Saturday, January 7, 2012

packing for antarctica

One question I frequently get (after the initial "Are you crazy?!" and "But what do you do down there?") is, "How do you prepare for something like nine months in Antarctica?"

The answer is, "Very carefully."

There are two very important things to remember when packing for Antarctica:
1. You're going to be there for a pretty long time (in my case, nine months).
2. There is no store. In fact, during the winter, there is no mail, no airplanes, no physical contact with the outside world whatsoever.

My packing list looks like a Frankenstein combination of one's vacation list and one's grocery list. There's the usual shoes, shirts, socks, although everything must be packed with the knowledge that if something rips or gets a whole in it, it can't be replaced. So socks actually translates to 15 (or so) pairs. And then there's the food; while we get three square a day, and have access to a small store for chips and snacks, there's no way to get your favorite treats unless you send them down yourself. So peanut butter, canned soup, granola bars, and dark chocolate also get thrown into the stack.

The end result is a stack of rather heavy boxes in the back of your car, being hauled down to the local post office:

(These are only three of the eventual six boxes to ship. In my defense, this means I don't have to take a huge suitcase with me on the plane!)

The "what if" plays a big role. "What if I run out of soap? Can I buy more in the store there, or do I need to have a specific brand?" Many common items-- toothpaste, Aspirin, shampoo-- can be purchased there, but you're limited to the brands they have.

All in all, packing for Antarctica requires a lot of forethought. You have to try to anticipate your needs and wants months in advance, and hope that you hit the happy medium between "packed too much" and "packed too little".

With just over a week to go before I fly out (for orientation, and then to New Zealand), I'm starting to go into packing overdrive, frantically rushing to make sure my boxes are mailed and my luggage is packed!

Number of days until I'm on the Ice: 15


Lilith said...

So you're going to be in town in a couple days, Sylvia tells me?

Michelle said...

Yes I am! I was hoping to meet up with her, you, and anyone else at AI for lunch on Tuesday! Or, barring that, after work on Tuesday? My flight is due to land at 3 PM on Monday. My primary reason for coming to Chicago, though, is to spend all day Wednesday in my storage unit, pulling out things that I'm sending down to Antarctica, but I'm allowing Monday night and all day Tuesday for friends in the city!