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Ellen in Antarctica: Part II


I've arrived on The Ice! For some background, here's the post on the beginning of my Antarctic adventures.

Gearing up

We got kitted out with our Extreme Cold Weather gear, or ECWs, last week. The gear lives in a big warehouse, and everyone travelling down with the Kiwi program gets the same basic kit. And from top to tail, getting dressed is a pretty involved process in Antarctica!

A recipe for Antarctic fashion

For the top portion, start off with one merino base, then add:

  • thermal shirt
  • thermal jacket
  • soft-shell jacket
  • primaloft jacket
  • special ECW down jacket

For the bottom portion, combine:

  • thermal pants
  • snow scalopettes

Sprinkle final product with:

  • balaclava
  • neck gaiter
  • windproof hat
  • snow goggles
  • four different types of gloves
  • boots (approximately toaster-sized)

And here’s the final results:

WEB Ellen in gear
Ellen (right) as a warm, toasty marshmallow

Since it's summer, temperatures shouldn’t drop much below -20°C with wind chill, which means we probably won't need to wear all the layers. Still, I think I’ll have to set my wake-up alarm 10 minutes early while on base, as it’ll takes at least that long to get dressed!  



We flew down with the US Air Force, in an LC-130 Hercules plane called the Freedom (it had a decal featuring Lady Liberty herself).


Ellen with Hercules
Ellen in front of USAF Freedom

Inside the Hercules felt like a cargo hold: every surface seemed to be occupied by stacked crates, piles of vinyl duffle bags, gas masks strung on wires and wooden supply boxes. In between all that cargo were our seats, which ran down the length of the plane body.


Inside Hercules
Inside USAF Freedom

I was sitting across from some scientists from America, who were travelling to McMurdo Station (the US base, a couple of minutes drive from Scott Base), and on to South Pole Station. They were engineers and astronomers, and I wish that the plane had been quiet enough for me to hear about their research. As it was, we all wore ear protection the entire flight – those planes are loud!

The flight was lots of fun. We spent the eight hours of reading, eating, playing charades, writing in our notebooks or sketching each other across the seating aisle. We looked out the small windows, watching the ice slowly increase from small floating bergs, to big chunks of sea ice, and finally the vast land ice.


WEB Land ice


The US Air Force flight team invited me to sit up in the cockpit during landing, and gave me a head set so I could listen in on their landing communications. The views coming in, looking out to Mt Erebus and over McMurdo, then touching down on the ice, were unreal. And I'm sure more amazing sights await.

Internet will probably be limited down here, but I'll send updates when I can. See you next time!