Snow School

[Sorry for the gap in communication but McMurdo Station experienced some
planned network outages while they tested some hardware for a pending
network upgrade — all went well, I understand.]

No diploma, but I’ve officially passed snow school!

For those who have been wondering: I’m fine. Snow School would not have been cancelled due to “bad” weather (since that’s the whole point: preparing yourself with the skills to handle unpredictable and predictably cold conditions), but I think I really lucked out. My snow school was held in lovely Condition 1 weather. In Antarctica, the weather is described by “condition” : condition 1 – condition 2 – and so forth. Here is the official description:



The intent of this policy is to provide guidelines for safe vehicle and foot travel for all participants related to the USAP. This policy is applicable for the austral summer months, October-February. Severe weather conditions have historically been instituted to define potential risk situations and allow the establishment of standard procedures to minimize risk. The following defines severe weather conditions and the safety and travel restrictions, which apply to ALL personnel working in and around McMurdo Station.

CONDITION 3 is defined as having winds less that 48 knots, wind chills warmer than -75F and visibility greater than 1/4 mile. This is considered the normal weather condition in McMurdo.

CONDITION 2 is defined by one or more of the following conditions: winds speeds 48- 55 knots, wind chills of -75 to -100 F, or visibility of less than 1/4 mile.

CONDITION 1 is defined by one or more of the following conditions: wind speeds greater than 55 knots, wind chills colder than -100F, or visibility of less than 100 feet.


During snow school, we had “condition Florida” weather! Well, okay, maybe
Alaska on spring break. It was cold but very sunny (!) due to the gaping
vortex hole in the ozone over Antarctica. I smeared SPF50 sunscreen on my
face like it was moisturizer, and still got some color (and raccoon-eyes,
from the dark glasses). One quick image of a Scott tent (with Mt Erebus
steaming in the background) enclosed – I’m off to take a hike up Observation
Hill while the weather holds.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s