Clothing, clothing, and more clothing -- there is little doubt that when we arrive at the CDC (clothing distribution center) in Punta Arenas, Chile, there will be ample gear to provision our student, post-doc, and faculty researchers. Our gear will include the National Science Foundation’s characteristic bright red parkas, multiple sets of long underwear, wool pants, wool socks, three or four pairs of gloves, wind jackets, wind pants, caps, ear muffs, and of course, the famous “bunny boots.”
The plastic white boots were developed during the Korean War and are great at keeping your toes warm under the coldest of conditions. Many a time during my past eight trips to Antarctica have I found myself thanking the architect of these marvelous boots; they have saved many a frost-nipped toe.
Thank goodness we are getting our clothing allotment in Chile and don’t have to carry them with us from the United States. Instead, here in Birmingham, I have been busy shopping: for camera gear; Dramamine (for the rough Drake Passage between South America and Antarctica); toothpaste; sunscreen (there’s lots of ultraviolet radiation in the Antarctic where the ozone hole figures prominently); and blue jeans -- only we OAE’s (Old Antarctic Explorers) fully appreciate the value of bringing a pair of these for life around the station. We’re also taking data books, various and sundry laboratory supplies (the vast majority have been ordered months ago and shipped to the station ahead of us), and a host of other odds and ends, many of which are the product of coming to know what is needed in such a remote location.
Fortunately the station has a laundry facility, so there will be opportunities to wash our salt-sprayed clothing, and there is even a small dispensary where one can buy shaving cream and a T-shirt for a souvenir.
As I pack my bags for the trip, it dawns on me that yet another chapter of Antarctic adventure is looming, and after all these weeks of preparation we are headed back to “the ice!” Now, if I can only be sure to leave enough room in my bags to bring home small Antarctic gifts for Jamie and Luke, my five-year-old daughter and seven-year-old son. Wish me luck!