Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) Gear Day!

Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) Gear Day!
Written by Betty Trummel

I started my morning at the CDC (Clothing Distribution Center) picking up my ECW (extreme cold weather) gear. Traveling to Antarctica as part of an NSF (National Science Foundation) funded program called WISSARD (Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling), my life will be full of acronyms for the next few months.
We were told to arrive at the CDC promptly at 9:00 am. First up, a video about the various bits and pieces of clothing we would be issued as part of our participation in the U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP… another acronym). Mike, who has worked at the CDC for over 25 years, gave us the presentation about the clothing.

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A second video reviewed the various recycling and waste management protocols in place for McMurdo Station and field camps in more remote areas on the continent. Strict environmental regulations help keep Antarctica clean and safe for all visitors and the wildlife, and protect it for the future.

Once inside the women’s locker room, I found the two bright orange duffle bags with all of my gear. My first step was to take all of the gear out and double check that I had everything on the list that was given to me. We are responsible for returning all of the gear once we come back from the ice. Here are some of the items I have been issued:

• a large red parka (big red) and a light-weight red jacket
• bunny boots (large, insulated boots)
• socks, long underwear, fleece pants and jacket
• snow/wind pants
• goggles, face mask (balaclava), neck gaiter, and several pairs of gloves or mittens (leather, wool, work gloves, etc.)
• water bottle

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Every single clothing item must be tried on and we are allowed to exchange items for a different size or style (for example I traded in my bib overall snow pants for regular snow pants). It’s so important to dress in layers in the often- hostile Antarctic weather. Sometimes I feel like I can’t move very easily with all of the clothing on. Big red is, well, BIG but light-weight. Wearing all the gear makes you overheat immediately if you are inside, but you’re sure going to appreciate those layers the moment you step out of a building!

Once we leave for the ice tomorrow, I’m not going to have access to additional cold weather gear…this is it! This clothing process took quite a while, and once I was finished, I re-packed the gear for tomorrow’s check in, and was allowed inside the warehouse to photograph all of the clothing. There are heaps of shelves with items like gloves, hats, snow pants, etc. Also, check out these bunny boots.

We are allowed 150 pounds of gear, but I got an excess baggage allowance because I have so much gear being used for education and outreach. I have tons of electronic gear….computers, hard drives, digital cameras, video cameras, tripods, and my iPad and iPod. All of that sensitive equipment will be carried in my hand-carry bag tomorrow. I don’t want that put on a cargo pallet and exposed to the cold.

I also went back to my hotel room and retrieved my two BIG pieces of luggage and wheeled them to the CDC on a cart. I knew I didn’t want to mess with those tomorrow morning at 6:00 am. Inside those two bags would be my personal clothing, toiletries, and other supplies I’ll need until February. It takes a great deal of planning to be prepared for an Antarctic adventure!

My afternoon was really fun, visiting a rural school with just two classrooms. Greendale School is a place I’ve visited before and I have friends whose children attend this school. I spoke with the younger children about WISSARD and shared a presentation on Adelie penguins. Every time I visit a school in another country, I come away with a new idea or way of teaching. It’s fun to connect with children and teachers from around the world.

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I was able to spend time with friends today, which makes being away from family and friends back home a little more bearable. I sure miss my family, and I know that once I get to McMurdo Station and get busy with our project I’ll be less likely to be homesick and I’ll be able to stay in touch with everyone each day. Communication makes such a difference!! (hint….family and friends…get busy writing me messages!)

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P.S. I can’t leave New Zealand without putting in at least one photo of sheep! There are many more sheep in this country than there are people…millions more! The little lambs are so cute right now. They frolic in the fields and jump in the air like they have springs on their feet.

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