Fragile Oasis

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Training Camp

Before one is dropped off in the middle of this continent for six weeks of living in a Scott tent, it is wise to make certain your team knows how to deal with the necessities of camping. Thus, we went on a short training trip where we loaded up our snow mobiles, loaded up our sledges, and drove off from McMurdo towards the foot hills of Mount Erebus. Mount Erebus is not only the highest mountain on the continent;
it is also a very active volcano. We were close enough to see a pale blue plume of smoke waving over the summit like some sort of a flag proclaiming, "Don't Tread On Me." We set up our Scott tents just like we had been shown by our resident mountaineers. We have two well seasoned mountaineers along, whose function is to seemingly train us and to help out in the expedition but who are really there to baby sit us scientist types so that we can accomplish our mission work and come out alive. If you are a scientist living in the Antarctic interior for the first time, it is good to have along a mountaineer or two. These people are rich in experience, common sense experience;
the kind that keeps one alive in a harsh and unfamiliar environment. If you listen and watch, not only will you learn something new, you will learn to comfortable and safely live in this cline. For two days our team was kept busy on this shake down trip, learning the ropes of setting up camp, glacier traverse, and if necessary, crevasse rescue.

I could not help but see the parallels here to our NASA space flight training, where we practice everything from flying rocket ships to cooking up dinner, all under the auspices of knowing what to do during the actual mission. When you go off on explorations in out of the way places, this sort of training is a smart thing to do.

Traveling overland in Antarctica via mechanized dog sledges. Snow mobiles pulling sledges allow one to carry all the necessary gear.

John Schutt, one of our mountaineers, teaching us the ropes about crevasse rescue.