Friday, October 30, 2009

ENDURANCE - Man, this Bot has a lot of SAS!

Calling all robots -

I have been in Antarctica for exactly 1 month. I am here as a Grantee (a scientist- well, an undergraduate student- working under a NSF grant) on a project spearheaded by my Professor at University of Illinois at Chicago, Peter Doran. The project is called ENDURANCE: (Environmentally Non-Disturbing Under-ice Robotic ANtarctiC Explorer).
Endurance is a large (7ft tall and wide and 3,00lbs) AUV, autonomous underwater vehicle, that explores the frozen lake, Lake Bonney, in the Dry Valleys of Antarctica.

ENDURANCE has a NASA grant with NSF, National Science Foundation, funding to explore and map the West Lobe of Lake Bonney and the interface of the lake and Taylor Glacier.
(info from Endurance website):

We are developing an autonomous under­water ve­hicle (AUV) capable of generating for the first time, 3-D bio­geochemical datasets in the extreme environ­ment of a perennially ice-covered Ant­arc­tic dry val­ley lake. The ENDURANCE (En­vi­ron­men­tally Non - Dis­turbing Under - ice Robotic ANtarctic Explorer) will map the under - ice lake dimen­sions of West Lake Bonney in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, and be equipped to measure temper­ature, elec­tri­cal con­duc­tivity, am­bient light, chlor­ophyll-a, Dis­solved Or­ganic Mat­ter, pH and redox of the water column in the entire lake. Visible imaging will also be performed on the benthic microbial mats, other lake bottom materials, lake ice bottom and the glacier contact, for all of which there is a paucity of data. The AUV is being specifically designed to minimize impact on the environ­ment it is working in. This is primarily to meet strict Antarctic environ­mental protocols, but will also be a useful feature for planetary protection and improved planetary science in the future.

The robot with his clothes on

Chris with a naked Endurance

The robot in the water, last season.

Over-arching Goals:
- further biological re­search in the ter­res­trial en­vi­ron­ments analo­gous to those found on other planets,

- develop tech­nologies that enable remote searches for, and identification of, life in extreme environments

- perform a systems - level field campaign designed to demon­strate and vali­date the science and tech­nology in extreme environ­ments on Earth. (Astro­biology Science and Tech­nology for Ex­ploring the Planets) Program.

SAS - Stone Aerospace:
The robot was designed and built by the amazing robotic engineers at Stone Aerospace, or SAS, in Austin, Texas. And man does this robot have a lot of SAS!

Dr. Bill Stone is a Co-Investigator for Endurance. He is also the president and CEO of Stone Aerospace, the engineering company that designed and built the Endurance vehicle.

Bart Hogan is a mechanical engineer for Stone Aerospace.

Dr. Kristof Richmond is a programmer for Stone Aerospace, focusing on navigation.

Shilpa Gulati
is a programmer for Stone Aerospace, focusing on the system executive and machine vision. She is also a PhD student at University of Texas, Austin.
Chris Flesher is the vehicle manager, programmer, and electronics technician for Stone Aerospace. He is a Masters student at UT Austin.

Rachel Middleton Price
is an electronics technician for Stone Aerospace.

Vickie Siegel
is chief vehicle technician and logistics manager for Stone Aerospace.

These are all the SAS staff involved in the Lake Bonney 09 season.

Melting the robot's hole:

There were many things that needed to be accomplished before Endurance could go for a swim. For the past 12days, Maciek Obryk and Jim Olech have been melting the 8ft wide and 11ft deep cylindrical hole. Maciek and Jim are in charge of melting the hole, because equipment tends to breakdown a lot in Antarctica, and they can fix it. They are master hole-melters! They have spent all day everyday going back and forth from our worksite, at West Lobe Lake Bonney, and our Jamesway, at East Lobe, a 30min ATV ride around the edge of the lake. The melting process involves moving hot fingers (extremely hot coils that sit in the ice and melt the hole) around the hole, fueling the generators and Hotsy(s) (the devices that melt glycol and provide the heat to the hot fingers). The generators power the Hotsys and are filled with Mo-Gas (a certain type of gasoline). Then the Hotsy's use that power to burn diesel gas that heats up the glycol. This food-grade glycol then gets pumped into the coils of the hot fingers. The idea is that the ice then melts. Last year, when the hole was being melted in late November, it took one day. This year, we are here earlier in the season, which means it is much colder and they have spent 12+ days melting this hole. The hole refreezes constantly and on top of all that the Hotsys keep breaking down from being overworked! We have already shipped two away to the Hotsy Hospital, or MEC (mechanical equipment center) at McMurdo station. This is painstaking and literally back-breaking work, as Maciek is off to McMurdo to have his back looked at from a hole-related injury. The hole is slowly coming to completion after days and days of constant refueling and chipping the ice at the surface, using a underwater camera to check that the cylinder stays even down the sides, and moving hot fingers all around. It is insanely impressive that these boys are still standing upright, well they are napping now, but you know what I mean!

