Just a few days ago, I picked up a sprawling picture book about Antarctica. You know the sort of thing, glossy paper, weighs a ton, gorgeous photography, very pretty maps. On breaks from my desk, I flip it open at random and read the spread about seals or tourism or ice or whatever. It’s nice introductory stuff, beautifully presented.
And then it hits me again. Whoa, wait a minute! I’m going there! See, I forget for a few days and then something makes me remember and I think, “Is that REALLY happening?”
It is. I’m gathering my gear, it’s all slowing coming together. I have new flash cards for the camera and lots of long underwear and I found my waterproof mitts tangled up with my climbing gear. I’m inventorying my socks and worrying about being warm enough. I’m learning penguin basics and I have my new passport. There are a few things I have left to acquire, and for once, I’m not worried that I’ll overpack — I’m going from Antarctica to the middle of a Santiago, Chile, summer. Yes, I am going to wear that aloha shirt.
I’m sure my list will change, maybe today, maybe tomorrow, as the stuff I’m ordering comes in. But in the meantime, this is my current wish list. And hey, have you done this trip? What do you wish you’d brought along? I’d love to know.
Down Jacket/Sweater: I’m not sure when they started calling these things sweaters; as far as I’m concerned, they’re jackets. Still, I get cold and I’d like to have one of these to wear underneath the waterproof shell I’m taking along. There are only a hundred companies making them, Patagonia has lots of cute colors, Mountain Hardware has some fancy top stitching. I don’t own one so I’m not brand loyal, but given the choice, I’d defer to the penguins and go with black or white.
Stupid Inflatable Neck Pillow: Yes, you look like a dork with these things and I don’t take a long flight without one. Mine, which came in a nice aloha print cover, stopped holding air this year. That is impressive really, as I’ve had it for longer than I can remember. I need a new one.
Upgrades on my AA Overnight Flights: Oh, American Airlines. I have had nothing but terrible experiences on AA flights. The planes are always broken and I end up spending way too many hours in the airport. Once, I spent four hours in Sea-Tac, 15 minutes from my house, waiting for AA to find a plane that wasn’t broken. And hey, that was the good experience because once, I spent some unanticipated time in O’Hare because AA flew a plane with known issues that did not magically resolve themselves on the way to NYC. (The woman who filed the post-traumatic stress suit against AA because of that landing is full of it, but that doesn’t mean I love AA.) To say I’m hesitant about flying AA doesn’t begin to sum up my feelings, though I think those hesitations could be abated by a seat that actually reclines and the possibility of sleeping away the longest legs of the flight.That’d be the Houston>BA bit and the Santiago>Houston return, in case you’re wondering.
Camera Rain Sleeves: This is a pretty cheap solution to an expensive problem. I’m a little concerned about keeping my photo kit in dry and working order, after all, how much would it suck to get all the way down there, make it across the Drake, and then, have my camera stop working because it’s wet. A lot. That’s how much.
Warmers for Hands and Feet: I get cold. It’s a thing that happens. And I really want that to not be a bummer when I’m shuffling from Zodiac to land back to the ship and lather rinse repeat good god it’s windy can I go back on board for a cup of tea and a warm up yet? Since I’m going to have to check a bag, I am a-okay with the idea of stuffing some of these guys in the space I’ve got.
Insulated Snow Pants: I have a really nice pair of snow pants in Austria in a box up in an attic somewhere. They probably wouldn’t fit me anyway because in spite of a cake laden diet, while I lived in Austria I skied off more than enough calories to warrant eating that much cake. Here in Seattle the skiing? Not so frequent. Never happens, actually, though have I cut back on cake? You know the answer to that. I’m planning to check the second hand stores after Christmas to see if I can find a new-to-me pair of snow pants because man, oh man, good ones are pricey.
10,000 US Dollars: It’s not that I’m going to miss work for about a month while I’m visiting Antarctica and that I’m going to lose income. I’m at peace with that. That 10k isn’t to cover the cost of my being gone, it’s to cover the cost of bringing along a companion. See, it’s kind of a big deal to get to go to Antarctica, but I’m going alone. We don’t have the kind of cash lying around that would cover the cost of having J. tag along. He’d have to pay full fare for everything and it just doesn’t make economic sense. It’s a shame. 10k would cover that.
More Wellies: I bought a pair of Bogs out in Forks, and don’t get me wrong, they are super awesome. Problem is, I’m marginally concerned that they’re not quite tall enough. Word is a person may have to step out of a zodiac into a foot or more of icy water, and the boots I bought? They’re a little short. I’m seriously considering getting another pair of Bogs — the Rider is a bit taller — or a pair of Sorellingtons because man, they are snappy looking!
Image: Crean, Lt. Evans and Lashly on the British Antarctic Expedition 1910-13 (Ponting Collection) via Freeze Frame.