(By Dixie Dansercoer)
1. Protocol for the tests:
- Sled + Kayak: flotation and re-entry
- Pulling harness
- Drysuits (comfort, visibility, ease of putting on, whistle, …)
- Throw bag / different kinds of rope (weight, flotation, dry, …)
- Mini Anchor (as small and light as possible, efficiency, danger in sled, …)
- Ice picks (ease of use, safety issue, …)
- Life jackets (as small and light as possible, efficiency, easy to don, …)
- PLB/ Iridium/ Spot/ …
- Safety release (from sled)
- Polar Clothing
- Walking sticks: ease of taking off or use to spread body weight on ice, flotation
- Skis: ease of taking off, flotation
- Inflatable mattresses
1.1 Dry tests:
- Roll sleds
- Throw bag
- Safety release
1.2 Wet tests:
- Sleds: attached to person or not (use dry bags with sand to simulate weight in sleds)
- Connect two sleds together (sometimes people pull two sleds)
- Fall in water with or without Drysuit
- Drysuit with or without ice pics, life jacket, PLB, whistle
- Practice safety release from sled
- Practice releasing skis
- Practice releasing sticks/poles
2.1 A fall in the water in regular polar outfit with skis that cannot be released, poles that dangle off your hands and cannot be taken off.
2.2 Comparative test with drysuit imposes quick donning: putting on the suit should not take more than one minute (some drysuits take much longer).
2.3 Only one-piece suits (hands and feet included in the suit) are practical and do not let water in. Disadvantage is lack of dexterity but for this there is no other solution.
2.4 On thin ice, it is imperative to wear skis and therefore the drysuit needs to accommodate a system that connects the suit to the binding (R & D for the next couple of months will be executed).
2.5 As our skis during the tests all floated (test yours though) and since they impair movement in the water (especially when the skis are caught under half-broken ice), you need to be able to take them off quickly. This is easy with bindings of the type Salomon SNS or Rotofella NNN, customized with a release rope and handhold, others simply cannot be released.
2.6 Life vests deprive the person in the water of vision and movement. The automatic inflation most life vests offer, should be bypassed with manual inflation or even more simple inflation by the mouthpiece only.
2.7 Initial flotation with the drysuit (air that sits between the many layers of clothing) will be pressed out in a relatively short time especially when the lower body is pushed under the water. Eventually - on average after 5 minutes – the pressure of the water against the suit makes for direct impact of the water’s temperature onto compressed clothing. Thus, the initial feeling of comfort quickly disappears. Therefore, if self-rescue is no longer possible, flotation on the back is advised as the trapped air will remain in the suit longer in this position compared to trying to ‘stand upright’.
2.8 A quick-release for the sled is useful if you do not want to be attached to your sled anymore to improve freedom of movement. The system – adopted from and proven by trial and error for kitesurfing- is very simple in use and fool-proof.
2.9 Throw bag: A typical, commercial throw bag is useful to throw to someone in distress but the person cannot be too far away, 10 to 15 meters max. If you want to ‘bridge’ an area of open water or lead when a person is on the other side to catch the rope you throw, you need thinner polypropylene rope (most other ropes DO NOT FLOAT). With a small, yet heavy plastic ball that floats one can throw the thin rope up to 25 m far.
In my humble opinion, I think Mark and Philip made a mistake by the rescuer leaving the safety of the stable ice (we do not know if they had safety equipment was available in the sled remaining on the ice).
2.10 Sticks/poles float, so the only thing you want is to adapt your wrist loops so that they stay ‘open’. This, we already do for ease of going in/out with big outer mittens during normal use, by using flexible metal wire, attached to the loops with tape.
2.11 Climbing from the water onto the sled is not easy as a single sled does not offer enough flotation to be safe, especially since you simply capsize because of the round hull. The only real safe way to deal with thin ice is to attach TWO medium or large sleds/kayaks one to the other rigging skis across to make a steady and safe ‘catamaran’. Smaller sleds are inadequate.
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Dixie Dansercoer is a veteran Belgian polar explorer with North Pole and South Pole crossings and Antarctica and Greenland circular routes in the bag among other expeditions.
Previous about Dixie Dansercoer
A practical polar handbook by Dixie Dansercoer
Young Gun And Old Rat Drawing A Zen Circle Glacial Roundabout
Antarctica: Dixie Dansercoer and Sam Deltour bag kiting world record
Dixie’s PolarCircles website
Dixie’s PolarExperience website
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