Jim checking out a Hotsy

The hole

Maciek looking over the progress of the hole, in preparation for the long night ahead

Jim and Maciek placing a hot finger near a ridge in the ice, to melt it away so the circle is smooth and perfectly cylindrical

Maciek and Jim surveying the hole and hot fingers locations before a long night of melting

Me and the hole, under the ENDURANCE sign

Maciek lying down to rest his thrown out back... he works too hard

Construction of the "Bot House":

The "Bot" as the robot is referred to round these parts, stays in the "Bot House". This is a giant Polar Haven, a type of building constructed on the ice to provide shelter. It looks similar to our Jamesway. The steps to its construction began with Maciek picking the site and beginning to melt the hole there.

Then we got in 10 carpenters, or carps, from McMurdo that camped out around the construction site on West Lobe. Last year the SAS and Endurance team built this structure all by themselves, but this year we got much needed help, expertise and labor from the carps.
Two Hotsys sit in front of the carps camp set-up

The "Bot House" floor went up in two days, first they leveled the foundation, it was my job to use the leveling surveyor and tell them if each section was level to a certain number.
Bot House foundation being leveled

Then they added the sections of the floor, it was sort of like constructing a giant jigsaw puzzle.

All the carps and Bill get ready to lift a floor piece

Puzzle piece in place
The sections of floor were so large, an ATV was brought in to move them all into place. Very carefully a carp drove an ATV toward the floor piece they were moving, then all 9 other carps and Bill would lift and move the piece on to the back of the ATV. They would then stand behind and to the sides of the ATV holding the piece while it was driven into its place in the puzzle.

The awesome power of the carps was quite a scene to watch. It was amazing what they could accomplish together. By the end of one long day they had put the pieces, of what I thought was a large and difficult puzzle, into place. The next day it was snowing! It was time to bolt the floor together. Each junction was either a 1 (2 pieces being put together end to end), 2 (2 pieces being put together side to side) or a 3 which was (three pieces being fastened together side to side to side). These three different junctions took three different lengths of bolts to fasten them together. My job was to get all the people doing the actual work, all the bolts, washers, and nuts they needed. It seemed near the end of a long day of bolting we were going to run out of washers, then run out of 6" bolts, but with a little rearranging done by the king of the carps, Mombok, and Bill we had all the pieces bolted into place. The bot was to arrive tomorrow via helicopter, and the floor of its house was ready.
You learn early on in Antarctica that weather delays common, almost nothing happens on schedule or without being affected one way or another by the harsh and unpredictable Antarctica weather. The next day the winds were 25-30knots with gusts up to 40mph!! The Bot could not be flown in this weather, it is too dangerous for the helos to carry a load, like the bot, on a day this windy and then the bot could be damaged. No flying... No ifs, ands, or bots.

The bot arrived the next day along with all 6 other members of Stone Aerospace, SAS, and all their science cargo of fiber-optic cable, batteries, computers, and sonar. The robot was flown in - stripped down to the bare minimum, and dressed in his carrying case, or trench-coat as I call it. The helo, in the awesome precision the pilots have, place the bot down onto the floor with perfect precision.

The medal bar and tarp enclosure quickly came up around the bot and heat was added. The "Bot House" was complete and ready for the season ahead.
The "Bot House" under mid-afternoon sun

The swing loads of expensive, DNF (Do Not Freeze), science equipment came next and needed a warm place to be stored. The next few days were filled with unpacking all the gear. I got to spend a few hours watching the robot get ready and this is what I saw:
The "Bot" in his house, with his clothes lying next to him

- Chris and Kristof were making contact; they established a comm shop and were wiring the building to establish communication with the robot. They fed fiber-optic cable from the computer docking stations over to the hole. This line of communication is how the robot sends all the data it collects back to the SAS team.

