The last few days have been busy with travel: Crested Butte -> Denver -> Boulder -> Los Angeles -> Sydney -> Christchurch. I’ve got one day of prep in Christchurch, and should leave tomorrow for McMurdo. Flights so far have been pretty smooth, but long. Bags all made it to Christchurch on time, and mostly intact. The bike box got a bit dinged up, but contents look OK.
This morning, we met up at the Clothing Distribution Centre, the CDC, and were presented with two or three orange duffel bags full of clothing. Clothes are issued according to what a person’s job is, where they work, and how long their contract is set for. Fuelies get a spare change of Carhartts, Dining room folks get a jumpsuit, scientists get insulated pocket protectors. Pole people get more clothes than McMurdo, and winter contracts more than summer ones. As I’m going to spend a year at the South Pole, I was issued three stuffed bags – lots of insulation!
We spent a couple hours trying on clothes, exchanging things to get a better fit, or according to taste. I was surprised to find a second pair of boots in my bags; it turns out that the Pole winterover crew gets two sets of some core ECW gear, with the backup meant to be stored off station in case of a major catastrophe.
We have a 150 pound weight limit for checked bags, which includes the cold weather gear, and of course any bicycle that a person might want to bring down ;). Bags are labeled as either a checked bag, carry-on bag, or a boomerang bag. Checked bags work much like in regular air travel. Carry-on bags don’t count against the weight limit, but do have a size limits, so end up being quite dense.
Boomerang bags are a new concept to me. Flights to Antarctica often turn around due to weather and return to Christchurch – called a boomerang. When this happens, it doesn’t usually make sense to unload cargo from the plane, since the plane will be following the same itinerary once weather improves. Unfortunate boomerang passengers would be left with only ECW gear (some of which is required on Antarctic flights) and their carryon bag with the most dense items. A boomerang bag is like a special checked bag, which gets unloaded if the flight boomerangs – it would be a good place to put a change of normal clothes and toiletries.
We finished up at the CDC near to lunchtime, I drove with Nick back to town to pick up some lunch and take it to the botanical gardens. Spring has really sprung in Christchurch since last July – lots of green, birds, and beautiful blue skies for the last day off the Ice. After lunch, I moved some things into storage at the CDC, to pick up next year
after my contract ends.
Other errands included buying an iPod, shopping for some fresh fruits to take the current winterovers, and grabbing a quick beer with a few Christchurch friends.