Extreme Cold Weather Clothing Issue
Today we went to the United States Antarctic Program's facilities here in Christchurch to be sized and be issued our Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) gear. We also made our final check-in (pronounced "Chicken" by the New Zealanders working in the CDC) of our bags. We had to designate "Checked", "Carry on" and "Boomerang" bags. We are required to be dressed in our full ECW kit for any flight that is going to, from or on Antarctica.
What is a Boomerang Bag?
The weather in Antarctica can be severe and unpredictable. Occasionally an airplane can leave here bound for McMurdo Station only to learn that the conditions have deteriorated below safe landing conditions and the airplane will have to turn around and fly back to Christchurch, New Zealand. Just like a boomerang will fly back to where it was thrown.
Acute Mountain Sickness (Altitude Sickness)
Those of us going to the South Pole were issued a medicine called Diamox to help with the symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness, (also known as Altitude Sickness). Since the South Pole is at about 9300 feet of elevation, and because of the cold, it has a Physio-altitude of about 11,500 feet, altitude sickness is common when people first get to the pole. While normally altitude sickness is mild and temporary, it can actually be deadly. We were given a briefing on how to identify the severity of the symptoms, how to avoid the worst effects and what to do if we see the symptoms in ourselves or our team members.
Our "Ice Flight" is scheduled for tomorrow morning. There is a possibility for a delay due to some wind concerns, but it looks like we will leave tomorrow morning. Ready or not, Here we go!