28 December 2009

Packing Like I'm Heading to the South Pole! (Oh wait- I am!)

Posted by Dan Satterfield

CDC red jackets

The National Science Foundation's U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP) has a large center at the Christ Church airport. Clothing for those headed to "the ice" is issued there.

So what DO YOU pack when you’re headed to the very bottom of the world??

Little clothing surprisingly!

Most of my winter clothing will not suit for Antarctica and instead when I get to Christ Church, I will be outfitted with the polar clothing. I did spend 50$ on special long underwear. I will be given much heavier long johns when I get to Christchurch but this is for those “warm days’ at McMurdo.

McMurdo is actually not bad in high summer. Highs can reach near freezing. The South Pole is much different.  If it gets above -20F that is a warm day. The permanent residents consider anything above -30 a warm day!

Antarctica is a HUGE place. About the size of the Continental USA and almost entirely covered by over 2 miles of ice. It’s also completely surrounded by ocean. No other continent is situated in this way, and that ocean isolates the weather in Antarctica.

If you thought the North Pole and the South Pole had similar weather you would be very wrong. The South Pole in high summer is just a little warmer than the North Pole in Winter. The ocean and all that ice, along with an elevation of nearly 3km’s is why.

What you have to wear on the flight from Christ Church to McMurdo! Image ctsy Scientist Herman Kolanoski

What you have to wear on the flight from Christ Church to McMurdo! Image courtesy Scientist Herman Kolanoski

So what am I taking?

Three still cameras. Two digital SLR’s and one pocket camera that shoots HD video. I’m also taking a Panasonic AVCHD camera that shoots gorgeous high definition video. The files are huge and it takes a very expensive editing software just to view them properly. So, I will have about 100 gigabytes with of special SD cards with me.

The other must haves are back up batteries for all those cameras. Chargers as well. The cold will make a battery that lasts two hours last 5 minutes. Chemical hand warmers are hopefully going to keep those batteries warm until needed.

A special bit of advice that I’m taking very seriously is to put my cameras in a plastic bag when I come inside. The cameras will be cold soaked and moisture will want to condense on the internal parts, causing havoc. I plan on making sure I do just that.

The three cameras are mine. The TV station bought the  special HD video camera for the trip. It is light weight, small and as I said, shoots incredibly good video. I bought insurance for that!

I hope to be able to post the story of my adventure with pics and video here. McMurdo has decent internet but when I am at the WAIS site or at the Pole the internet will be very poor. Much of my time will be at McMurdo so I should have frequent posts!

If you post any questions, I will gladly try and answer them and that goes for students and classes as well. I may even try and do a Skype video with a few classrooms. Email me at [email protected] if you would like to and I will try my best.