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Victoria University Antarctic Research Expedition Science and Logistics Reports 1994-95: VUWAE 39

11. Field Equipment

11. Field Equipment

11.1. Clothing

Clothing performed quite well. Relatively mild temperatures meant that feeling cold was not too much of a problem, though toward the end of the trip when food was becoming low, the quicker onset of cold was noticeable by all members of the party. The only major problem we had with the clothing was wetness when travelling in conditions with falling or blowing snow. This problem was overcome by wearing the waterproof oversuits supplied to us. These oversuits were good for this purpose, but we still believe that they would be difficult to use for their intended purpose as a suit to go over survival clothing. If the suits were to become regular issue as a waterproof garment, then modifications to make them similar to other issued clothing would be needed.

11.2. Tents

Our team trialed a modification on the standard polar tent design involving split poles to fold the tent to a more compact size. We experienced no great difficulties with the system of slotting poles together, though we would be suspicious of using the system in extreme conditions of cold or wind. Some form of lubricant where the poles join together would improve the ease with which the join could be made and also pulled apart

We carried with us two dome tents as emergency back-up. We also found these tents useful as a mobile "laboratory" in which batteries could be charged more efficiently due to the warmer environment. In future we would consider taking an extra tent of this type solely for the purpose of "laboratory", thus avoiding the necessity to disassemble the tent before a days travel from base camp.

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11.3. Food Boxes

We experienced many short falls with the Food Boxes. We quickly ran out of items such as spreads, leaving us with a large excess of crackers that we could either not eat or eat dry. Muesli bars were way in excess; we brought back the equivalent of about 10 muesli bars for each member of the party, and would have brought back more had other food not run out.

We were concerned with the used by dates on many items in the boxes. Muesli bars were often up to 3 years out of date and showing it Tinned fish is an especially dodgy product when in date, let alone out of date. Thought should perhaps be given to replacing these and other items (eg. milk powder). We wonder whether it is worth risking food poisoning for deep field parties that are perhaps days away from assistance?

We found that with all the food allocated as per NZAP guidelines, we ran short of food by the end of the trip. The result of this was that instead of having the required 14 days per person extra food, we only had at most 7 days. This equates to the food boxes having the equivalent of 16 person days of food as opposed to the stated 20.

Items that we believe should be given a greater emphasis in boxes include:
  • frozen meat and vegetables (an extra 4 person days per box)
  • pasta and rice (an extra packet of each would make a difference)
  • spreads (jam, honey, vegemite etc)
  • margarine (vanished quickly because needed for cooking)
Less emphasis should be put on:
  • tinned fish (especially out of date)
  • muesli bars (reduce or replace some with extra cookies)

We would also have liked to see some cooking oil included in the food boxes as we frequently used the teflon frypan for meals.

Maybe it is worth considering a system by which field parties can select their own food, thereby allowing them knowledge of exactly what they have in the field and enabling some degree of selection of preferred items.

11.4. Other Equipment

Technical climbing equipment, whilst not used to any great extent, appeared to be of suitable standard.

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Sledges worked well and no problems were experienced. When moving camp, we carried loads that pushed the maximum capacity of the sledges, but no damage occurred under normal use.

The contents of the kitchen boxes were adequate, though inclusion of a sealable milk-shaker would be more useful. The teflon frypans are a definite plus.

Stoves all worked well and were clean and in good working order when we got hold of them. The only field maintenance required was the replacement of the burner nipple on one primus and the tightening of the nipple on another.

We had no problems with the generator supplied other man the lack of a 12V DC charger that we had expected. We were impressed with the ease at which the generator started and its persistence even when partly covered by blowing snow. We were grateful for the wooden box made at Scott Base to shelter and transport the box. Such boxes should be considered standard issue with all generators.

All equipment was returned to Scott Base in working order. One sledge was returned with a broken deck rail as a result of improvising to retrieve AL4, the skidoo that severed a nose ski. Regretfully, a lot of the equipment was returned uncleaned, but due to our rapid transit through Scott Base this was unavoidable. We are apologetic and grateful to the staff at Scott Base with whom this gear was left

Overall, we found the field equipment supplied of a suitable standard and the service in providing this equipment of an equivalent standard. We would however suggest some major thinking on the food boxes and hope that some of our other minor suggestions above will be considered.