Some insights into winter field training

Sleeping in a chip packet

With the hustle and bustle of the summer expeditioners now but a distant memory, the remaining winter expeditioners on station have settled into a new, quieter work routine and are now taking the opportunity to catch up on some of the necessary Antarctic training that is required in this harsh environment.

With that, Paul (building services supervisor/electrician), Haydn (carpenter), Pat (station mechanical supervisor) and I headed out to Browning's hut, under the guidance of our field training officer Maddie, to spend a few days off station and get acquainted with the rules, regulations and requirements that pertain to remote living and working.

The main form of personnel transport off station is the Hägglunds (or Hägg for short), which comfortably carries four people in the front carriage. Following a 3-hour slightly bumpy journey, we arrived at Browning's hut.

As well as navigating a 10+km hike through the ice features, we trained for a myriad of different competencies including:

  • Emergency survival procedures and techniques.
  • Hägg travel and navigation.
  • On foot travel and navigation using personal GPS units.
  • Emergency rescue and basic lifesaving first aid.
  • Hut set up / pack up requirements.
  • Radio communications and
  • Making water and cooking using a portable gas cooker.

The first night we all slept cosy and warm in the hut, but for Paul, Haydn and I the second night required us to “bivvy” out to fulfill a 3-yearly survival training requirement of the division. Bivvy is a camping term for a temporary enclosure to seek refuge (sleep) from the elements or a very light weight, roll up swag which is affectionately known by expeditioners as “sleeping in the chip packet”. With the outside temperature a skin-numbing -15C, plus wind chill, it made for a restless, noisy sleep with all three making for an early rise and back to the hut for some body-warming coffee and food.

With the training complete we headed back for station for a long hot shower, relaxing the weary muscles and having a delicious station dinner.

Rod Powell (Casey Electrician #4).