Going down to the Antarctic is no joke, especially in winter. While it is possible that some fishermen might be around, we will very likely encounter no other vessels. There are very few icebreakers that can tackle the kind of ice we expect to see in winter, and most of those vessels have gone to the arctic for the summer. If something happens, we need to be able to rescue ourselves, or hang in there for several days until help can arrive. So, safety equipment and safety drills are a big thing down here.
We have an EMT and an infirmary onboard. No one ever goes in the infirmary unless there is a medical situation, so I don’t have any photos. We also have heaps of safety equipment like life jackets, immersion suits, and fully enclosed life boats stocked with emergency food and water. At the start of every trip we are trained on how to use all of these things.
We all had to try on immersion suits. I actually had to switch suits because the one I was originally assigned was way too big. This one fits pretty good, except my hair was a bit too big.
After trying on the immersion suits we moved onto the life boats. This ship comes equipped with two fully enclosed life boats that can carry 75 people each. We have 49 people on board, so yay redundancy. We also have several of the more traditional inflatable life rafts. However, in Antarctic conditions, you wouldn’t last very long in the inflatables. They are the absolute last resort.
As terrifying as the prospect of needing this gear is, I am really glad we have it. We will have weekly safety drills every Tuesday at 12:30. We won’t go through trying on the suits every week, but we will have to carry them around, and show up properly dressed in boots, pants, coats, hat and gloves. We also have to pack “bug out” bags that have snacks water, toilet paper and any needed medication.
Now it is time to cross the Drake and then get to work.
Here is a parting shot of some fishermen hanging out in their survival suits while at the dock in Punta Arenas.