- Bart was cleaning the robot's room, as we put it, unloading boxes and unpacking special, expensive, and very breakable scientific equipment that I could touch, but I could look at called Servo motors.

- Vickie and Rachel were undressing the robot from his traveler's trench-coat, and mounting on cameras with aqua sealant to prevent the two different metals from making contact with each other and become electronically charged.

- Bill was making adjustments to the "Bot House" and generally fixing things for the robot. Also making sure all the proper equipment was there.

- Shilpa was sick this day, and so she was back at 'home' resting.

Kristof up on a ladder, snaps a shot of Vicky, Rachel and, I working on the bot
Rachel and I smile up at Kristof

With all this SAS around it, this robot didn't have to lift a finger all day! All the members of SAS spend their days here leaving in the morning from the Jamesway at East Lobe Bonney and taking the ATV ride over to West Lobe Lake Bonney to work on the robot. When the hole is finally large enough, which should happen any day now, the robot will get to take his first dip in the lake.

Overview of this Season:

The plan for the season is basically divided into two parts. One part of the bot's mission here is to collect Sonde points (Sonde with a silent e). The Sonde, instrument lowered to collect data, points are collected by the robot traveling in a grid pattern, 100m at a time, and lowering the science load, or Sonde, down to about a meter above the ground. The science package collects data sets and measurements and then is pulled back up. Last year they did not quite complete the points throughout West Lobe, Lake Bonney so this year they will go back over area they covered last year and then collect points from the areas they could not get to last year.

The next mission is called the Glacier mission. At the west end of Lake Bonney lies Taylor Glacier and an area called Blood Falls.
Taylor Glacier, West Lobe Lake Bonney
Blood Falls and Taylor Glacier
Photo Credit: Peter Rejcek (USAP)
Blood Falls is an outflow of iron-oxide rich saltwater from inside the glacier, flowing out of Taylor Glacier. It looks like a red water fall that has stained the glacier; Blood Falls - pretty good name huh?

Peter Doran would like to the robot to map the interface, or meeting, of the glacier and the lake. The bot would go up to the glacier face, underwater, and use its multi-beam sonars to map the face of the glacier all the way up and down it. Then the plan is to weight the bot down with 500lbs of lead weights (500lbs of lead weight Loralee and I were responsible for packing in McMurdo!). The weight would allow the bot to go beneath the bottom of the glacier into an underwater caved formed by Lake Bonney and Taylor Glacier. This is completely unknown territory, as was most of Lake Bonney prior to Endurance's season last year. This under glacier exploration has the possibility of showing us something no one, or no bot, has ever seen before!

While these goals for Endurance are all incredible pioneer scientific expeditions in their own right, they also serve a greater mission. As I mentioned, this is a NASA funded project, these Antarctic explorations give us scientific data from Lake Bonney from a perspective no one has ever had before, a AUV. These also function as test missions for an eventual (2020 or 2030) trip to explore Jupiter's moon, Europa, which is believed to have oceans of liquid water which are under miles of ice.
Diagram of Europa's possible liquid ocean
Europa, Jupiter's Frozen Moon

This could only happen with a much more money and a much smaller AUV. Well, Endurance, its time to get in a season of work-outs and shed some of that 3,000+ poundage!



Thursday, October 22, 2009

My Bonney lies over the Ocean... or Frozen Lake

Antarctica is the most extreme and inhospitable place on Earth...

The coldest plateaus of ice surround the South Pole and cover the Eastern side of Antarctica where deeply frozen Lake Vostok and the Russian Station at Vostok sit with the record low temperature of -89.3C (-128.6F); the windiest place on Earth with Katabatic winds, cold heavy air racing downhill, like we have here in the Dry Valleys, reaching 100mph; the driest continent with less that 2inches of annual precipitation, most storms occur out at sea, and on land storms usually consists of winds blowing snow up and around to cause a very disorienting storm, known as a whiteout. The Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica freezes in the austral winter, in effect, doubling the size of the continent. Antarctica is the highest continent, with the mean average height of some of the highest mountains on Earth sky rocketing it upward, including Mt. Erebus sitting at 12,448ft. Antarctica is the most inhospitable continent on Earth, with no land animals or fixed human population. Where upwards of 2million people live above the 60degree N latitude, there is a fixed population of ZERO below 60degrees South... the only people here are visiting to work, study, or conduct research and that is at most 4000 people throughout one austral summer August (Winfly) - February (close of season for winter). When winter hits Antarctica and the temperature drops to 80 below and the sun sets for six long months of night, only the most insane of the insane stay, and experience the cold, the darkness and the wondrous Aurora Australis... the Winter-overs.

