“Yesterday afternoon we had skidoo and crevasse rescue training, two very useful skills to have in the Antarctic!
We started off with skidoo maintenance and some basic fixing, useful to know, but hopefully we will never get into a situation where we would need this knowledge. Driving a skidoo on the snow is quite easy and a lot of fun. It is a very convenient way to travel to sample sites, and with heated handlebars also very pleasant at low temperatures.
After the training we drove off to the find the nearest crevasse, one skidoo after another. We were followed by one of the snow trucks (half car, half snow mobile), which carried the medical doctor, the crevasse rescue kits and everyone who isn’t too fond of skidoos.
We drove for about half an hour through a stunning landscape with mountains on our right and endless white flatness on our left, which makes one feel very small (in addition to knowing that the “nearest” neighbours are 1000 km away). When we got to the crevasse bamboo poles and ropes marked the area where we could safely walk and park our skidoos. Crevasses are cracks in the ice, which can be anything from small and narrow to massive creases in the landscape. Often they are covered by snow, which makes it more difficult, but not impossible to spot them. When close the the crevasse, this makes it very important to watch where you step.
Our crevasse was about 1 m wide and 5 m deep. The plan was to lower down one person at a time, which had to be “rescued” by the rest of the team. In order to safely pull up a person an anchor is needed. With no trees or rocks around, skidoos prove to be quite useful for that purpose too. The crevasse rescue kit consisted of ropes, carabiners and auto-lock devices. Though slightly confusing in the beginning, we got more and more confident with each round.
Going down a crevasse by choice may sound a bit crazy, but it was done in a very controlled and safe way. The colour of the blue ice and the small amount of light at the bottom created a magical atmosphere. This was my first time in a crevasse, and although a stunning experience, I hope none of us will ever end up in one by accident.
After everybody had their turn, someone volunteered to simulate an injury. That way we could also practice how to transport an injured person back to the station. The person was carefully wrapped in lots of layers to keep them warm (maybe a bit too warm) and was strapped on the back of the truck, while the rest of us enjoyed their skidoo ride back to the station.
A lot of fun was had!”