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November 10th, 2013 - Christchurch, NZ

Clothing Distribution Center (CDC)

by Mary Tilton

Tilton Head Shot

Today we were scheduled to report to the CDC at the USAP center at 10 a.m. to be issued our Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) gear, get our computers checked, review and sign paperwork, and view some informational videos. The morning started with packing up all of our bags and hauling them to the shuttle from our hotel to USAP, then offloading them in our respective changing rooms once we arrived. Each participant signed in, filled out an IT security acknowledgement form, checked laptops in to IT for scanning (making sure we all have antivirus software, no malware/viruses, and no prohibited software), and were directed to our changing rooms for ECW gear fitting.

When I walked into the changing room, before me was a sea of orange bags on the floor with participant names written on tags. Each participant received two bags containing ECW gear that varies depending on the location they are visiting (McMurdo or South Pole), but most of the gear is the same. All of the gear in the bags was tried on to test for fit and functionality, and then re-packed according to what will be worn on the flight to Antarctica. If something didn’t fit, was damaged, or a zipper didn’t work, it was exchanged.

Orange bags containing our ECW gear

After viewing four informational videos about the upcoming trip (about 30 minutes total), we were left to re-pack our bags, retrieve our computers, and prepare for our last night in Christchurch.

This is where things got confusing.

We are each allowed carry-on bags up to a certain size (they must all fit within a box like you see at most airports). We are also allowed a “boomerang bag,” which is a bag that you pack with some extra clothes and toiletries in case your flight has to turn back for New Zealand because the weather doesn’t permit landing at McMurdo. We get two checked bags (generally, one of the orange bags supplied with gear we are not using, and our suitcase or duffel bag with everything we packed for our time in Antarctica), and once we have them checked in we don’t see them again until we land.  All checked baggage going onto the plane must be less than 150 pounds (69 kg). I thought packing two checked bags for the trip to New Zealand was difficult; this experience was even more so because so many things had to be moved from bag to bag to ensure everything I needed was available. In the end, the carry-on bag was packed with all the ECW gear I planned to wear on the trip to the ice (and will be empty once I put all of it on), and the checked bag contains the gear I don’t plan to wear and things I can live without in case our flight boomerangs.

The clothing we had to pack to wear on the plane

Once we left the CDC and returned to our hotel, we were informed that a shuttle would pick us up at the hotel at 5:30 a.m. to get us back to the CDC by 6 a.m. for our flight. Left to our own devices, we ate some lunch, explored town a bit more, and grabbed an early dinner at Winnie Bagoes (delicious pizzas!). Early to bed, early to rise!