When looking at a map of Antarctica it may be quite disorienting for many, as it was for me, to understand just what is N,S,E, and W. With the South Pole at the center and the peninsula, the most distinguishing border of Antarctica, the part that comes up to meet South America, at the top left of your map, or globe, then you have East Antarctica on the right (60%) and West Antarctica on the lower left (40%). McMurdo Station (the main US station, the NYC of Antarctica) sits in the top right notch of the Ross Sea, the small indent on the bottom of the map, near New Zealand. I started my Antarctic quest in McMurdo Station, and still think of it as my little home away from home. But now I have moved to my field camp, my home for the next 8 weeks... Lake Bonney which is located in the Dry Valleys (which is - if your map/globe is still oriented like we discussed above - just to the right of McMurdo Station).

I am located in Taylor Valley at the front of Taylor Glacier in the middle of Lake Bonney.

The Dry Valleys are valleys nestled into the Transantarctic Mountains. They completely lack snow, except for the frozen lakes and the many glaciers that wind through the valleys. The Dry Valleys are the world's most extreme dessert. (Although it is snowing as I am writing this - which is extremely rare- but makes me really happy, because I love the snow and miss watching it fall, even very lightly.) The shores of frozen Lake Bonney are covered in rocks, sand, and pebbles and they slant uphill on all sides, up into the mountains. The rocky, sandy sloped shores are also strewn about with ventifacts. Ventifacts are rocks that have been eroded, pitted, polished, grooved, and reshaped by the constant wind. Some main features of these rocks are smooth surfaces, holes, curves, bends, jagged and sharp edges and points. Some are small enough to pick up and others are large enough to sit in the holes and curves from the wind.

Ventifact near camp

Jim and Maciek up on top of one of the larger ventifacts

Lake Bonney
Lake Bonney's Wikipedia page - this was fun for me to find!

The helicopter ride to my camp was breathtaking. The views of Mt. Erebus, sea ice, and mountains, and the frozen lakes and glaciers of the valleys were unbelievable from the helicopter - you just cannot get views like those from anywhere else. It felt as if I was in a BBC/Discovery nature documentary, like maybe - Frozen Planet, a sequel to Planet Earth, about the poles, presently being filmed here in Antarctica! We were flying over mountains and down into glaciers. Then this huge glacier came into view and we were so close to the steep drop off at the front of the glacier - my jaw dropped, I could not believe I was seeing this, it was a huge sheet of ICE! It opened to the edge of a huge frozen lake, with mountains on either side. It was the most beautiful, breathtaking area of the flight yet, and then I noticed some orange boxes in the center of the lake and then a camp came in to view. I suddenly realized that while I was taking in the sights, the amazing sights of this lake, that the helicopter had been getting lower and lower and was about to land at my new home... Lake Bonney!!! I started exploding with excitement and a smile spread across my face, that would take a while to fade... I was here, I was finally here! I could not believe it. I climbed out of the helicopter and the co-pilot helped me un-load my gear. I got out my radio and made contact with the helicopter, you have to make contact so they know that you have contact, before the helo can leave the landing pad. Then I sat through the immense wind of the helo taking off again and paused to looked around at my new home. The frozen lake is right there, we are basically up on the beach, it's our own little lake house. My Antarctic summer on the beach had only just begun...
Helicopter Views

Photo credit to Loralee Ryan, as I did not have my camera during my flight. The views were just spectacular, even more breathtaking in person (or in helo).

Life here at Lake Bonney camp is definitely rough. Everyday we wake up and have to check that all of the following are working, fueled, and if anything needs to be replaced, changed, or moved: water, fuel, heat, bathroom, garbage. Our water supply comes from chipping ice off Lake Bonney - which is hard work. Then we check how full all the garbage bins are - all of our trash is separated from food waste, to aluminum, light cardboard, and paper towels (which is really compactable non-recyclables: paper towels, tissues, clean food wrappers, paper wrappers, plastic wrappers). Next we check the barrels holding gray water (dish water, hand washing water, cooking water), the urine barrel (self explanatory), and the diesel source for our heater (it's very important that our heater runs!). Next I start on some dishes, cleaning in a bucket in the sink and rising in a bath of very lightly bleached water. We only change the sink water once a day, to use less water. Basically, besides drinking water, we limit any unnecessary use of water. Our power is generated by two large solar panels. Our Jamesway at Camp, a long, half dome shaped building, is always heated. It is a miss-mosh of years of use. It has silly wigs, posters, stickers, and pictures up from seasons past. In addition, since we have helicopter constantly coming back and forth from McMurdo and our field site, West Lobe of Lake Bonney, we have to make sure that everything is always held down by rocks, cargo straps, or is heavy enough to not be lifted by the wind of the propellers, and become trapped in the helicopter or become a UFO or weapon flying through the air. All fuel related items, barrels of fuel, generators, ATVs, propane tanks, all need to be on top of berms, or fuel containment liners, so no environmentally hazardous fuel spills into the ground.

