This week we confronted two big risks in Antarctica – the threat of fire; and a glacier with many hazards.

Draining the harbour… for practice

The threat of a fire is one of the biggest risks that we work hard to prevent on station. This week the whole station practiced firefighting skills and techniques in a training exercise — a vehicle and gas tank were on fire, with a ‘man down’ patient retrieval.

Everyone on station had an important role to play during the exercise. The Fire Chief and Deputy Fire Chief set up the scenario, a team drove the fire truck and operated the pumps, some team members rolled out the fire hoses, two pairs used breathing apparatus and fire hoses to tackle the fire, and another pair set up the mobile water pump to drain sea water directly from the harbour (unlimited supply!).

Each team responded brilliantly, practicing some of the techniques we learnt in fire training back in Hobart last summer. Team work in action!

A journey to a plane wreck

Hurry up and wait; we monitor the weather intently for the morning, aiming to walk to the site of the wrecked Russian plane.

Double and triple check that we’ve packed the right gear. Harness: check, thermals: check, helmet: check, crampons: check. The wind continues its trend downward as the morning progresses… looks good, we’re on!

On arrival we lay out and prepare our ropes, harnesses and bags for walking on the glacier. When all else is prepared we don our plastic boots which feel like you are putting your shoes on the wrong feet. The boots are stiff by necessity so as to support the crampons.

With all our ropes tied, bags packed and knots knotted we set off on foot. We begin to navigate our way through the ripped and cracked plateau terrain in which our destination lies, probing and listening to the ice for hollow spots.

It’s only about a 1km journey, but it’s is a slow and tedious one. While slow, it’s not nearly enough time to soak in the dramatic landscape. Skirting around hazards, we see the outline of the wrecked plane begin to appear over the crest of the icy hill.

We arrive at the wreck and circle it carefully, the twisted mass of metal and wires a timely reminder of the power of this place.

Until next time,