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November 21, 2002

Get de Clodes, id's Gonna Be Code Oudside

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At two, we went to the Clothing Distribution Center (CDC) to get our Extreme Cold Weather Clothing (ECW. Or something). Thin long undies, thick long undies, socks, boots, fleece pants, fleece top, wind pants, wind jacket, hat, hat, gloves galore, balaclavas, and big, puffy red parka. There are different clothing issues for the different work settings. (For example, folks working support staff around McMurdo get Carharts). Everything for me was either too short (women’s) or too wide (men’s). Sigh. You can exchange the clothing for different sizes and models, but it was still hard in some cases to find something that fit. Nelia recommended I get two of some things, which I then had to get approved by the head lady, who said to her staffmember without hesitation, “Oh, yes, she’s going to Erebus.” Hmmm….

The rest of the afternoon was spent shopping for books, last clothing arcticles, candy, and odds and ends. For example, I got some colored pencils. Christchurch was rainy and very green and reminded some of us fondly of home. It blew me away that it was still light at dinnertime. Just wait until Antarctica, my companions say. (It’s nicer than laughing and saying, Whatever, rookie. This is nothing.) We met up with the rest of the group, including Phil Kyle, the head honcho, at 6:30 for dinner. Perhaps I failed to mention the Japanese film crew that had been following us around. So, there was a Japanese film crew following us around. They filmed us getting off the plane in Christchurch and picking up our bags (I picked up my two heavy bags at once in front of the camera, to look like a badass) (okay, they just happened to be next to each other on the carousel, but maybe if they leave that footage in the documentary I will look like a badass), filmed us at clothing issue—although luckily they followed the guys into the guys’ change room and left Nelia and I in peace—and then again in the evening. They met up with us for dinner, and we all went for beers first in a big sports bar and then to dinner at a fancy seafood restaurant where we drank apricot-smelling wine. By the time we got home, it was time to crash. Hard.

We were scheduled to head out the next morning, which is a pretty quick turn-around time in Christchurch and, I think, reserved for seasoned veterans and companions (like myself) of seasoned veterans. At dinner, the veterans speculated on whether we would end up in Antarctica the next day as scheduled. Statistics say no, one commented. Often, flights are cancelled because of weather. If cancelled the night before, the hotel will leave a notice on the front counter with this information. If cancelled in the morning, the hotel will send someone around to the rooms to notify the Antarctica-bound passengers. The worst is a “boomerang,” which means the flight turns around. So, you get up early, get all dolled up in the extreme cold weather clothing, get checked in etc. at the airport, get on the plane, get maybe halfway down to Antarctica…. and turn around. Something that most my companions had experienced, and were certainly not fans of.

But, when we got back to the hotel, no cancellation message. And, in the morning, no notes under our doors. We got on the shuttle at 6, arrived at the center (where we got our clothing the day before) by 6:30, and started getting ready.

We’re required to wear certain clothing on the flight, and have certain clothing in our carry-ons. There was a short amount of time in the morning to change into our issued clothes, pack up our street clothes in a bag (issued, orange), and organize the rest of our stuff into a) carry-on, b) checked, and c) staying in the center. I left my big backpack in Christchurch filled with goodies for trekking around New Zealand and Hawaii. Our checked bagged goes on the plane and does not come off until Antarctica… Thus, in the case of a late cancellation or a boomerang, you could be without your checked bags for days. It’s recommended you throw some spare undies and socks into your carry-on. Um… of course I did.

Posted by beth at November 21, 2002 3:40 AM

Comments

"Perhaps I failed to mention the Japanese film crew that had been following us around."

What a great line! I truely hope I can drop that in conversation some day and mean it! Thanks for keeping us updated, Beth!

Posted by: Michael Burton at November 21, 2002 7:29 PM