24 January, 2003
January 24, 2003
My cousin sent me an e-mail asking if he could see pictures of the clothes we wear and hear more about them. I thought to myself, why doesn't he just read my journals? Then I realized that this is a journal I had planned to write and then never got a "round tuit." (Get it?) Since our clothing is essential to survival in this environment, I thought I'd better do it now. (This is dedicated to you, Bob!)
Before we left the US, we sent the Clothing Distribution Center (CDC) a list of our sizes, including hands and feet. On our assigned day, we arrived for orientation at the CDC and received our two orange bags full of our ECW (extreme cold weather) gear.
The men and women went to separate changing rooms on opposite sides of the clothing warehouse. The window at the exchange counter was covered with a black curtain for privacy from the workers, but all the women changed in a big room together so there wasn't any real privacy. The next few hours were spent trying on every arcticle of clothing to be sure they fit properly, and that all zippers and Velcro worked. Once on the Ice, you are limited in what the BFC (Berg Field Center) can provide for you. It was a long few hours, but the time spent is probably the most important several hours while in Christchurch. The CDC workers were patient as we exchanged long underwear because they sagged (or were too tight), or fleeces because they bound under the arms, or "Big Reds" (the big parkas) because the zippers were too hard to pull.
When we finally had all our gear, we packed them back into the two orange bags that were tagged with our names. The next day we came back with our own luggage and spent about an hour repacking the things we would take to the Ice with us. We had to wear all of our ECW gear on the plane—long underwear, fleece layer, wind pants, socks, bunny boots, gloves, hat, goggles, and Big Red. Whatever room was left in the orange bags we could pack with our own clothes and toiletries, but those were the only two bags we could take with us to Antarctica except for a carry-on. Our own luggage was checked in at the CDC until we return. One bag was put on the plane and we would not see it again until Antarctica. One had a blue "hold" tag on it. IF we were boomeranged (sent back to New Zealand from the halfway mark because of bad weather), then we could get the "hold" bag back to live in Christchurch until our next flight. We had to be organized to have the right items in the correct bags. I wasn't. I left one pair of sunglasses I had bought specifically for Antarctica and have really missed them!
The experience of people working at South Pole or on the polar plateau is very different than the experience of groups like ours, who work in the Dry Valleys. The weather is much warmer here, and we have to be as tuned in to becoming overheated as to getting too cold. We add and remove layers regularly during the day depending on our activity level. I find that hiking to our sites hauling our gear and backpacks, I tend to get very warm and have to shed layers. As we work, though, I have to load up on layers, handwarmers, and chocolate, because I am usually standing still on the highest slope, in the wind, running the surveying machine.
The clothing is high quality and truly our main defense against the harsh weather. By loaning clothing to all NSF (National Science Foundation) parcticipants, the US bases can be sure that everyone is properly equipped to live and work on the Ice.
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