Sunday, December 5, 2010

Gearing Up

Today I went to the U.S. Antarctic Program office in Christchurch to be outfitted for gear I will need in Antarctica. I wear a lot of my own personal clothes and gear, but I also use a lot of special issued gear. The board in the picture shows the variety of clothes they give us: everything from long underwear and socks to coats and hats. We have to try on all of the clothes to make sure they fit.

Because Antarctica is very cold, we have three layers of clothes for warmth. We wear polypro long underwear pants and shirts , and then two layers of fleece. On top of the warm clothes, we have a wind-proof layer of overall pants. Here you can see me wearing my long underwear shirt and pants, topped by my wind pants.The boots I'm wearing are called "bunny boots". They are very insulated and water-proof to make sure our feet stay warm and dry. The insulation makes these boots very bulky and heavy, so walking in them can become hard!

On top of everything, we wear a down parka with a fur-lined hood. The giant red parkas is nicknamed "Big Red". There is a also a light-weight, red wind-breaker, which is called "Little Red". Big Red is very warm, but it is very large and bulky. Unless it's very cold, I prefer to wear Little Red for my field work.

Once we have picked out all of our clothes, we pack everything into the two orange duffel bags. Those two bags contain all of the gear and clothing we will use for the next two months!

Our flight to Antarctica is scheduled for very early tomorrow morning. We have to leave the hotel by 6 A.M. Let's hope the weather over McMurdo stays good so that we can get out of here on time!

In Christchurch, New Zealand

I have landed safely in Christchurch, New Zealand. This marks the end of the first portion of the journey. I will spend a couple days here getting prepared (and enjoying some summer weather) before I head down to McMurdo.

Check out this photo I took as we were flying over New Zealand near Christchurch. It's a beautiful country!

The river that you see running through the middle is called a "braided river". It's a series of smaller channels of water that twist together and are separated by sand bars. This type of river is found in areas where the ground is easily eroded to create a lot of sediment (which creates the sand bars) and where there are rapid changes in the amount of water flowing in the river. The mountains in the background are geologically young, and easily erode to create that sediment.

Braided rivers are common here in New Zealand, but also in Antarctica. Here's a photo I took a few years ago when I was flying over the Onyx River in the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica, where you see the same braided pattern:

(You'll notice one thing unique about Antarctica: there are no trees, roads, or houses to give you a sense of size, like you have in the New Zealand photo. This photo was taken from a helicopter pretty high up, but you wouldn't know that if I didn't tell you!)