Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



Walking to training camp

NSF Polar Program

U.S. Antarctic Program

The National Zoo's Antarctica Expedition is sponsored by the National Science Foundation's Office of Polar Programs.

All photographs depicting Weddell seals were taken under NMFS Permit No. 763-1485-00 issued under the authority of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.




$62.53 million raised; 78.2% of $80 million goal

grapes with the apes

Snow Craft 101
November 12, 2006

Snow Craft 101 "classroom"

It's "safety first" at all times down here, and with good reason. So, before we are qualified to live out on the ice, we have to take safety training and demonstrate we have acquired some basic survival skills. Being able to build a safe and secure shelter out of whatever is available is one of the most important of these skills, and that's what this dispatch is about.

Setting up a tent

Digging a Quinzee

We set up a variety of shelters for our Snow Craft campout. These included: the Scott Tent; a cotton tent; mountain tents (the coldest sleeping); a "Quinzee," which is a pile of snow that has been hollowed out like an igloo; and a snow trench—narrow at the top and wider at the bottom and frequently covered with blocks of snow.

The Quinzee is supposed to be the warmest, but it is not for the claustrophobic. Those of us who slept in snow trenches reported good results, especially those who dug a couple of feet deeper than their sleeping area and covered the top with blocks of snow.

Jon after waking up in the morning of his first sleep out in Antarctica

The Scott tent was "cool"—a water bottle by my head froze solid during the night and the tent walls were lined with frost in the morning. I've slept colder in the Sierra's, but never in a colder environment. As it was, I had on a pair of heavy-duty dry wool socks, down booties, light-weight and medium-weight wool bottoms, light-weight wool underwear, medium-weight wool underwear, wool shirt, wind breaker fleece on top, plus my balaclava, scarf, and fur hat. Even with all that, I would have been more comfortable with a couple more layers. After this experience, my curiosity about snow camping has been completely satisfied!

Jon Robinson
Smithsonian Ice Camp