Sunday, November 13, 2005

Shelter Overnight

On Thursday we had a brief lecture on constructing shelters, we then went off into the woods and built some. This year, each clan chose to construct a "debris-pi" - sort of a tipi constructed with debris. We started construction probably around 11am and it gets dark around 5pm so we had time, but not an abundance of it. The basic format of the debris-pi was to build a sturdy frame out of sticks and then dump a bunch of debris on top, in this case mainly maple leaves that were in abundance and some sword fern that is also quite common there. Though it didn't rain much during the night, there was a moderate rain most of the day so it was challenging at times to keep energy up, but we soldiered on and by the time it was dark we were tired and wet but had a serviceable shelter. After the shelter had it's basic form complete we started a fire inside to start drying things out a little and to make sure that we had one before it got dark, we then continued to pile on more leaves and collect firewood to last us for the night.

The shelter was kind of tight with seven of us stuffed in, but there was enough room for us to all lay down as long as nobody minded having somebody else laying on top of them. Clayton had asked around the day before and got the good idea to store as much firewood as we could in the shelter and rafters with us. That worked out really well, helping to dry the wood and making it so we didn't have to keep going outside. It was also fortunate that everyone was interested in minimizing bathroom breaks, so we all tried to hold things in as long as possible and managed with only two mass excursions outside to take care of business. Other clans took bathroom breaks piecemeal and some used bottles so that they wouldn't have to go outside.

It took a little while to get a good blaze in the fire pit. With the wood so damp we needed it pretty hot to burn cleanly - smoke was something we constantly had to guard against. The fire kept everyone reasonably warm, although the person by the door was a little cold due to drafts, and if you had some part of yourself behind someone else (such as head or feet when trying to lay down) they would get chilled. The fire required constant vigilance since it would continually encroach upon the borders of the pit and would regularly catch some of the floor insulation (mainly sword fern fronds) on fire which we would then have to beat out.

It was difficult to sleep in the arrangement, some people didn't sleep at all a couple managed as much as two or three hours, I got probably between 15 and 30 minutes. We didn't really try to sleep for the first half of the night though, we realized how difficult it would be and instead stayed up singing songs and telling stories. I think that if we had stayed another night in the shelter it would have been easier to get more sleep. Probably some sleeping would be done during the day since the only urgent thing to do would be collection of firewood, and with the tiredness from the previous night we would probably be a lot more inclined to get down to the business of sleeping that night.

The bottom picture is of our clan in the morning, from left to right: Dave, Roy, Clayton, Emily (normally in a differnt clan, she joined ours for this activity), Me, Sean, Barbara

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