Going out on field trips is easily one of the greatest experiences we have the privilege of undertaking whilst in Antarctica. Most of these field trips involve spending nights in field huts and this brings me to the topic of this article, field hut etiquette.
You've just spent a long day in the Antarctic cold, taking endless photos of wildlife, icebergs, glaciers, mountains, etc, and the time has come to call it a day and head to the hut for some warmth, food and comfort.
Hut etiquette 1: Let there be gas
The hut is most often frozen on arrival. To overcome this and get some warmth you need gas to burn. Praise the wonderful gas heaters! This is also an essential ingredient if you plan to do any cooking. There is no worse feeling than arriving at a hut to find the last group used all the gas and didn’t tell anyone. The consequence of such poor hut etiquette is usually appendage removal with a rusty knife (a.k.a. a scolding), or 100 extra Saturday duties depending on who is on the receiving end of a gasless hut!
Hut etiquette 2: Tidiness and water on the stove
You've turned on the gas and made your way inside. The hut should be spotless, beds all made, benches/tables clear of mess, cutlery and crockery put away and there must be a couple of pots, preferably with handles, half full of water (that will be frozen) on the stove. The pots serve two purposes: you use the heat from the stove to warm the hut and the soon boiling water is great for hot drinks, cups of soup or reheating cryo vacced food. Failure in any of these vital tasks demands blizz runs as recompense!
Hut etiquette 3: Toilet time
The hut is now warming nicely, the water has boiled and there are hot drinks for everyone with cheese and crackers being served. Your body is warming up and digestion is in full swing. Soon the call of nature can’t be ignore any longer and you must visit the ‘thunder box'. You should expect the hut to be overstocked with toilet paper, baby wipes (hopeful starting to defrost), baby powder and, most important of all, a new garbage bag. Finding any of these missing will definitely ruin your hut experience. Finding someone else’s waste left behind will cause venting of much harsh language and demand for some form of compensation. (See points one and two.)
Hut etiquette 4: Hut literature
The huts are generally quite intimate places, thus there is only room for one person to do any cooking. While that person is busy the rest of expeditioners can sit back, relax and enjoy the reading material found in the huts. Like your typical dentist’s waiting room, the literature is often older than you are and generally of little interest if found in the real world, but in huts these magazines are full of gloriousness. The wonders of magazines like 1970’s National Geographics, 1980’s Cleo, 1990’s Ralph or FHM, 2000’s Men’s Health and more are there for your education. These windows into the past are priceless and the advertisements will leave you wondering how anyone survived the dark days of the twentieth century. If your hut lacks stimulating literature, find your library and threaten swift uppercuts* until this is remedied!
*Probably just a polite request for new literature at the hut.
Hut etiquette 5: After dinner entertainment
You're fully sated after a glorious dinner with ‘Big Sister’ chocolate pudding for dessert, now you can while away the evening hours in a number of different ways. You can play cards or board games, tell tall tales of previous intrepid adventures, good naturedly bad mouth the poor saps back at station or pray for clear skies for aurora photography. This is also the best opportunity that the truly extroverted have at a captive audience that just have to see your legendary party trick. The timing of this party trick is all important as you may lose future trip members if the trick is too pathetic or too avant-garde!
Hut etiquette 6: The clean up
This is most important of all the etiquettes. Leave the hut in better condition than you found it. Clean up everything, tidy up, remove all waste, turn everything off and close everything up. On return to station update the hut board with any information that next group would need to have a good a time as you've just had.
Hopefully this helps you understand the important role etiquette plays in having successful field trips in Antarctica.