Or “Just another day in Paradise”
I learned a valuable lesson last night. If someone offers you the chance to sleep on the snow in Antarctica, say “Heck no!” and back away quietly. Oh, the idea is nice enough. It sounds romantic (in the old Byronic sense, not the new naughty bits one); just you  on the ice in the middle of the coldest continent, with nothing but your sharp wits to keep you warm. The problem is, nobody’s wits are that sharp.
The evening started well enough. We all piled into the Zodiaks and cruised across the bay to the island where we’d be staying , while a gentle breeze lifted our spirits. We all had our camp kits, consisting of a liner bag, an inner sleeping bag, and outer sleeping bag, an air pillow, a rubber mat, and a bivy bag to go around it all, all packed neatly into a duffel bag by the cheerful guides. If you’ve been counting, that’s six layers of insulation between your tender flesh and frostbite. If you wear the suggested long johns, jeans, waterproofs, turtleneck, and sweater, that makes it nine layers. That isn’t enough, by at least ten layers.
Let me explain why by describing how you would camp on the ice, should you be foolish enough to ignore my advice. You make camp on the ice by finding a reasonably flat spot and squashing down the ice. You see, the ice is actually graupel; large chunks  of frozen snow pellets that cover the area about a yard deep. You squash the ice by flinging your tender body on it , squashing everything into an homogenous and mostly flat layer. You then take out the bivy bag from the duffel bag without putting either of the sleeping bags on the now wet ground. But, because the duffel bag was packed by sadists, the bivy bag is on the bottom and you must pull out and hold both large, slippery, and very badly packed sleeping bags before you can get to the bivy bag.
You must then put the sleeping bags back into the duffle bag without dropping the bivy bag, which has been rolled into the perfect shape to slide down the hill and into the bay. If your bivy bag does go into the water, your guide will cheerfully tell you that there is no replacement and you’ll have to do without .You now flatten the bivy bag out, weighting the corners so it doesn’t blow away as the gentle breeze has now turned into a strong wind. You next unzip the bivy bag and put the sleeping bags and air mattress onto it, while keeping all of the now loose and slippery ice from getting into it. You do this because the rubber mat was rolled up to provide a shape to the duffel bag, and you have to get the rubber mat out in order to put it in the bivy bag.
You now patiently put the sleeping bags back into the duffel bag once more, while you roll out the rubber mat inside the bivy bag. However, because the rubber mat has been rolled up for at least a week, it wants to curl into an arch; you must weight it down while removing the sleeping bags again from the duffel because you accidentally put the mattress back into the duffel before replacing the sleeping bags.
It is now time to inflate the air mattress. The good news is that it is one of the new self-inflating kinds. The bad news is that it takes twenty (increasingly cold) minutes to do so. So you use the handy-dandy blow spout to speed the process. Except that your neighbor is having even more fun putting his kit together than you are, and keeps asking you questions. Every time that you stop to answer him, the air leaks back out, as the valve is not one-way. Once you discover this, you start screwing the valve shut and manage to fill the mattress after only another ten minutes of puffing.
Now you place the air mattress into the bivy bag, on top of the still curled rubber mat. And you finally get to pull the outer sleeping bag out of the duffel bag and mean it. The outer sleeping bag slides into the bivy bag easily enough . And you can put the inner sleeping bag into the outer one with only about ten minutes of cursing because you have accidentally put the inner one in upside down . You are now ready to put the liner into the inner sleeping bag.
Thanks to great foresight, the liner is made of a material that feels silky smooth and yet is capable of grabbing onto the inside surface of the inner sleeping bag like a politician onto a bribe. As a result, you must unzip the outer sleeping bag, unzip the inner sleeping bag, and lay the liner out . As you do so, the wind metamorphoses into a light, stinging snow.
You can now get ready for bed by taking off your boots and putting them into the duffle bag, along with your heavy parka. It is at precisely this moment that the guide asks everyone to gather over to the far side of the island so he can explain why you shouldn’t use the porta-potty that he has just set up. It is during this briefing, which takes place at 10:30 PM that he causally mentions that you’ll all need to be up by 4:30 AM in order to get back to the ship on time. With that in mind, you slog back to your little home away from home, again take off your boots and jacket, and slide into the liner.
You then discover that it is physically impossible to zip up the bags from the inside. You must get out of the liner, zip both sleeping bags and the bivy bag shut, and then slide back into the liner. It is at this point that you realize that you really need to pee. Once you have gotten out of the bag, put on your boots and jacket, found your pee bottle , looked for a place with a modicum of privacy, given up and gone to stand in the least obvious area, filled the bottle, slogged back to your campsite, put your boots and jacket and the now full pee bottle into the duffle bag, and slid back into the liner that the wind becomes a gale with hard snow.
If you are sensible (or old), you pull the drawstrings closed on the bivy bag so that only a small opening to the outside is left. If you are young (or stupid), you go out and play football in the snow on top of a hill covered with ice and surrounded by freezing water . The sensible ones then wait for the young ones to quiet down. At about 2 AM, you give up and look for the guide to ask him to get the kids to quiet down. You find him easily enough; he is the one shouting “Go long!”
Meanwhile you have made the discovery that the designers of the outer sleeping bag have managed to make it as slippery as Teflon both inside and out. As a result, the inner sleeping bag and its contents (read: you) are slowly sliding deeper into the outer bag, which is slowly sliding deeper into the bivy bag. That small hole now takes on the appearance of a skylight . A leaky skylight that is dripping snow into your sleeping bag.
Despite all of this, you do manage to drift off for a few hours. Your guide cheerfully and helpfully awakens you with a snowball to the side of the bag . You struggle out of the bags, pull on your boots and jacket, and then put everything back into the duffle bag – all before coffee. When you get back to the ship, your cabin-mate is still asleep, but he helpfully shakes you awake at 7 AM and asks “Did you have fun?”
You let him live.
 And thirty other people
 The island was actually a peninsula , so we were technically on the mainland.
 The chunks start at pea sized and grown to boulders by the time the morning comes.
 Or using the duffel bag full of sleeping gear, if you are clever enough to think of it.
 To be fair, the guide will have to retrieve the bivy bag from the water, so his helpful attitude does have some basis.
 This should warn you. It doesn’t.
 How can you tell? If the zipper is on the left, it is right-side up. If it is on the right, it is upside down. For some reason, this minor yet vital fact was omitted from the briefing at the start of the trip.
 It is at this point that your friendly neighbor has given up. He jumps into the liner as if it were a onesie, and then wriggles into the inner sleeping bag like a butterfly inching back into a cocoon.
 Assuming that you remembered to bring yours and didn’t have to borrow one from your neighbor.
 About half of our group fell into each camp.
 And one that is full of light. Though the sun technically went “down” at 10:40 PM, the twilight lasts throughout the “night” until the sun rises at 3:50 AM.
 Unfortunately, his aim is bad; about half of the snowballs end up in the bags of the victims, er, guests.