Posts Tagged ‘stuff’

Life's little niceties

August 8, 2009

T minus one week. This is beginning to seem more real.

On the suggestion of someone I met at my advisor’s Fourth of July party, I am reading The Worst Journey in the World, Apsley Cherry-Gerard’s account of Scott’s ill-fated expedition. Reading it has convinced me that I will be living in the very lap of luxury during my trip. The food will be plentiful and varied. I will be unlikely to develop scurvy. When I’m camping in the Dry Valleys, my gear will be constructed of the best synthetic, high-tech fabrics, and my tent will be sturdy and warm. I will not have to get it there by personally dragging it the entire way on a sledge. And when I’m at McMurdo, I will be able to take a hot shower. Every day. All that and Internet access besides. Yes, the modern Antarctic explorer has got it pretty easy.

The past couple of weeks have been an ever-accelerating rush to acquire appropriate equipment, mostly scientific but some for personal use. All visitors to the Antarctic, for instance, are required to bring two pairs of sunglasses. With the reflection of sun off snow and ice, and the extra UV allowed in by the hole in the ozone, snow blindness is a very real concern. It turns out that prescription glasses for someone with terrible eyesight, which I have, in a wraparound “glacier glasses” style, which is necessary for snow use, cost a fair bit. Fortunately the grant will cover it. A store in Fremont supplied my second set of sunshades, a pair of snow goggles designed to fit over my current glasses and fitted with a tiny fan to help prevent fogging. (The odds that it will continue working in Antarctic winter conditions are probably slim, but it was the only pair they had–and, hey, gadgets!)

In addition to the eye protection, I have been acquiring some small-scale cold-weather gear. Several people have instructed me that I should be sure to bring my own hat–it is not quite clear to me whether the one supplied to you by the logistics folks fits poorly or is simply unbearably unstylish. Socks, because it’s nice to have your own, and gloves, because the odds that they will have any small enough for my hands are rather low. Perhaps a balaclava. Next problem: what books have a sufficiently high quality-to-weight ratio to be worth bringing?

I know I promised to explain how Earth escaped from Snowball conditions. Short answer: carbon dioxide. Long answer will arrive soon.