The Other Things We Have to Do…

A consequence of being at a remote Antarctic Base is that one does not have the option of calling 000 for emergency services. The expeditioners wintering at all Australian Antarctic bases become the emergency response. Fire is one of the biggest threats on an Antarctic Base so  Fire Prevention is of major concern.

As a result we attended a extensive 5 day training course at the Tasmanian Fire Service training facility at Cambridge (near Hobart Airport).

One of the initial parts of the training was in the use and identification of the different fire extinguishers.



Learning how to fight a fire with the appropriate fire extinguisher
Many house fires start in the kitchen – When a pan or pot of oil catches alight the common reaction is to pour water on the fire.
We were shown a demonstration on why this should not be done!!
The instant that water is poured onto burning oil
A split second later the water and oil vaporise resulting in a fire ball

We also learnt how to safely handle a big fire hose… The nozzle at the end of the hose is called a branch where the water flow rate and spray pattern are controlled.

Kerryn controls the branch while Paul (Sharky) and Christopher assist in holding the heavily primed hose
A very important part of the training included the safe and correct procedures in using Breathing Apparatus (BA) in fire fighting and emergency rescue. Correct fitting of the mask was paramount. Incorrect procedure could result in lethal gases entering the mask.
Expeditioner fire fighters in BA about to enter a burning building
BA1 and BA2 approach a vehicle on fire

On each of Australia’s Antarctic stations there is a roster of the weekly fire team on call. A fire team consists of 6 expeditioners – Fire Chief, BA1, BA2, BA3, BA4 and BA Controller. The BA controller has a clip board and a timer – They check that the BA is fitted coreectly and they write down how much air each of the BA cylinders has and a time when that is expected to run to a safe low level. They also take the alarm key from the alarms on the BA set. The BA controller usually is also the pump operator.

Richard the BA controller and pump operator

We learnt many techniques of hoe to control or extinguish fires. This depends on the type of fire, the material or fuel that is burning. The primary concern is the safety of the Fire fighters and rescuers.

Two teams controlling a LPG gas cylinder fire. The right hose is spray to protect the fire fighters from the intense heat. The left hose aimed at the cylinder to cool them down. The person between the 2 hoses is directing the left hose aim, receiving hand signals  from the person on the far left.
Observing the difference in temperature and intensity when LPG gas fire changes from vapour to liquid.

It was a intense but very rewarding and informative week of training.

Davis Fire Team

The final part of our training took place a few days before departing for the south. This was basic Search and Rescue (SAR). Again the reality is that we can’t call on anyone but ourselves in the case of an emergency.

In bushland behind the Antarctic Division in Kingston we became familiar with some of the equipment that we will have in our SAR kit. We were also shown how to use this equipment as a precursor to further intensive training when we reach the Antarctic continent.

SAR training – learning about ropes and pulleys
An exercise in weight distribution on anchor points and using ropes and pulleys
Becoming familiar with the climbing harness and helmets used in SAR

Thanks for viewing this blog. Please share the link and don’t hesitate to drop me a line or a question.

The next post will be about the voyage through he Southern Ocean.


2 thoughts on “The Other Things We Have to Do…

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 )

Google photo

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

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s