Food Storage in our Jamesway

My work station, propane stove and refrigerator because, as we learned last night, power is not always reliable

The back of the Jamesway, with our little couch and back door

View of the Jamesway from shore

Our Jamesway and Outhouse

Our ice-chipping station, where we chip out ice for water

It has taken some adjustment to sleep well here, in the light and cold. I have also slowly become more comfortable on the ATVs we take to and from our work station on the other edge of Lake Bonney. The views constantly make my jaw drop. Every time I am stressed, cold, or tired, I look around and it immediately changes my attitude. This place is the essence of wilderness and untouched extensive landscape. The mountains and glaciers are things I could never quite put into words. I hope some pictures help...

Some of our tents set up in front of two descending glaciers. There are no trees or points of reference here that we know the size of, the rocks do not give us a clear picture. So it is nearly impossible to judge distances; while these tents were about a 45sec walk from me, that glacier is an hour away, easily.

My tent up on the hill with snow covered mountains and glaciers in the background

My tent with my sleeping bag and duffel



Lake Bonney Camp Manager

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Don't Worry, be Happy

We were just the happiest, of Happy Campers-

When you arrive in McMurdo station, Antarctica, you meet a lot of new people, from all walks of life. There is the staff at the McMurdo Hospital and the McMurdo Firefighters at the Station, who keep all us scientists and staff healthy and safe. The hospital stays busy with the fast spreading viruses and extreme cold weather. The Firefighters have very important jobs. If a fire were to happen here in Antarctica, all the buildings would catch fire very rapidly, and because we are isolated down on the bottom of the world no one else could come to help us! The Firefighters do not have a lot of fires to fight here, but it is comforting and vital to have them, because if something were to go wrong, it could go VERY wrong VERY quickly.

If you are in any of these groups, and will be spending anytime out in the field, or a significant distance from the safe haven of McMurdo station, then you must participate in a two-day outdoor Antarctic survival school. Known as Snow School, or more lovingly as Happy Camper. It starts with a half-day of lectures on survival in the extreme cold. Survival during an unexpected situation, is kept in a Survival Bag. These bags are kept in most cars, all planes and helos, and are brought with you if they may become necessary. It includes: tent, shovel, food, stove, and fuel. Survival also travels with us in the form of our ECW (Extreme Cold Weather) gear. The major concerns we have out here include: the cold, hypothermia (lack of heat), frostbite, windburn, sunburn, and because Antarctica is so dry our most serious threat is dehydration. When you are here your body is in a constant state of thirst and it is nearly impossible to stay hydrated. We have to constantly drink water... constantly. Dehydration adds to the effects of all injuries and threats we have out here, it also makes it harder to stay warm.
After class we were taken out to our camping spot, 30 minutes out on to the sea ice, of the frozen Ross Sea. Yep, we slept on FROZEN ICE! There were an even 20 people, including some of the BBC crew and my Dry Valley friends. With 20 people, the long day of hard activities, was not so difficult. Divide and conquer! We set up 2 large tents and six regular tents. Then we had the task, a little overwhelming and sort of insane task, of building a wall of ice blocks! I couldn't believe we were going to actually make walls of ice blocks! These walls would protect our tents from wind. So one group of people took the saw and began sawing regular sized blocks out of the snow. Then they were delivered to me, where I built them up into a wall and had to adjust everyone until they fit right. This was 30 feet of wall 3ft high, made entirely of blocks of ice! When I was done, the wall had curved twice to be the right distance from each tent, and looked more like the Great Ice-Wall of China.

Next we piled all out duffel bags together and covered them in snow. This would become a snow cave, or Quinzy, for two people to sleep in.

This was quite an undertaking and at one point, to provide motivation, out instructor climbed on top, where we were lacking in snow, and told us to throw snow on our instructor, which provided enough motivation for us to finish the piling!

