Here I am in a deep Antarctic field camp, living in tents, but I have to say, it’s pretty cush. We have sinks with running water, showers and even a washing machine! However, in order to have water we have to melt it.
We are surrounded by water, but it’s in the form of snow. Maybe you’ve heard about this West Antarctic Ice Sheet… it’s what scientists have been studying, fearful that with our current global warming and climate change that this will melt or fall into the oceans, raising water levels to dangerous levels. Remember the name of my camp?? WAIS (West Antarctic Ice Sheet)…yup, I’m living on that ice sheet for the next couple months. I stand on snow and ice about 10,000+ feet deep, pushing the continent down below sea level. (Camp is 6000 ft above sea level.) This is the worlds largest desert though, with only 2 feet of precipitation annually.
To make water we take this snow and melt it. Simple, right? Way out behind our tents is an area flagged off as our “Ice Mine”. It’s clean snow no one is walking over. Every couple days our heavy machine operators will bring big scoops of this snow and drop it behind the “Galley” and the “Rec” (Recreation) Tent.
We are all careful not to walk over these mounds of snow. We then shovel up large garbage cans (55 gallons) of snow and dumping it into the snow melters that are located in the back of both of these tents.
We have separate designated gloves and shovels we use so as to minimize contamination and there are water filters as well. But I’m not sure I’ve ever seen more pure snow than here. The water is great in my opinion! It takes about 2 loads for a shower and 3 loads for a load of laundry.
In the back of those tents there’s a “module” thats attached which has the snow melters connected to a water holding tank next to a hot water tank. These are the only two places with running water. No toilets though. For that we have outhouses, pee holes and our own pee bottles. More on that topic later.
One of my favorite things to do with our pure melted snow, besides drink it and shower, is making “hipster ice”. Not only do I shovel and make the most water of anyone at camp (except maybe the night time weather guy – we might be tied), but I also make the ice and store it in a bucket in the vestibule (a tent’s foyer). This isn’t just any ole ice. I take water and pour it into a deep cookie sheet and place it outside for a few hours. Then I break it up (breaking bad style) into little mini icebergs.