Sunday, December 14, 2008

Gearing Up!

Today was clothing day...the day we are assigned a bunch of extreme cold weather (ECW) gear and try it on to make sure it fits. We were to meet our shuttle around noon, so I woke up in time to catch the end of breakfast at 8:30 and, to avoid looking like a complete fool at the Clothing Distribution Center (CDC), I organized my things in bags like so:

(1) Things I'll need in the next few days (to stay in my hotel room)
(2) Things I'll want in McMurdo (for my carry on bag)
(3) Things I'll want at the South Pole (for my checked bag)
(4) Things I don't want to see until I return to Christchurch (they'll store it for me until I get back to the CDC).

Finally, though convinced that I'd over packed in category #3, I hauled all my stuff (except that I'd packed in category #1) downstairs with everyone else to wait for the shuttle.

The 9 of us staying at the Windsor had a 20 minute ride to the CDC. When we arrived, we were directed toward the women's or men's locker rooms where we found two big orange bags with our names on them packed with ECW gear in sizes we had requested ahead of time (based on measurements and blind guesses). Before we could try anything on we were called back out to the entryway for an orientation talk/video during which we learned (in rapid succession) exactly what we needed to wear on the plane, how many of each kind of bag we were allowed, what each bag was for, what color tag to put on each particular bag, how to trade in clothing, what things we can request more of, how we're going to check in get the idea. Mostly it went by too quickly to remember. Fortunately, the lady who works there--Marlene--is very helpful and answered a lot of my questions afterward when I couldn't remember what was going on. (I was lucky to have the general idea down already, thanks to the kind advice from friends in Madison.)

The most important part of the orientation was that we're allowed three bags (and they can be the orange ones or a bag of your choosing):

(1) A check in bag (or "chicken" if you're a kiwi), which we "will get back in McMurdo...but maybe not." (What are you supposed to do with that kind of information?)
(2) A boomerang bag, which is made available to us should we "boomerang", or fly out, nearly reach McMurdo, and then have to turn around due to weather. (The idea is to put stuff for Christchurch in this bag, but since I'm leaving an entirely separate bag of stuff for Christchurch, that doesn't really make sense.)
(3) A hand carry bag, which must satisfy a size requirement. (This is the only one you definitely have access to in McMurdo, but they might have to batten it down on the airplane, so I'd been cautioned to be sure my laptop is completely cushioned.)

Once all of our questions were answered, we were shooed back into our changing rooms to try everything on. After swapping out lots of stuff and returning lots of other stuff (like a pair of nasty old blue fleece sweatpants that were too tight in the ankles and too big in the bum) I tried to pack it all in the proper bags (again 100% sure I'd have to repack everything). No problem! I fit everything I needed into my check-in bag or my carry on bag (which might even fit the size requirement!) . I didn't even need the boomerang bag, which is a good thing because I already have that extra bag of work stuff to lug around.

The whole episode took about 3 hours. I was the last one finished packing, but the shuttle hadn't arrived yet, so I was successful in my goal of not looking like a complete fool, and I even managed to get them to let me take photos of the stock room (which I thought was cool--for all the photos, you can click on the photo of clothing below--and again, remember to hover your mouse over the photos to get the full text of the captions!).

We finished out the day by grabbing a bite to eat and some ginger beer (which was quite good!) at the Dux Delux, a popular restaurant near my hotel. Overall, an entirely victorious day! How cool is that? (-14 and snowing...again!)



Samuele said...

Could you bring some of these ECW gear back in Madison? It's getting way too cold here. It's below 0F, even without the windchill...

Bruce said...


Thanks for the updates. We are thinking of you every cold and crunchy step of the way. Christmas won't be the same without you!