The main point for my brief one day stopover in Christchurch, New Zealand before heading on down to Antarctica was for the issue of my Extreme Cold Weather Gear. Photoset.
Antarctica is cold. Right now at McMurdo it’s 9 degrees F, which is cold. Right now at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, which is where I’ll be living for the next couple of months, it’s -37 degrees F, and with the windchill, that actually feels like around -70 degrees F on your skin. That’s very, very cold. Dangerously cold.
I have a considerable amount of cold weather and mountaineering experience, and did bring a bit of gear with me. However, because of the volume and diversity of people who get sent down to Antarctica (mainly to McMurdo), and because the USAP wants everyone to be well prepared and safe, we’re all issued a standard set of gear that will protect and insulate us from the harsh Antarctic environment.
All of the gear is housed at the Clothing Distribution Center (CDC), which is attached to the International Antarctic Center, right across the street from the airport. In this massive warehouse, they have rows and rows of red parkas, insulated pants, bunny boots, and everything else we’re issued for use on the ice. Additionally at the warehouse, they perform the laptop security checks, as well as administer standard vaccinations.
Once we arrived at the CDC, we were ushered into the briefing room to get briefed on what to do for trying on all of our gear, and basic packing organization and transportation logistics. Then, we were led to the main warehouse floor, where our bags of gear had been laid out for us. Although they already knew our size, everyone had to try on their gear to make sure it fit – and I’m glad I tried mine on. I ended up getting a couple pieces that were too small, and quickly exchanged them at the exchange window. I also got a flu vaccine – which was given by a very nice nurse, but in a very quick, no frills, no BSI fashion. Nice.
Also, since I’m going to be working as a cook, I was issued a bunch of kitchen uniforms. Funny to put it on under my red parka!
Regarding the red parka – yep, everybody gets one, and they each have a USAP patch on them, as well as your nametag. Cool.