Gearing Up for the Cold!

Christchurch, New Zealand – On Monday October 1, 2018, all B195M team members arrived in Christchurch, our staging area and launching point for our trip to “The Ice.” After reuniting briefly in the airport, we paraded to our hotels beneath a brilliant springtime sun to await our pre-deployment trainings and our scheduled flight south.

So far, bad weather at McMurdo Station has precluded any possibility of landing in our little corner of Antarctica, and the field season is getting off to a slow start.

The most exciting part of our adventure so far was visiting the US. Antarctic Program (USAP) Clothing Distribution Center to be issued our Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) gear. After a short briefing, we separated into our respective dressing rooms to find our gear.

Each participant receives a parka, snow bibs, boots, gloves, goggles, and various other layers and accessories. I was quite enthusiastic to try everything on, as I like nothing better than being enveloped in warm, poofy comfort. The more-seasoned participants volunteered all sorts of tips and tricks related to choosing the right gear, and the personnel behind the clothing counter were very helpful in exchanging items to find just the right fit.


B-195-M group member Weston Turner testing out his issued parka and other components of his Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) gear at the USAP Clothing Distribution Center in Christchurch, New Zealand.


As a first-timer, I am required to bring every piece of issued gear with me to the ice—fine by me! I even added a few extra items, including gauntlet mittens that go up to my elbows, just to be safe. I’m now confident that I will probably not freeze to death.

After lunch we attentively listened to several presentations that began to give us an idea what life will be like on the ice, although I doubt that any PowerPoint slides could do it justice. I learned that scientists only account for about 20% of the summer population in McMurdo, and the majority of people at the station are in support roles such as maintenance, construction, IT, food services, and waste management.

It certainly takes a village to get a data point!

Although amenities such as internet and medical services at McMurdo station will be limited, I’m sure the beauty and wonder of being in such a place will know no bounds—I can’t wait!

Except, well, we have to. No Antarctic-bound flights have taken off yet, and it’s unclear at this point when the weather will improve enough at McMurdo Station to land our US Air Force C-17 cargo plane.

Our group is scheduled to be on the third flight of the main summer research season. So, as soon as the weather clears enough to get the first two flights in, we should be able to fly the following day. At this point, we expect to fly south early next week.

Fingers crossed–inside my giant mittens, of course.

Lisa Munger