Above: Todd & Donette Swain rigging anchors in the sea ice so that scientists can safely approach the edge.
Mad Rock athletes Todd & Donette Swain worked in Antarctica last winter for the United States Antarctic Program. Todd worked as a Field Safety Coordinator (Mountaineer) and Donette as a Field Coordinator. The couple’s extensive climbing and outdoor skills were needed for potential search and rescue missions and to keep scientists safe and well-cared for.
An example of this was a trip to the edge of the sea ice with a group of scientists. The team flew in a helicopter out to the edge of the frozen sea. Once landed, Donette and Todd rigged safety lines and haul systems so that the scientists could be right at the very edge of the ice to collect samples from the ocean. The rigging was essential, as falling into the near-freezing water in huge, insulated clothing would be a sure way be in serious trouble. As the science was being done, two orcas and a group of penguins came to visit!
Other field assignments included taking scientists onto glaciers where there was potential danger from crevasses, checking fixed ropes that had been placed on a peak to provide access to its summit and maintaining remote field camps.
McMurdo Station, the largest of the United States bases in Antarctica, is where the duo was stationed. The base has many of the comforts of home – a galley, library, gyms and even a modest climbing wall! The couple made sure Mad Rock shoes had a chance to touch what is perhaps the southernmost climbing wall in the world.