Friday, October 21, 2005

Doo Loo

Imagine this: you’re an intrepid Antarctic explorer, camping with your team on a long expedition of scientific discovery on the vast frozen ice plains. The flat, completely exposed frozen ice plains. When you need to take care of certain bodily functions normally not mentioned in public, and normally conducted in private, just how do you accomplish this? And add to that the unbelievably cold environment — what on earth do you do when you need to poo?

Simon has the answers:

From 75 Degrees South:

No discussion of Antarctic camping would be complete without some mention of the toilet facilities! For peeing we use the simple but effective pee flag, which is just a marker to indicate where to go. This keeps all the waste in one place and ensures we don’t contaminate the snow collection point (where we get our fresh water from). This is particularly important if it is a site which we use year after year. The girls can make full use of the pee flag too thanks to an invention called a pee funnel (I won’t go into any more detail on that one).

Although the pee flag is fine most of the time, when it’s four in the morning and blowing a gale outside it takes a lot of motivation to get out of that nice warm sleeping bag and put on all your outside gear just to relieve yourself. For moments like that you need a pee bottle! Yes, it’s just like it sounds - a wide-topped, screw cap flask, preferably well labelled to distinguish it from your water bottle. Although the use of pee bottles may be shunned by purists (and indeed hygienists), I challenge anyone to sit through a four day Antarctic gale and not be singing their praises by the end of it.

Of course when you spend several days or more in the field eventually you are going to need to go for a poo (although some people make a valiant effort to avoid this - I believe the record is 5 days). To make that a more comfortable experience we put together a “doo loo”. Upon arrival each pair of skidoos has a tarpaulin thrown over them and tied down to prevent snow from getting into the engines. One of these pairs is assigned as the doo loo and is set up slightly differently. The skidoos are parked a bit further apart than normal so that a wooden board with a hole in it can be fitted between the two skidoos. A deep pit in the snow is dug below the board. The tarp is secured with snow on three sides and at the front it is held down by a couple of Jerry cans of fuel. There you have it - your own windproof, private toilet cubicle. Because it’s so cold it doesn’t actually smell as bad as you might imagine and you can even fit a toilet roll neatly on the skidoo handlebars - luxury!

You should add his site to your regular reading — there’s always some fascinating tidbit up there…

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