Our last full day in Christchurch was busy with final preparations before our flight to Antarctica. We headed to the Clothing Distribution Center (CDC) in order to be outfitted with our Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) clothing aimed at protecting us against Antarctica’s often rapidly changing weather conditions. Why do you think the weather can change so fast down there?

At the CDC, we were greeted by a wall of ECW clothing that would be available to us for packing in our issued orange duffel bags. In the picture below, you can see the variety of clothing items needed for cold and windy weather. What types of clothing would be best at protecting us from the weather?

ECW wall of fashion

Insulation against the cold involves many different clothing layers provided by the CDC. First, on goes the long underwear followed by a layer of fleece on both top and bottom. Next, an outer layer of wind-resistant material in the form of snow pants and a jacket.
Why might it be so important to shield ourselves from the cold wind?
We are issued two different jackets, one filled with goose down and one made of lighter wind-stop fabric so that we can choose one based on the current weather conditions. For our feet, we are issued large white insulated boots, known as “bunny boots”, which make our feet look big but are very warm and go a long way toward preventing cold toes! A hat, balaclava, goggles and gloves complete our outfit and ensure that our entire body is protected. At the CDC, we try on all our issued clothing to make sure everything fits and then begin to pack our bags for the flight to the Ice. Here, Bishwo wears his heavy jacket, known as “Big Red” and other ECW gear, on our first outing in Antarctica.

Against the Wind

And below, Karen shows just how cozy “big red” can be, even on a really cold day in the field. The ECW gear must be carried at all times while in the field because temperature and other weather conditions can change within minutes due to heavy winds and storms.
Sunglasses or goggles that shield our eyes are especially important in Antarctica- why is this the case?
Swallowed by parka

Each country’s team in Antarctica wears ECW gear with different colors or designs, but the basic layers remain the same. Those people a part of the United States Antarctic Program (USAP) wear red jackets, while those associated with the New Zealand program sport black and orange coats. Below, Uffe of the USAP and Nick of the New Zealand program show their colors while checking out a map of the Ross Island region of Antarctica.

Handsome boy modeling school