This manual is designed for United States Antarctic Program (USAP) researchers, but contains important information for all USAP personnel who will be working in the Antarctic environment. This includes groups working close to McMurdo Station, as well as groups working in remote locations that require air transport.
If you are new in the program, this manual will help prepare you for your experience. Read through it before packing and leaving for Antarctica, as you will find important information regarding clothing issue, extra equipment to take, planning and preparation time in McMurdo, and what to expect in the field. Not only will you be able to anticipate better what to expect upon your arrival, you will know what tasks need to be undertaken immediately, including scheduling your Field Safety Training.
In addition, this manual presents an overview of operating procedures used in McMurdo. Reviewing the manual in advance will help you also to become familiar with the terminology used in the Antarctica. Many chapters contain information on the equipment issued and how to use it. The USAP issues a wide variety of equipment, some of which is very specific to polar work, such as the Scott Polar tent. Furthermore, systems that are unique to working in polar environments, such as roped travel with Nansen sleds and snowmobiles in crevassed areas, are discussed.
This is not a how to book.
Anyone deploying to remote locations in Antarctica should have a strong background in cold-weather survival or, at the very least, employ a safety-survival guide with previous Antarctic experience. Antarctica is not a place to learn cold weather skills.
This is a reference manual, and should be taken into the field as it contains detailed information on trouble shooting radios and snowmobiles, and on crevasse travel and rescue techniques.
Following are two lists of extreme cold weather (ECW) issue clothing provided to USAP grantees and ASA deep-field staff. Clothing will be issued at the Clothing Distribution Center (CDC) in Christchurch, New Zealand, before deployment to Antarctica.
Grantees Only Clothing Issue
All grantees working at McMurdo Station, in the Dry Valleys, in the deep field, and at South Pole Station will receive this clothing issue. This does not include ship-based personnel deploying through Christchurch.
2 Bag, Clothing 1 Balaclava 1 Bearpaws 1 Boot, Bunny 1 Bottle, Water, 32 oz. Nalgene® 1 Glove, Leather Thinsulate® 2 Glove, Polypro 1 Glove, Ski 1 Goggles, Smith Caribou 1 Hat, Pile/Knit 1 Jacket, Pile Polar-Tec 300 1 Jacket, Wind 1 Mitten, Kodalite 1 Mitten, Leather 1 Mitten, Wool 1 Neck Gaiter 1 Pants, Pile Bib 1 Pants, Wind Bib 1 Parka, Red 6 Sock, Wool 1 Thermal Bottom, Expedition-Weight 1 Thermal Bottom, Thermax® 1 Thermal Top, Expedition-Weight 1 Thermal Top, Thermax® 1 Coverall, Bunny Suit--on request Deep-Field Support Personnel Clothing Issue 2 Bag, Clothing 1 Balaclava/Wind Stopper 1 Bearpaws 1 Bib Overalls, Carhart 1 Boot, Bunny 1 Bottle, Water, 32 oz. Nalgene® 1 Coverall, Bunny Suit 2 Glove, Leather w/Thinsulite® Lining 2 Glove, Polypro 1 Glove, Ski 1 Goggles, Smith Caribou 1 Hat, Yazoo 1 Jacket, Carhart 1 Jacket, Pile Polar-Tec 300 1 Jacket, Wind Columbia 2 Mitten, Kodalite 1 Mitten, Leather 1 Mitten, Wool 1 Neck Gaiter 1 Pants, Pile Bib 1 Pants, Wind Bib 1 Parka, Carhart Siberian Arctic 6 Sock, Wool 1 Sunglasses 1 Thermal Bottom, Expedition-Weight 1 Thermal Bottom, Thermax® 1 Thermal Top, Expedition-Weight 1 Therma Top, Thermax ®
When you get your issue gear, make sure you try on all the items to ensure that they fit properly and are free of defects. Try all of the garments on together just as you would wear them in the field. Each garment must fit over the ones underneath it and be roomy enough to allow a full range of motion, yet be snug enough that it isn't drafty.
When sorting through your issue clothing, consider where you will be going and what types of activities you are likely to engage in. You may also want to supplement this gear or make substitutions with personal equipment that you bring from home.
In general, the rule of thumb for living in a cold environment is to get lots of insulation between you and the environment when it's cold, and to remove that insulation layer by layer when you get warmer. You need a clothing system that allows you to shed layers quickly and easily before you get damp from perspiration. Several thinner garments will serve this purpose better than one bulky overcoat.
1.2a Long Underwear
Your first layer should be your long underwear. It should fit snugly against your skin and be made of a nonabsorbent material. This layer works by repelling water and keeping your skin dry. Synthetic fabrics such as polypropylene, Thermax®, or Capilene® work the best, whereas wool and silk are the best natural fibers. Cotton is a poor choice because it absorbs water and holds it next to your skin where it will cool you off.
1.2b Mid Layers
The next layers are important because they serve to absorb the moisture out of your long underwear and transport it to the environment through evaporation. Once again, synthetics are best here, but wool is a good substitute. Shirts, sweaters and trousers are what you will likely be wearing when you are active. Pay close attention to the fit as the mid layers work by trapping air and preventing it from circulating and carrying away your body heat.
1.2c Insulation Layer
Thickness is warmth. For sedentary activities or extremely cold conditions, an outer garment with several inches of loft is recommended. Down is unsurpassed for its warmth-to-weight ratio and is the preferred choice of insulation in dry climates like Antarctica. Unfortunately, down loses most of its loft when wet and takes a long time to dry, so you must be careful to avoid getting down garments wet. Synthetic insulations such as Polarguard®, Holofill®, or Thinsulate® are better choices for work in potentially wet conditions.
1.2d Shell Layer
Perhaps the most important part of your layering system, and probably the most used besides your long underwear, is your windshell. Studies conducted by Recreational Equipment Co-Op show that in still air, windshells worn over any garment can add up to 25 degrees of warmth. In windy conditions, windshells can increase warmth by 50 degrees or more.
Windshells can be broken down into two categories: (1) those made out of windproof but non-waterproof fabrics and (2) those made out of waterproof fabrics, both the breathable and non-breathable varieties. If you don't expect to be around water or wet snow, then the non-waterproof fabrics are superior because they allow your perspiration to escape more easily. For potentially wet conditions, the waterproof/breathable fabrics such as Gore-Tex® are a good compromise.
Conditions in Antarctica are frequently extreme. Remember that you need to pay particular attention to protect your head, neck, and extremities with layers comparable to your other clothing. If you'll be doing work that requires much use of your hands, consider bringing inexpensive chemical heat packs for inside your gloves and mittens. For work that must be done without heavy gloves or mittens (for dexterity), use a pair of silk or cotton gloves or thermal liner gloves.
You may wish to supplement the issued field clothing with commercial clothing items designed for the cold, thus making your stay in the field more comfortable. The following items are suggested:
Additional pairs of expedition-weight Polypropylene Long Underwear Over Mitts (Synthetic) Climbing Boots (Optional)