Fuggering it out on the Juneau Icefield

By Alec Getraer

While making applesauce biscuits on my first cook shift at Camp 18, I discovered that the oven door was missing its handle. It seemed to have fallen off in a previous season. A loose screw protruding from the door provided a temporary means of entry for the biscuits, but the oven required a more permanent fix.

After breakfast, I gathered some tools and materials from the generator shed and cookshack: a phillips head screw driver, a pair of pliers, a wire cutter, a length or steel wire, a roll of duct tape, and scraps from a cardboard box. Fifteen minutes later, the oven door was screwed back on, sporting a satisfyingly functional handle.

 The makeshift handle on the Camp 18 oven is crude but highly functional! PC: Alex Getraer

The makeshift handle on the Camp 18 oven is crude but highly functional! PC: Alex Getraer

Things on JIRP break all the time. The harsh icefield environment and heavy use by dozens of expedition members causes significant wear on items every season. Equipment like ski bindings and poles are particularly susceptible to sudden failure, but larger things like ovens, snow machines, and even buildings, fall apart from time to time.

In a remote field camp with limited supplies, finding a simple yet effective fix for these failures is crucial but not easy. When the ideal tools or materials aren’t available, a little creativity and make-shifting is required to restore functionality, if not aesthetic appeal. We call this 'fuggering,' a riff off the name of our larger organization, FGER, the Foundation for Glacier and Environmental Research. 

Looking around the JIRP camps, the fuggering of past expeditions is evident everywhere. Bunkhouse shelves made from wooden gasoline crates adorn sleeping quarters in Camp 10; rearview mirrors borrowed from old cars are repurposed for the Camp 18 bathrooms. These fuggerized additions make the most out of icefield scraps, and lend a uniquely quaint vibe to the JIRP camps.

Every summer on one day of the traverse, everyone makes something. On July 25th, we celebrate JIPRmas with a ‘secret snowflake’ gift swap. Student and staff gift each other wonderfully fuggered creations made from scrap material found around camp. JIRPmas, a highly anticipated event on the icefield, is a great opportunity to embrace the creative spirit of the summer.

This JIRPmas, I carved a wooden dagger from a piece of firewood, replete with a duct tape sheath. Student Cullen Meurer used an empty tin can and some pebbles to make a ‘rain-maker' for his gift. A particularly ambitious past JIRPers built a meticulous cardboard replica of the Camp 10 outhouse, 'Petunia,' which still lives here. 

 JIRPmas gifts past and present on display at Camp 18. PC: Alec Getraer

JIRPmas gifts past and present on display at Camp 18. PC: Alec Getraer

Across the years, JIRPers have built some wonderfully functional and creative things. Some of these efforts endure season after season, while others simply bring a smile to their JIRPmas recipients. But all of these creations add to the creative and resourceful spirit of the expedition.