Teachers learn how to survive in the Antarctic

Published on 25.11.2007 - Fuchs Foundation Antarctic Expedition 2007

This is the only expedition with an unusual twist scheduled for this southern summer season 2007-08. Made up of a team of teachers, the aim of the adventure is to have them live (and survive) some extremely out-of-the-ordinary conditions...

In the same vein as the Hayes and Falvey expeditions, the teachers who make up the Fuchs Foundation Antarctic Expedition 2007 (FFAE 2007) were aboard the first return flight of the Ilyushin belonging to ALE (Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions). They arrived in Antarctica on 11th November.

Because this particular team is not concerned with setting any records or other sporting feats, it can take its time. The teachers started by spending a few days at Patriot Hills to familiarise themselves with the polar environment. It wasn't all beer and skittles, though, because the type of blizzard conditions that have been mentioned in virtually all expedition reports this season, also set in at the tourist base. "After enjoying calm weather for the flight between Punta and Patriot," wrote biologist Ian Richardson in his daily update, "we woke up to a fierce snowstorm. Phil got out the anemometer and ventured outside the tent to measure the wind strength: 52 miles an hour (almost 85 km/h)."

Apart from this minor inconvenience, the team has had to learn everything from scratch: how to ski cross-country, the best way to protect themselves from the cold, cooking, going to the toilet, peeing into a bottle, sampling pemmican (the basic polar food), not exerting themselves too much so they don't sweat but just enough so that they don't freeze on the spot, how to build an emergency igloo, etc.

In other words, the teachers have had a lot of assignments to get through! Two days after they arrived, they made a short outing into the surrounding area (Heritage Range) to learn something more: how to set up a camp, how to pitch a tent, how to protect the sledges, how to haul a pulka across sastrugis, how to recognize the first signs of frostbite, etc.

Five days after arriving they were ready to head for the Henderson and Union glaciers, in company of their guides, to conduct scientific experiments. Some searched for lichen, while others looked for cryoconite holes (cryoconite holes are holes inside which typical ice fauna and flora live. Cryoconite is an amalgam of terrestrial matter and star dust that has fallen on to the ice. The dark colour of cryoconite absorbs the heat from the sun, and this hollows out a hole of over a metre in depth).

Once they had arrived, however, they were forced to shut themselves up inside their tents as it was too cold outside to allow them to carry out their scientific experiments. According to the latest report, they have now begun gathering lichen...

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