What are some items that you wished you had brought after you arrived in Antarctica?
Right now I wish that I had a beer brewing kit, another bottle of 16 year old Lagavulin, a greater selection of wine, a pocket-sized classical Greek dictionary, the electric guitar that didn’t make it onto the last flight with mail, a blender, the copies of my thesis with reviewers’ notes, some cave-aged emmenthaler and a pomegranate.
OK. As those items might not bring saliva rushing into everyone else’s mouths, I’ll write a bit about bringing shit down here in general.
What you bring should be relative to where you’re going to be spending your season, and you’ll want to supplement the basics with what’s important to you. (Do you spend your time knitting? Bring yarn. Jerking-off to Hustler or Alpinist? Bring a few issues.) If you’re living in a tent at a field camp, don’t fill luggage space with an electric alarm clock or shaver when that space could be better utilized (for booze, perhaps). Some camps have buildings with power, and some don’t. If you’re headed to the field, find out as much as you can about the living conditions from someone who’s been to that particular camp. Regardless of your destination, figuring out what’s superfluous is as important as figuring out what you want to have here. Again, you don’t want to waste potential booze space.
On station, dorm rooms are shared in the summer, and some of the spaces are very cramped. You get your own room in the winter, and you can fill it up with shit if you want to. However, it’s a pain in the ass to deal with a lot of possessions down here. At the end of every season, there’s a price to be paid for padding your lair with extra luxuries: you’ve got to find a hidden place to store all of your shit, pack it, move it and then hope that the folks who might come across it in your absence will respect your proprietorship. …or you can pay to mail it all home or get rid it in Skua (part of the waste management system that operates like a free thrift store).
A number of things for which I have belatedly wished over the years are pretty specific to living at McMurdo Station, while other things I’d want anywhere (such a bottle of 25 year old Ardbeg). I asked a few other folks what they were missing down here, too…
- your own items of cold weather gear – if you’ve got tried & true favorites, bring them
- USAP has recently decided not to continue to supply socks, neck gaiters, thermal underwear or sunglasses to people who are deploying. Cheap fuckers – it’s bloody irresponsible.
- Merino wool is a popular choice for its warmth, weight and feel – very wearable, even for days at a time in the field. It’s fucking expensive, though.
- single malt scotches – there’s a great store in Christchurch for these: Whisky Galore
- wines (of better quality & price than what is sold in the station store)
- specialty foods
- shit for cocktail parties (olives, etc.)
- blank journals
- natural health supplements/remedies or personal care items – if you use something that only comes from natural food stores, don’t count on getting it here
- art supplies
- good coffee
- knitting supplies
- headlamps (especially if you’re wintering or are a tradesperson who will be working in confined, dark spaces)
- good sunglasses (not the cheap shit from the corner convenience store)
- sheets – if you want something nicer than standard institutional bedding: Winter-overs can push the beds together in their room to make a king-size bed (the optimist’s set-up… build it, and they will come). Bring sheets if you plan to do this as king sheets aren’t issued.
- iPod or other portable music storage device/player
- sheepskin boots or other slip-on outdoor/indoor footwear
- drugs – prescription, over-the-counter, etc. If you’ve got favorites, bring them.
- outrageous clothing for parties
- external hard drive
- your brand of tampons or a “diva cup”
- your brand of condoms if you’d rather use them than the free ones down here
- custom-fitted earplugs – great for jobs that require them or for light sleepers
- power converter – for the countries through which you’ll be traveling on your way here
- alarm clock
- quality sex toys – if you’re wintering, and your cheap-ass vibrator breaks, you’re fucked… well, you’re on your own…
- hiking boots
- ATM or credit card
- musical instruments (bear in mind that the climate is hell on instruments, so don’t bring anything irreplaceable)
- your own pillow
If you want extra luxuries or libations while you’re down here, the logistics of transportation will require a bit of consideration. Summer people are allowed to carry 75 lbs. of personal gear from Christchurch to McMurdo, and winter-overs are allowed 145 lbs. This weight includes the ~35 lbs. of gear that will be issued to you. There are a few options for getting things to Mactown (or on to field camps or Pole):
- check-in baggage
- This is the way to bring all of your booze down. Pad it well.
- carry-on baggage
- Your carry-on bag has to be pretty small, so utilize the pockets of “Big Red” if you have to. No booze; sadly, you’ll have to give it up if you try to carry it on.
- mail things from the States via USPS or from other countries to the APO address
- recommended for items that might exceed your weight limit on the commercial flights between your point of departure and Christchurch
- Don’t mail stuff that you want right away; while the mail is sometimes fairly quick, you can end up waiting weeks and weeks.
- Don’t mail booze as it will most likely be emptied before it arrives. It’s a sad, sad thing to receive an empty bottle of 20 year old Bowmore.
- “guard mail” items from Christchurch
- It’s free. It’s a great way to send snacks, lotion, extra clothes, etc. Don’t send your booze to the Ice in guard mail because they’ll empty it if they find it. The martini olives and cocktail onions will be fine. Again, don’t send time-sensitive items because this mail comes down with the same frequency as regular mail.
One more note: don’t bring all of the packaging that comes with the shit that you buy. Superfluous packaging will end up having to be sorted into trash bins, then packaged by the Wasties and finally shipped back to the States. It’s a needless waste of resources when it could have been left in the States in the first place.
Contract Employee, MAPCON stock # 0423595