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23 November, 2004

How do you stay warm?

First of all, we are issued warm clothes before we arrive in Antarctica. The clothes are very durable and are designed for work in extreme cold weather. Below is a picture I took during gear issue in Christchurch, New Zealand a few days before I left for McMurdo Station. The man is explaining to us how to collect our gear, which included all the things you see on the wall. All of the clothes we receive are made from warm, insulating materials that are wind resistant. We really needed all when I first arrived and it was super cold. My favorite is the red parka. We call it "Big Red." It is super warm and has served me well in the coldest, windiest conditions I have experienced here. Another interesting item are the (very) large white boots we receive. We call them "Bunny Boots." They are super warm, however, they are bulky and awkward to drive Ivan and the other machines I use. I prefer to use them when I'm not driving, only when it is really cold, and only when I am outside. Otherwise, I use my own pair of mountain boots with warm socks.

When we are working outside in the cold our bodies burn a lot of calories just to stay warm. Calories are a measure of the energy available from an energy source. In the case of our bodies, we get calories from the food we eat. The more calories we eat, the more energy we have available to "burn" and keep us warm.

Kids need about 1200-1500 calories each day to maintain a good energy balance in normal weather conditions; an adult needs about 2000 calories. In Antarctica, where it is very cold the average adult burns about 6000 calories a day! That is three times as much food! Chocolate is full of with calories, and a typical candy bar contains approximately 400 calories. Our bodies can "burn" these calories to stay warm. A chocolate bar will give your body a great heat boost when it is really cold. The scuba divers who are working under the Ross Sea ice are famous for eating LOTS of chocolate bars because they work in an even colder environment and need more calories than I do here on land!

Another important thing is to drink lots of water. Water helps our bodies process the food we eat and circulate the nutrients to all parts of our bodies efficiently. Scientists say that your body will die from lack of water before you will die from starvation. Antarctica is a very dry place and our bodies loose a lot of moisture to the air. Even if only our face is exposed, we can loose a lot of moisture very quickly. So we drink a lot more water than we do back at home.

It is amazing to me how important it is to eat and drink water here; I notice a big difference in how warm I feel.. But, sometimes it is so cold it is wise to come inside or use some chemical heat packs in your gloves and boots. They are biodegradable and work really well.

When temperatures reach -59 Centigrade (-75 Fahrenheit), we are not supposed to go outside without special permission.

1: We received our extreme cold weather gear before we flew to McMurdo Station

2: Bunny boots are really warm but BIG, HEAVY, and BULKY!

3: Ready for my flight to Antarctica!

4: On a cold day, our extreme cold weather gear does the job!

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