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Wednesday, October 10, 2007: Today is our LAST training session!
After this, we should be fully prepared to survive and do all the things we need to in the Antarctic. Our morning training session was drivers training. We learned about the most normal vehicles on station, 4wd trucks with special parking brakes that won’t freeze, and then a new one for me, the Tucker Sno-Cat. Vehicles are in such short supply down here that we are lucky to get this vintage 1984 two stroke diesel, and as an added extra bonus, it will be customized with blackout curtains and a computer bench so we can use it as a mobile control room for ROV operations. Here's Bryan exiting the cab after successfully piloting the Tucker around town.


Before the driving lessons, Mindy and I spent a couple of hours sorting through our small machines and making sure that all the pieces fit together. In the process, we manage to break the lift gate on the borrowed truck that we hadn’t yet been trained to drive. Not that the training would have helped, as lift gates appear to be one of those things that “everyone” knows how to operate. Next time, we won’t be shy about asking more questions!
One of the many "small engines" - this one is a 5kW generator that Mindy and I played with first thing in the morning. Tom is explaining to us how to get it started in the extreme cold - just keep pulling!

In the afternoon we got more training – this time with smaller machines – snowmobiles, ATVs, generators, Jiffy and Badger drills, and the Hotsy hole melter. Our brains were swimming with which fuel goes in which machine (it can be mogas, diesel or premix), where the chokes are, how many priming pumps to give a snowmobile versus a Jiffy drill, and whether to lean into or out of turn. We finished up with Pisten Bully training, which is a very cool tracked vehicle, and then proceeded to check out a Mattrack, the one vehicle we have NOT been trained on, for use tomorrow.

Bob, one of the MEC folks, shows us the relevant innards of an Alp snowmachine.

Julie shows us how to check out a Pisten Bulley for broken bits before we start driving it.

Bob and Mindy are exhausted by all the trainings!

Now that we’re through all this, we can finally start the work we came here to do. All of the training has been useful and well done and necessary, but we’ve been here for a whole week already! In celebration of the first week, we gave out an award to the person who had done the least number of bonehead things. First we were going to give a booby prize to the person who did the MOST boneheaded things, but it turned out that that wouldn’t work because all of us have made at least a couple of mistakes. So let’s see, Mindy and Stacy don’t get the award because they got frostbite on their fingers and lips respectively. Nick peed on himself (and Bryan’s camera, though this somehow didn’t make it into his update), and Bryan hooked up a microchip backwards and melted some of the bits. Bob blew his fin off underwater while gently floating upside down. Fortunately, none of these problems were major and all have been fixed more or less. But we’ll try to be more careful and aware so these kinds of things don’t keep happening.

So what did Marcus win? Flashing, floating penguin bathtub toys of course!
Marcus is wearing a "stupid hat" as punishment because he is two days late writing his update. But he seems to like his prize!

While we are on the subject of Marcus looking silly, here is an image of him just before his First Antarctic Dive. He was so excited that he did not even realize that I was taking a picture of him with his pants around his ankles. Both he and Nicholas had great dives, and did just fine in the cold water. I'll leave it to them to tell you about their experiences firsthand.

Bob at the safety stop under the ice, with a beautiful jelly.

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This material is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. ANT-0619622 ( Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.