August 21, 2011 You want me to wear...what?
Welcome to the Land of the Kiwis
Christchurch, New Zealand is home to the United States Antarctic Program and is the departure point for all people travelling to McMurdo Station and Amundsen-Scott Base (located at the South Pole). The USAP facilities here and the staff are phenomenal! Their task is to prepare you for your departure to McMurdo Station. To do that, they must run a clothing distribution facility, an airport, a medical clinic, a cargo shipping facility, a post office, a technology department, and offices to coordinate all of it!
The first order of business is orientation. We are prepped with information on our flight, the clothing we will be issued, and the entire process of going from just arriving to departing for the ice. After orientation, we are tasked with trying on all of our Extreme Cold Weather Gear, or ECW, for short. ECW is the gear that we will wear every day for the next few months to keep us warm and it comes from the Clothing Distribution Center (CDC for short). ECW is very different from what I normally wear in Delaware in the winter!
Our ECW has been pre-packed for us in these brilliant orange duffel bags.
If you were to layout all of your ECW, it would look like this...
But we need to try out each and every piece. So, how do you get dressed for Antarctica? Let's take a look together.
The secret to ECW is layering. First, you need a base layer, usually thermal underwear.
Next, you place fleece layers over the top of your base and put on warm socks.
Then, it's time for the overall snow pants or bibs. On your feet, it's time for the biggest snow boots you have ever seen. These boots are called "bunny boots".
If you were to cut open a bunny boot, it would look like this. I wonder why it has such a thick heel. Do you have any ideas?
Finally, on your top you wear a big red parka, code-named "Big Red". Of course, your head, hands, face, and eyes also need to be covered.
With everything on, you can't even recognize the person underneath!
A quick check of the weather report suggests that when we arrive at McMurdo Station, the temperature will be approximately -25˚F and that doesn't include the windchill. It's really important to make sure that all of your ECW fits and works well. If something is wrong, now is the time to exchange it and the helpful CDC staff is there to make everything right. In my opinion, we are so lucky to work with these great people!
So, a question for you all. Why do you think layering is so important? Do you think all the layers do the same job? Are all my layers made from the same materials?
I've started a forum on ECW gear with these questions. Click here to see them and reply. Let's see who can figure this out.
After the CDC, we have these rest of the day off. So, it's time to explore Christchurch.
P.S. "Kiwis" is the term for people from New Zealand. It's also a fruit and a flightless bird that you can find on these spectacular islands.