After it harden, a few people worked on digging out the bags and creating a snow cave. I had my heart set on sleeping in that cave, and after Chadden, the BBC filmmaker, moved into a previous camps already built Quinzy , it was free for Kathryn (another BBC filmmaker) and I to sleep in! I was told by many, that is was the warmest place at night... AND I would get to sleep in a snow cave, and really, who can say they that?!

Then it was time to eat our dehydrated meals, I had brown rice and chicken. It was actually good, I enjoyed it! Plus the "cooks" kept water constantly boiling, which meant lots and lots of hot cocoa for me!

The view from Happy Camper, is where I belive it must get its name! It was unbelievable! We were out on the frozen Ross Sea, surrounded by plateaus of ice, and had unbelievable views of

Mt. Discovery

Black and White Islands
White Island and Black Island (snow and no snow)

Castle Rock

Castle Rock is a large snow less rock jutting out from the peninsula of snow

Silver City Ice Falls
Silver City Ice Falls is exactly what it sounds like, a waterfall of ICE!

Mt. Erebus

Mt. Erebus! Mt Erebus was unbelievable, it is a little over 12,000ft and you can see it all from the base to the open caldera pit steaming out the top of the completely snow and ice covered active volcano. Erebus is one of two, open pit caldera volacanos, the other is in Kenya, Africa, which means at the top, there is an open pit and you can look down in to the pit and there will always be bubbling liquid lava. That open pit and lava is causing the constant plume of smoke rising from the top of Mt Erebus. At the top, these pyroclastic bombs explode out of the pit all the time. Hot lava balls, solidifying quickly in the cold air, so they are very airfilled and light black wholey rocks. In them there are sometimes crystals of paligioclase feldspar, that is much harder then the pyroclastic rock, and thus stays a solid crystal when it comes up into the lava and gets expelled. They are called Erebus Crystals, the are black hexagonal usually, crystals coming out in many angles from a pyroclastic bomb. They are all over the top of Erebus and I have gotten to see a bunch that people have around here at McMurdo.

The night was excruciating! The air temperature was 26 below zero Fahrenheit! I spent most of the night awake and freezing! I drank water, ate chocolate, had boiling water bottles in my bag, a fleece liner, and multiple layers of long-underwear and fleece on! I did everything I was taught to keep warm, and I was still freezing! I was so happy when it was finally 620am and I could wake up, get on my parka, and walk around and BE WARM!!

When I woke in the morning I found out, my mate in the Quinzy or snow cave, who was sleeping closer to the door slept great! Best night of sleep she has had in a while. I account for the differences in the fact that I was getting over being sick, and this was not the craziest place she has slept! The life of a wildlife filmmaker! But I just couldn't sleep, I was too cold! In the morning, I had to call to check in, I took the job of Camp Manager in preparation for my time at Lake Bonney.

The next day we went through some drills to simulate emergency situations. One was the bucket-head drill. If you ask me, I am pretty sure this is just hazing, but the idea is to simulate a white-out. One person was assigned to watch for everyone's safety outside, and I volunteered! So no bucket for me, and it also meant some great pictures of my teammates! They all donned their white buckets, grabbed there knot we'd tied in the rope. The instructor was the victim lost on a whiteout and they had to find her outside. My team followed a well though out plan, very well and kept up good communication. The time constraint kept us from finding our lost instructor. The next mission was a faux plane crash. We were given a survival bag, and the group quickly divided up into groups, one working on making contact with Mac-Opps (main McMurdo contact), another set up a tent, and another lit the stove. I had 2 victims at my post in medical, one with a broken leg and one was hypothermic. The drill was quick and by the time I had my hypothermic patient drinking water and bundled, and my other patient's leg splint, the drill was over. I was shocked to see my team had the tent up, contact had been established and the stove was lit! I want them around if I crash in Antarctica!

Then we got on our shuttle and got back to McMurdo (what I am now calling home) and got to unwind for about an hour before dinner, and the Happy Campers were all the first at dinner! I really did learn a lot about survival in Antarctica. I had a blast with all my camping buddies, and as long as I had hot cocoa and big red, I was warm and happy! I slept that night, warm in my dorm and was only slightly worse for the wear the next day. But I woke to Sunday brunch in Antarctica... which let me tell you, it was a perfect end, to a "Happy" weekend.


Official Happy Camper survivor