There are 40 of us flying to McMurdo tomorrow. 29 are with the U.S. Antarctic program, the others are with New Zealand. Most of our 29 are either National Science Foundation grantees or Raytheon Polar Services Company staff. RPSC is the NSF’s prime Antarctic support contractor.
We were fitted today with government-issued ECW (Extreme Cold Weather) clothing for the duration of our deployment. The CDC (Clothing Distribution Center) is out at Christchurch Airport, across the street from a behemoth hangar announcing the USAP’s presence.
We were welcomed and briefed in the front room by Marlene, the CDC Assistant Supervisor. There was a fair amount of information to take in regarding bagging, tagging, fitting, weight limits and other requirements which were reviewed in an instructional video afterwards.
Our issued gear, whose sizes matched the requests we’d made earlier, was already waiting in labeled orange bags in the changing room. It was a matter of fine-tuning the fitting at this point.
The adjoining warehouse is massive. It has to be: more than 140,000 ECW items are stocked for issue to USAP participants. Stacked boxes line the upper loft from where this photo was taken, and a sea of red parkas fill the ground floor below. By this time of year nearly 2,000 of the down jackets have already been worn to Antarctica, leaving about 950 in stock. At least one of them fit me perfectly.
Ta-daa! I’m all snug and comfy. Yes, that’s me behind the balaclava, sporting all 6 items required to be worn or carried on all flights: knit headwear, goggles, wind pants, hand wear (there are 8,676 pairs of leather gloves to choose from at CDC), white insulated bunny boots (2,877 pairs available) and of course Big Red.
There are also neck gators, wind jackets, wooly socks, thermal underwear, caps, fleece, mittens, liners and lots more for whoever needs it. I clearly brought too much of my own stuff from home.
After the fitting, we packed our gear back away, ready to be worn again tomorrow.