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Ravenshead Newsletter 03-2021 - 5


                                                               Col (Retd) David Sneath MA TD DL

   From Cape Royds we cruised along the Ross Ice Shelf before heading back North to Cape Adare and into Robertson Bay on the
   West side of the peninsula. There the brave or foolhardy, including the writer again in his 'shreddies,' did the Polar Plunge at the
   foot of gangway. The air temperature was minus 2 degrees Celsius and the water temperature a bracing plus 0.2. Methods of
   entry into the water were optional; many jumped and a few of us dived but all
   had to hold a rope so we could be hauled quickly out of the freezing water by
   one of our guides, Steve, an Australian reservist; so I knew I was in good
   hands.
   On via the Balleny Islands, the Brits on board, allowing for the time difference,
   marked Brexit at midday on 1 February at sea with drinks for all comers either
   to celebrate or commiserate. They had earlier festooned the bar with signal
   flags from First Officer Denis' collection that spelled out 'Brexit.' The final stops
   were at the Sub-Antarctic Campbell and Snares Islands to get up close and
   personal with Royal Albatrosses and the local Snarey penguins. By the time we
   returned to Bluff we had been at sea for 28 days, had been as far South as
   77°51.05' and had covered 5312 nautical miles, the equivalent of 6113 statute

                                                                                  The Polar Plunge


   A Dartmore Rescue                                                                      Tony Machin
   I did learn from my experience in “Footsteps in the snow” and over the next few years I observed all the safety rules for hill
   walking.  By the early 1970s I had spent a lot of time in Derbyshire, the Lake District and Dartmoor.  We were living in the
   coastal village of Wembury in South Devon and as the Commanding Officer of 2339 (Plymstock) Squadron ATC,  I had
   organised adventure training for cadets on the Moor, a number of whom completed the demanding Ten Tors Walk.
                                             While attending an ATC course on adventure training at Okehampton
                                             Army Camp I met with members of the Dartmoor Rescue Group and as a
                                             result became a member of the Tavistock section.  We met in Princetown
                                             each Tuesday evening for training whatever the weather for an exercise on
                                             the Moor.  We all became very confident and competent navigators in all
                                             conditions.  These sessions mostly ended up at the Devil's Elbow pub in
                                             Princetown to discuss the evening's performance over a pint and pasty.  I
                                             went on a number of “call outs”, usually late on a misty night, which
                                             mostly involved the location of various bedraggled people and leading them
                                             off the Moor to safety.  One incident, shortly before we left Wembury for
                                             Ravenshead, stands out in my mind, not only due to the really bad weather
                                             conditions, but also because a life was probably saved.
                                             The call out came at about 11.00pm.  A party of 6 Police cadets were
                                             overdue on a particularly featureless part of the South Moor.  We
                                             assembled in a car park below Gutter Tor and determined how we would
   tackle the search.  The only information available was that the party should be somewhere in the Great Gnats Head/Ducks Pool
   area.   The weather was grim.  Thick mist kept visibility even with torches down to only a few yards and there were heavy and
   frequent rain showers.  As we made our way along the track to the old Eylesbarrow tin mine my mind went back to a happy
   family day spent here the previous summer picking whortleberries (bilberries).  At the workings we picked up the track for
   Plym Ford.  Normally the crossing could be made without getting too wet, but now it was running quite fast, swollen by the
   rain.  We all made it across safely and then the real work began because we were faced with having to search across open Moor.
   We set a compass course for Ducks Pool, stopping every 100 yards or so to blow our whistles and then listen for any response.
   After about a mile we thought we heard a faint noise.  Fortunately one of the police cadets had a brainwave and shone his torch
   upwards into the swirling mist.  We saw this and immediately set our compasses to it, reaching them after about a quarter of a
   mile..   Although wet and cold, most of the party were alright.  However one of them was lying down wrapped in a tent.
   Puzzled, we asked why they had not pitched it and all sheltered inside.  Apparently nobody had bothered to do an equipment
   check before setting out and it was minus the poles!  The cadet on the ground was clearly suffering from serious hypothermia
   and we wasted no time in getting him into a bivouac bag and forcing hot
   soup down him while we prepared our MacKinnes stretcher.  This was a
   light weight  collapsible device with a single bicycle wheel.  It was designed
   by the renowned mountaineer and rescuer, Hamish MacKinnes.  It took a lot
   of the strain in transporting a casualty over rough terrain.  We were quickly
   on our way back to Plym Ford which was now even more swollen and we
   all got pretty wet making sure the stretcher and casualty stayed dry.  From
   there it was a rapid return along the tracks to the car park where an
   ambulance was waiting.
   Did we save his life?  Well he was in a bad way when we got to him and I
   am fairly certain he would not have lasted the night in those weather
   conditions.

   Many thanks to Tony for his contributions during these difficult times.  His contributions have gone a long way to keeping Newsletter going.Unfortunately Tony says this is his last contribution, though he will keep Byron Probus news up to date.   We will miss his writing.  Ed.
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