Survival

An expeditioner lays down two metal planks over a crack in the ice
Securing a weak area in the fast ice to support Hagglunds near Colbeck Archipelago (Photo: Wayne Papps)
Expeditioners study a half-submerged HagglundThree white crosses are secured in the rocks overlooking the bay at Mawson

Survival in extreme conditions is something that most Antarctic expeditioners face at one time or another. By considering factors such as rations, equipment, and unpredictable weather and exploring the experiences of others, these activities encourage planning and problem solving.

  • Ask students to plan what items would they would take on a field trip in order to survive? They should incorporate the possibility that they might not reach a field hut, or that it has blown away. (See food in the field for the contents of a ration pack.)
  • Waste management in the Antarctic. Ask students to discuss the problems bodily functions might present. How do they think they could minimise these problems?
  • A vehicle has fallen down a crevasse. How would students set about getting it back? (For example, work out their own pulley system.)
  • In Antarctica, whiteout can occur any time and it may be impossible to find your way even a couple of metres between tents, huts or vehicles. Ask students to imagine what it would be like in a whiteout. You could blindfold students to simulate a whiteout experience (or better still paint a pair of cheap snow goggles white or spray paint with Christmas frosting - so you can only just see your hand in front of your face). Spin them around and have them attempt to find their way to a particular place. How could they ensure safe passage from one place to another in a whiteout? (For example 'blizz lines' strung between buildings; or you could tell the story of Byrd who realised he had to count his paces to find his way back to shelter.) Ask them to describe their feelings.
  • Have students read the expeditioner profiles and describe in their own words some of the risky situations those expeditioners found themselves in. What decisions would they make in those situations?
  • Ask students to look at pictures of field shelters. What advantages might they have over polar pyramid tents or other refuges? For example they can be flown around, superior insulation, more substantial than tent fabric, can be erected in minutes…
  • What environmental considerations should be taken into account in determining the location of a new field hut? Ask students to assess the environmental impact of a planned construction (actual or imaginary) at your school e.g. building a classroom, knocking a building down. Have students write an environmental impact assessment.
  • Read the Antarctic survival stories of Mawson, Byrd and two modern-day expeditioners. (They were variously attacked by a ferocious leopard seal, plunged into a bottomless crevasse, lost overnight in a near-hurricane-force blizzard, and poisoned slowly by carbon monoxide.) See the 'Home of the Blizzard' site for further information on Mawson's Australasian Antarctic Expedition.
This page was last modified on January 23, 2014.