Thursday, 14 January 2016

Survival. Or lack there of.

"You're going to die"

I cannot hope to be able to count the number of times that we, here at UNIS, have heard this phrase since Monday. If we step here, we die. If we don't step there, we die. If we don't have a specific shoe, we die. If we're wearing mismatching colours, we die. Hell we may as well be told if we sneeze we die.

Funnily enough the Arctic is an inhospitable environment in which bad choices will likely lead to someones death or at least severe injury. This is nothing new and we were aware of this before coming here, that's why we were constantly told not to be eaten by a polar bear. NOOO, YOU DON'T SAY. The arctic survival course may as well be 1000 ways to die on Svalbard (not taking credit for that joke) but it's true.

All this aside of course it's incredibly important to have this training and so we started the week with advanced arctic first aid and dealt with those infamous manikins which we were forced to ask whether they were okay before administering CPR; we were told to ignore the fact that they had no arms and legs, a "flesh wound" as the black knight would say. It was super fun actually and we had a huge laugh with each other, making new friends such as Benjamin (Resident skyscraper), Emile (Resident funny guy), and Heather (Resident dwarf). Unfortunately I didn't manage to get any pictures of the practical first aid but the essence was tightly wrapping people up in many many layers of super warm (sort of) sleeping bag, take a look at Lucys blog for some pictures. The day was wrapped up with a tour of the facility and a chance to see where we'd be spending the next 4 months.

Onto Wednesdays tasks, in the morning we had some avalanche training in which we practiced techniques used to dig into the snow that has more than likely completely buried a person. It's not likely that someone caught in an avalanche is able to remain on their feet and more often than not is dragged under and encased in a frozen hell for what can be between half an hour and several but must feel like a lifetime to person trapped. We're said to have about 35 minutes to save someone in such conditions before their survival rate drops to about 35%. Scary. Nontheless it was a lot of searching and digging and all in all quite eye opening to the kind of conditions out there that made the lecturers initially say "you're going to die". 

In the afternoon we took a trip out to a freshwater lake just outside of town dressed in snowmobile kits and had the scenario that someone had fallen into the sea ice and had to be saved. The best part of this is when Heather offered herself as the victim to be in the water to which the lecturer looked her up and down and concluded "We're going to need a smaller suit". I was so gone. But the pictures are amusing.

The following gentleman was required to get in to save Heather. Sporting a very fashionable survival suit that you'll no doubt see on the catwalk next season.

The next section contains the rescue procedure and a few attempts of people getting into the ice and having to claw themselves out using ice-picks.

It's safe to say that it was cold and we wanted to get home as fast as we possibly could to get into something warmer! Though saying that, being in the water wasn't an issue, it was getting out and realising that your feet had been left behind, or they may as well have been as there was no feeling left in them...

Moving in to today, we had glacial rescue and map work to ensure that we could recover someone who had fallen down a crevasse and also to be able to inform anyone we were calling for help from, where we were. The Glacial rescue procedure was quite simple in theory but when the adrenaline is pumping and you know you have a finite time frame to the point where you're the deciding factor between whether someone is rescued or dies whilst trapped, I can imagine getting those ropes in the right place can be difficult. We were told a story about an incident in which 3 people fell down a crevasse with one casualty in which the person had become trapped by their head, meaning their head was wedged and the rest of their body was hanging underneath. Yeah, unpleasant.

So I hope by now you've got some of the feeling as to how much we've been told we're going to die this week and quite rightly so as if proper precautions aren't taken and if people don't listen to the established rules, accidents will happen. But the training has been invaluable and will almost definitely improve anyone present chances of survival in life threatening scenarios.

On a lighter note, Rifle shooting tomorrow; Something I've been looking forward to all week! I'll be sure to let you know how I do :)

On that note I shall bid you all farewell and let you know that despite the apparent danger, none of us have been harmed and I think the only fatality has been part of Lloyds coat that became ripped in an exercise. Hazaar! Also the first part of the video with us travelling to Longyearbyen is completed:

Check back soon for more!

Time for a cuppah I think.

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