like this is very interesting......well trying to block it out ended up being so.  First I tried my neck gaiter, then a beanie, then a t-shirt (that became stiff with ice about midnight.....) finally I just got so tired I couldn’t give a rats about the light.

In the morning I heated up the pancakes for everybody and passed around the maple syrup. I think everybody was expecting to eat 2 minute noodles or some thing............so they were all very happy.

For the rest of the day we did various training involving both field equipment and quads.
Its fair to say I was very sore and tired when we finally got back to Davis at 7pm that night...........Yay, work in the morning."

Watch this space.  An update coming about Justin's helicopter day out to an Indian vessel and then on the the Chinese Antarctic base.

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