Antarctic Safety Rules - A Selection
adapted from the
- Perspiration is dangerous because it predisposes an individual to frostbite and
freezing. Keep clothes dry, both externally and internally. Change and dry your socks
and inner soles at least daily -- twice daily if out on the trail. Underdress rather
- Do not wear shoe-mukluk or shoe-overshoe combinations. Under survival conditions
you will lose a leg.
- Shoes and socks must not be tight. If you wear size 9 but 10 feels so good you always
buy 11's, then your Antarctic footwear should be size 12 and 13 in order to allow
your toes to move freely and to give sufficient insulation to your entire foot. Do
not wear too many socks, however, unless they are each successively larger in width
as well as in length. Socks which are too big make folds which create pressure points
and increase the tendency to injury from the cold. If your feet hurt, you are not
hurt. When they stop
hurting however, investigate immediately
, rewarm and exercise feet until sensation returns, and change to dry socks and dry
inner soles or even grass if necessary.
- Do not ever touch cold metal with moist, bare hands. If you should inadvertently
stick a hand to cold metal, urinate on the metal to warm it and save some inches
of skin. If you make a mistake and touch both hands to cold metal, you'd better have
a friend along!
- Be careful handling gasoline, kerosene, or liquids other than water. Contact at
cold temperatures will induce immediate frostbite.
- Protective glasses or goggles must be worn at all
times during daylight hours outdoors, whether the sun is shining or it's overcast.
On sunny days, in addition, the nose and cheeks may be lampblacked to prevent glare.
Scratchy, teary, light sensitive eyes are an indication of snow blindness, but there
are no symptoms until the eyes have already been damaged. Snow blindness results in
a loss of two to five days on the trail at best -- at worst , snow-blind people hold
up their trailmates with their helplessness. They can fall in crevasses or become
lost easily and freeze to death. Don't breathe too deeply of the exhilarating polar atmosphere,
particularly at temperatures lower than -25 F, without a face mask of some sort.
- Remember: sea and shelf ice can break up in a matter of minutes due to ocean swells.
Given a little wind or current, you will go to sea on your own private ice raft.
Stay away from tidal cracks and ice edges. Give icebergs, headlands, and glacial
fronts a wide berth. They are all
dangerous. NEVER camp on sea ice if it can be avoided.
- Seals emerge to sun on the sea ice through breather holes which are more easily
made and kept open in the thin ice. This is commonly found near working cracks in
sea ice, through tidal cracks along shore, near grounded bergs, and at junctions
of shelf and sea ice. Where seals are numerous and safe, man is not.
- If you find yourself in the water, keep moving!
You can swim 100 to 200 yards fully clothed if you have to. In fact, your clothing
helps rather than hinders buoyancy , so keep it on
. If you get out on the ice and there is no help, stay
on your feet and keep moving some more. It is the only
way you can keep warm until help arrives.
- If a snowmobile breaks through a small crevasse, continue driving forward. The tracks
may climb out of the crevasse.
- If you fall into a crevasse with a snowmobile, turn off the engine immediately to
prevent carbon monoxide buildup in the crevasse and subsequent carbon monoxide poisoning.
United States Antarctic Program Participant Guide
National Science Foundation, Arlington, VA 22230
Blackline Master #8