18 December, 2002
At the beginning of the school year back in September, one of my Calculus students, Peter K. asked me if it had sunk in yet that I was going to Antarctica. I said no - it seemed like a long way off. I am writing this from inside a Kiwi (New Zealander) C-130 and it still seems like a dream. We took off a few hours ago and if all goes well should be in Antarctica around 10pm tonight (about a 7-8 hour flight). We were in New Zealand for just a little over 24 hours and we're already on our way further south. This is a workhorse of an aircraft and has the same type of turboprop engines as the P-3s I flew in the Navy. Consequently the inside sounds very familiar like an old friend.
At breakfast we were told we could delay getting to the CDC for our clothing issue until 11:30 in the morning. This made for a much more leisurely morning as we all could use the rest last night and needed to get our luggage to the CDC. Our clothing was already packed into two orange canvas bags. Several months ago we were asked for all our clothes sizes (hats, shirts, pants, boots, gloves, etc) just to make this evolution go smoothly. It worked great. The gear fits fine and I only had to request a couple of changes. It went a lot quicker than I would have thought. A big reason was that when we got here, an earlier group had already been through this morning (about 50 people I heard). There are only 15 on the manifest for our flight (about half men and half women). This means there is plenty of space in the changing room and no lines for exchanging anything - very smooth.
What types of clothing are folks issued? It varies depending on wear you're going and what you're doing. Some people are technicians who will be at the South Pole Station, some are going to be mostly in McMurdo. Since we will be both in McMurdo and in the Dry Valleys we have different requirements. Some of the gear we brought with us such as the field boots for up and down in the mountains. There will also be gear we will pick up in McMurdo for the geology fieldwork. We are issued 5 pairs of wool socks, 6 pairs gloves and mittens, an awesome parka, wind pants and jackets, plus a lot of polar fleece. We don't get to keep any of these things when the project is over. The "air thermal insulated" or bunny boots are especially interesting. They look like something the astronauts would wear. They have rubber on the inside and out with an air bladder in between that make them great for cold weather. I went to a Navy survival school in the middle of the winter once in northern Maine and we were issued boots like these. It was freezing out but my feet were never cold. We won't be wearing them much in the field but they will be great for around McMurdo if we have the opportunity for any hikes or sightseeing.
Tomorrow - on the ice!
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