20 October, 1998
Tuesday, October 20th, 1998
Hi! Today was a VERY interesting day! I started off at 9:00 AM at the CDC (Clothing Distribution Center) where they issued us our ECW (Extreme Cold Weather) gear. Everything here has an acronym instead of using the longer name! Mike, who is in charge of the CDC gave us an introduction to the process, which many people in the room had been through before. He pointed out the various types of gear we could be issued...based on what jobs and projects we would be working on in Antarctica. The gear was displayed on the wall, hanging in various categories... all of the parkas and jackets together, gloves and mittens, footgear, long undies, fleece expedition gear, etc... After Mike was finished, we watched a short video that reinforced many of the things he had told us about wearing this gear in the harsh environment of Antarctica. Next stop...the changing rooms.
What a system! They had two changing rooms...men's and women's...and in each room the gear bags were lined up in alphabetical order by our last names. Our large bags that we plan to take to McMurdo (or wherever!) were also stored in this room. I grabbed my two orange duffles and began the long process of trying on each and every item in the bags. This is very important because it's not like you can exchange things easily once you get down on the ice. I started with the long undies and worked my way up to my outer layers...making sure that there was plenty of room for all of my layers. In my bags there were two sets of expedition weight long undies, a one-piece fleece overall, a fleece jacket, my red parka, a red wind jacket (for those warm days, yeah right!), my "bunny" boots, 6 pairs of wool socks, a neck gaiter, two different types of hats, wind/snow bibs, and a wide assortment of gloves and mittens. We were able to trade things back in if we had some of our own gear, and exchange sizes when needed. Trying everything on took over an hour!
The next step was packing this gear back into the two orange duffle bags. One bag is labeled our "HOLD" bag and will be sent to McMurdo as part of the cargo with our own personal bag. The other duffle is labeled "CARRY ON" and will be carried with us onto the cargo plane and stored under our seat. The only additional baggage you are allowed is a lap top computer. Some of the scientists have "EXCESS BAGGAGE" such as special equipment that can also be sent as part of the cargo. When I was finished re-packing everything, it didn't look like much gear. Hard to believe this is all I get for about 2 months.
While in the changing room, I met women from all over the United States who are going to Antarctica...many of these women had been before. Most were going as part of ASA (Antarctic Support Associates) and would be working at various support jobs either in McMurdo or at South Pole Station. It takes a lot of people to run a small town like McMurdo or a base like the one at the South Pole. Just think of all of the people it takes to run a small town where you live. It's really not much different in Antarctica.
I was able to go back into the warehouse and take photos of ALL of the clothing that is stored there. It was amazing to see red parkas and orange duffle bags everywhere, along with rows and rows of fleece jackets, and bunny boots. There were also tons of boxes of new gear stored upstairs. I can't imagine how much all of this costs! When I got back to the changing room, the women from today's flight to McMurdo were coming BACK in with all of their gear...the plane flight was cancelled. This group has not had good luck. They have made two other attempts already, but at least today they didn't have to sit on the plane. Still, each time this happens they get up VERY early, get dressed in all of their cold weather gear, go through the lengthy check-in process, and then spend LOTS of time waiting around. They did not look happy.
I did meet a woman, Rosie, from the CRP (Cape Roberts Project) and she introduced me to Gary Wilson, who I will be working with in McMurdo. We had lunch together and then I dashed off to visit a local school and give a presentation. I drove to Kaiapoi North School, about 20 minutes from Christchurch. I was greeted there by the Principal, Mr. Alan McCabe and one of the teachers, Nicki Hudson. What a friendly place...I met so many teachers and others working at the school. All of them made me feel VERY welcome. I spoke with about 60 students and had a super visit. I was able to show them the gear, too, which really gives people an idea of the type of weather we are up against. After the presentation I spent quite awhile visiting with teachers and Mr. McCabe. I got the grand tour of the school, and I must say that I really enjoyed myself. I hope that I can visit again on my way back through Christchurch.
I spent part of this evening walking around downtown Christchurch...a really nice city. It's called the "Garden City" and I can see why. Since it's spring here, there are beautiful flowers everywhere. Everything is really keep up nicely and it's very clean. I enjoyed the chance to walk around in a light jacket...something I won't be doing for awhile.
Our flight to McMurdo was supposed to be tomorrow, but when I got back to my hotel I found out that my stay had been extended until Friday. We are currently on a "Standby" status for a flight on Friday, but that depends on what happens with flights in the next two days. Meanwhile, I'm going to make the most of my time here in New Zealand. Talk with you tomorrow!
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