With warmer weather closing in around the Vestfold Hills, this week hosted the final Field Travel Training trip for the summer season. Four heroic souls, Dave (Station Leader), Pat (Bureau of Meteorology Technician), John (Plumber) and myself (Doc), ventured off to learn the great art of Antarctic survival with our trusty Field Training Officer, Jason.
This MacGyver-cross-Bear Grylls expedition began with learning to drill the sea ice to inspect the stability of our frozen road — the road was good. Onward we went. As we gradually worked out how to account for Grid North, True North, Magnetic North and several other Norths we followed map, compass and a healthy dose of general vibe up frozen fjords to Ace Lake and eventually Bandits Hut.
Despite the name, it robbed us of nothing, providing a beautiful spot to cook up a traditional Fray Bentos (pie in a can) and allow Pat to read a few entries logged in the hut book which were written by his old man some 20 years ago.
The group was divided on the first night, Jason and Pat opted for the comfort of their bivvy bags in the Antarctic wilderness whilst the three strongest members roughed it inside the warm hut.
Day 2 found us donning our micro-spikes for a walk on the ice but we made photos look better by carrying our ice axes and pretending to know what to do with them. Jason took us through our paces though and we became ice-travel machines. We then learnt how to salvage a bogged quad bike. Either fortunately or unfortunately, we had to rehearse the real thing about 20 minutes later, after yours truly drove straight into a pond. Luckily, I was carrying my brand-new Leatherman and a bottle of Tabasco sauce which made me feel prepared for anything.
Night two had the expedition members sleep out in gale force winds of somewhere between zero and five knots as temperatures plummeted, so much in fact that we had to ditch the sleeping bags entirely.
On Day 3 we gobbled up some rations, brewed tea, hopped on the hogs and navigated our way back through icebergs and penguins to home, spending lunch at Brookes Hut in the company of Weddell seals. Once mere peasants upon this great continent, we left the battlefield of the blizzards and returned, worn and weary, as Antarctic soldiers.
A big thank you to Jason and the field training team for their organisation and dedication to training AAD expeditioners! And of course, a big thank you to the blokes that made the trip such an unforgettable experience!
- Dr Rhys Harding