ePub Dog Days On Ice ePub

by Peter Noble

“Dog Days on Ice” is the personal account of one man’s experience of a truly golden era for exploration. Much has been archived about the scientific achievements involved, but Peter Noble concentrates on the human experience of life on the ice in the 1960s. Through his account of a 600 mile dog sledge journey and two of the longest and biggest expeditions ever undertaken by the British Antarctic Survey, he tells of the pleasures and pitfalls, the humour and hardships, and also reflects on life back on the remote base of “Halley Bay”. His story is one of Huskies, of camping on ice, of blizzards and crevasses, of the cold, of amazing atmospheric conditions, of sledge building, puppy rearing and expedition planning, of remote mountains, of disappointment and ultimate success - of what it was like to live on the Antarctic continent for two years.

Perched on the floating Brunt Ice Shelf on the east side of the Weddell Sea, Halley Bay was ideally situated for not just its glaciological and atmospheric research but also for geographical exploration. Expeditions were dispatched many hundreds of miles to mountain ranges as yet unvisited, where most summits had never been seen before, and all were successfully explored, mapped and studied. It was an explorers’ paradise, for gone were the years of heroic gruelling journeys with inadequate equipment, minimal rations and high risk; expeditions were now well prepared and very well resourced.

The 60s provided a brief and precious period of sensible, self-disciplined adventure with dogs and tractors, but by the early 70s all major overland trips had been consigned to history. The significant reachable geographical objectives had been visited and, added to this, Huskies were declared an alien species. Dog travel dwindled to zero and the animals were either shipped elsewhere or culled, leaving just a couple as pets. The golden years were at an end; years when the men of Halley had been encouraged to exercise their enterprise and initiative in exploration; years when there was no one to blame if they got it wrong. They took care, acted sensibly and reached for a dream.

The clothing and equipment, though not yet as sophisticated as in later decades, were well researched and tested such that despite temperatures that could drop to minus 50°C there was no reason to become dangerously cold, and even outdoors in the depths of winter, frostbite was a rarity. The huts were well insulated and heated, they had electric lighting and many modern domestic conveniences; malnutrition was a thing of the past and they even had professional cooks.

Nevertheless, with a rather meagre budget the British were limited to servicing their bases once a year by sea rather than by air; as a consequence all personnel were shipped in for a tour of duty of usually two full years. This long term commitment directly generated what the author claims was another golden aspect of the era. Each base became a close independent community, isolated from the world, (and often unaware of world events) and this seemed to foster the spirit of pride and loyalty that exists to this day amongst the old guys. Later, when air transport became common practice so that scientists and maintenance staff could pop in for a few weeks or months, it is perhaps questionable as to whether the true “Antarctic spirit” could survive.

“Dog Days on Ice” is not just the story of Peter Noble’s field expeditions: it is essentially the story of everyone who made his achievements and his whole experience possible, and through his personal stories we get an absorbing insight into life at Halley Bay. The journeys themselves were the 1967 reconnaissance of an overland route to the Shackleton Range with dog teams and tractor support, and the 1968 expedition that proved the route with heavy tractors. They were to be the last major field expeditions from Halley Bay, or indeed by the British Antarctic Survey.

The Golden Age was over, but it was replaced by one of highly sophisticated technological development and significant scientific discoveries on, above and under the ice. In terms of man’s increasing understanding of Antarctica and its global importance perhaps that Golden era merely preceded the Platinum - but that is someone else’s story…

eBook tags: dog, days, ice, epub, download, epub, peter noble

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