Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What does one take to Antarctica?

I often get asked what goes in my suitcase when packing for Antarctica. Most people expect me take winter gear, thermal underwear, heavy sweaters, gloves.

In reality, the first things that go into the "to pack" pile are bits of scientific equippement that were left out of the boxes shipped to Concordia for the experiment. This year I'm taking 20 odd items, ranging from connectors and calibration boxes for seismometers, to snow scrapers. My colleague Jean-Yves is taking a similar volume of equippement. Between us we hope to minimize those embarassing "drat! we forgot to bring xyz!" moments.

In the space that's left in our bags, we pack the bare necessities of life away from civilization: toothbrush, moisturizer (the dryness and coldness of the air at DomeC cause the skin on your hands to crack open most painfully if you don't apply moisturizer regularly), everyday clothes for living in the base, and a swimsuit.

All the cold-weather gear is provided for us by IPEV, the French polar institute. We are each issued with two voluminous bags containing heavy socks, hats, gloves, work jeans, sweaters, sleeping bag, thick-soled boots, an insulated parka for outdoor work, sun goggles and, yes... thermal underwear!

Hmm, it's Tuesday morning, and my flight leaves on Friday... maybe I should start to pack soon!

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