Antarctic Heritage Trust Conservator, Conor Tulloch talks about his Antarctic Field Training experience, a day of lessons in Antarctic Survival.
AFT. Antarctic Field Training. Everyone does it their first time here. A day of lessons in Antarctic survival; a daylight night of camping on the Ross Sea ice-shelf. We are learning how to handle our clothes and equipment, how to work together, how to keep safe.
Everything familiar about camping has an unfamiliar twist. Putting up tents (then shoveling snow to weigh down the edges), sheltering from the wind (by building walls from blocks of snow), going to the toilet (in a bottle you brought especially).
Feature: Building shelter from the wind. Left: Unpacking our gear to begin setting up camp © AHT/Conor Tulloch
Our tiny tent village goes up, taking into account the direction of the wind and the drift of fine snow. Petroleum stoves are awkwardly lit with fat, gloved fingers. It takes a long time for snow to melt and boil. We sit for dinner and people try different combinations of the extreme cold weather clothing we have been issued, finding the right levels of warmth. It’s getting late but night’s not coming.
We take a trip to Castle Rock to take in the landscape. Removing sunglasses, it is a harsh, icy light. And it’s bright. Your eyes wash out for a second. Looking out onto the ice-shelf, it seems flat. Flat like the sea can be. It is sea! And it goes on and on until the horizon fills with waves of jagged mountains. The contrast feels strange, like this is not a place on earth.
We get back to camp and try to sleep. But that’s hard. Not because of the cold, we are well-prepared. Because of the excitement – we’ve only just arrived.
© AHT/Conor Tulloch