An ic(k)y accident

By Reuters Staff
January 11, 2010

A penguin stands on the water's edge during a blizzard at Cape Denison, East Antarctica.When you live on the edge of Antarctica, coping with gale force winds, blizzards, snow and ice, the risk of accidents are heightened.

Every time we leave the base we carry radios and if planning to be out for a while we carry survival kits to minimise the risk of accidents occurring, as the nearest help is 200 kilometres away at the French base of Dumont d’Urville.

In my case I had my first accident today and radio contact or a survival kit couldn’t have helped me. Luckily, I survived, but my dignity was left a bit smelly.

Stuck inside for a second day because of an impending blizzard, with winds reaching 60 knots, the opportunity to get outside and work isn’t possible, so all 10 of us have been cooped up inside our base — the Sorensen hut.

In sheer desperation to get outside for fresh air, I volunteered to help with the slops run.

Having done this run many times now I have the drill down pat: put on an extra layer of heavy duty clothing, gloves, balaclava and hat; seal the containers tight; carry them from the kitchen and the toilet down a set of steps and pack them on a slay, or in more windy conditions in the trailer of a Quad bike; travel with a second person to the water’s edge to dispose of the contents.

Well, when we reached our destination today, I wrestled with a heavy container that was full to the brim.

Me saturated after wearing some of the contents of the slops bucketNoticing that my general fitness level has improved since I’ve been here, I was feeling happy with myself for getting it onto the side of the trailer, so I unscrewed the kitchen slops container, which contains a concoction of used dishwater, the dregs of unused tea & coffee, diluted with the contents of 10 people’s teeth cleanings, and turned to dispose of it.

That’s when disaster struck. I fell down a hole in the snow.

The disgusting contents hit the ground and what immediately looked like a dirty grey tidal wave came rushing towards me, hitting me in the face, neck and right down my coat, managing to swamp my gloves, all in a matter of seconds.

Thankfully, my balaclava protected my face from a direct hit and my coat and gloves bore the brunt.

When I stopped laughing long enough to straighten myself up, I took the next container to the water’s edge, determined to succeed, despite my previous attempt.

This time I managed to dispose of refuse into the Antarctic water, but not completely unscathed. The wind sprayed its contents over the sleeve of my coat, but unlike the slops which don’t smell too bad, this yellow liquid was very smelly. My coat is now pegged to my tent stays, blowing in the wind.

The upside is the smelly accident made me laugh and gave me the opportunity for a much coveted shower.

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