Arrived in Africa; What I packed

Over the past 24 hour both Steffi and I have completed the journey to Cape Town. Steffi, who was flying from Berlin, arrived earlier today. I flew from Columbia, South Carolina to Atlanta, Georgia. From Atlanta I had a 15 hour flight to Johannesburg, South Africa. I am writing this on the final flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town where they just served the most delicious lentil curry for a small dinner. I left my house at 2pm on Sunday and arrive in Cape Town at 10pm on Monday night! It is a long journey, but I slept quite a bit on the flight from Atlanta, so I am surprisingly not that tired!

Here you can see me before I checked my luggage in South Carolina. Those three coolers and black duffel bags are my check bags. Those coolers while obnoxious in color are great for spotting them in airport. For example while I was on my first flight, I saw them being loaded onto the plane. In Johannesburg, they coolers were not coming off with the regular luggage, even though they had priority tags on them. As soon as I showed the airport workers the coolers, they knew exactly where they were! Pink coolers for the win!

You have been wondering what does one pack for personal gear when they make a journey like this? As in what is in that black duffel bag? When I told people about where I was going, the first reaction was “wow that is going to be so cold!”. My immediate response is that it will be no different than Canada in the wintertime. Because we will be at the station during Antarctic summer, the temperatures will be just about freezing when we arrive and getting cooler as the summer closes. I suspect we will experience a few days of -20 C by the end of our trip.

Most Antarctica programs provide insulation and outer clothing to their participants. This trip is no different. Therefore the International Polar Foundation flew gear for Steffi and I down from Brussels last month. We will be outfitted with that gear over the next few days. Because they provide you with most of the bulky clothing, there was not that much that I needed to pack. The majority of the bulk in my bag was multiple sets of wool long underwear, a fleece and my hiking boots. I did bring a few pairs of jeans to wear at the station when we are not doing outdoor work. Some things I brought more than one of just because I was not sure what would work best. I have five pairs of insulated gloves for different types of conditions, as well as a few liner gloves. Additionally, I have three toques (wool hats) of different weights. Because I am so tall and worried about being able to get snow pants that would fit, I did bring my own pair of insulated Carhartt overalls. More pairs of underwear than I think I have ever owned! Also included in my gear are extra glasses, two pairs of sunglasses, goggles, personal medical kit, pillow, two thermoses, towel and a book of games (thanks Kathi!). Based on the suggestions of others who had travelled to Antarctica, I packed using cubes. It makes everything look more organized and helps keep things more sorted when you are living out of a duffle bag. Next year I will probably do a much better job with packing, as I am sure there are things that I packed this year that I will not need, while there will be other things that I wish I had brought. Funnily enough it is summertime in Cape Town (30 C, 90F), so I also brought shorts and a bathing suit!

Hopefully we will have enough time to see a sight or two in Cape Town. We really only have two days here before we leave on Thursday. Tuesday will likely be some meetings with the IPF folks, as we have not met before. Wednesday we need to attend a briefing for our flight to Antarctica. Then, if all goes according to plan (e.g. good weather) we will fly south from Cape Town on Thursday morning.