I shouldn’t moan but I’ve not actually been able to find the time to do much actual work since I’ve got here, I’ve been absolutely flat out busy but not in the line of work in which I’ve been employed to carry out. The end of this week saw me having to dash offsite to fit in two days of survival training in order to appease the powers that be that I’m capable of heading offsite in order to travel in the ‘Vestfold Hills’ which adorn our doorstep here at Davis station.
The Vestfold Hills is a great venue, heaps of space to move around and explore, likewise a great number of Fjords which we can travel along whilst the sea ice is still frozen. our survival course was at a fairly basic level as some of the guys here have never had to bivvy out at night before so it was all a bit new for them, the scenery and experience was none the less awesome for it though.
We started with a helo insert to Crooked Lake where we mustered at one of the emergency ‘apple’ shelters, from here we headed out across the small ranges for about 4kms to Watts hut. It was a bit of a nav exercise for those not used to this sort of terrain, the hills aren’t massively large in height by any means but the lack of contours give it an interesting perspective when navigating, stuff could appear that is not on the map that would easily throw people.
This place is a geologists dream, the rock types and formations had me stopping every twenty metres, Quartz, copper and all sorts were just scattered everywhere, all worn by the continual winter glacial grinding, freezing and thawing to make some amazing shapes and colours, it’s really quite gob smacking just how varied the geology is here, looking forward to quizzing some of the ‘Geos’ on exactly what it all is…
The second part of day one consisted of walking on sea ice, obviously not something to be taken likely, falling into the sea wearing a 20kg pack and full winter clothing will make you a) wet b) cold c) sink d) drown…..Therefore it’s a good idea to have a good drill in place to effect a rescue in this sort of environment. Now just for my paddler mates you’ll be interested to see the use of throw bags with knots in (heaven forbid!!) that we can use to throw to a ‘sunk’ walker, they make use of the buoyancy in their pack, you get them a line and they try and grab it whilst you pull them towards thicker ice, they also need to somehow drag themselves up and onto it which is supposedly aided by an axe….Not sure my hands would be warm enough personally but I’m all for any idea that has a chance of working.
We check ice depth ‘regularly’ using an auger drill that cuts (very quickly actually) through the sea ice and checks the depth, minimum is 20cm depth but I was happy to see that we were at around a metre this last few days, it certainly is a little concerning being in the middle of a Fjord knowing that below you is fifty metres of water – That said, the cracking and air bubbles in the ice are amazing to look at when you’re stood above it looking down. To some degree it was as if someone had taken a photo of the sea during a single instance in time, everything was frozen as if it was normal water, waves, ripples, calm areas, all as you’d expect to see them in a photograph with perhaps a bit of snow on top.
At the end of the first day we covered off bivvying, making food and the usual camp basics, the funniest part was that we have to, due to environmental reasons, take all our pee back with us or alternatively ensure that it is poured into a tide crack or a drill hole in the sea ice to dissipate it. Our bivvy site was about 250m from the sea ice tide crack so myself and Josh volunteered to take everyone’s filled pee bottles from the day down to the tide crack and tip it away….For obvious reasons the hilarity of realizing our job was literally ‘taking the pee’ had us in stitches all the way down to the ice, especially when the smell got to my colleague at one moment and set off his gag reflex 🙂
Bivvying for those who’ve not done it is the simple art of climbing into a bag with your kit, you get on your roll mat, get out your sleeping bag and crash down with your kit, the bag protects you and your kit from the outside elements and the heat you generate inside heats the bivvy up keeping it warm and dry…..Well, I say dry but there is of course the small matter of condensation from your breath….Which turns to ice and provides you with a rather heavy ice shower in the morning when you try to exit the bag again….Another classic moment was me going through the usual drill of ensuring my torch was near my head as I always do when I bivvy, I spent 4 minutes seeking out my torch before I remembered that we have 24 hour sunlight and that the whole exercise was pointless!
On day two we woke at 5am for a 6am start, not much to say that was different, we crossed more sea ice and hills until getting back to Davis for midday, the next group to be trained buzzed us in the chopper a couple of times as we headed home.
It’s Friday night here, we had a few beers but ultimately being out in that level of cold makes you pretty tired, the ‘wind burn’ is pretty painful on my face tonight and I’m about to pass out as I write this – So for now, it’s the usual thing of adding some pictures and letting you gauge yourself what happened….