Getting from McMurdo Station to our field sites is probably a little different than your normal commute! Here are a few tips that will help you do this as safely and comfortable as possible:
You will receive your helicopter travel schedule the night before you depart. Note that you must be at the helicopter passenger terminal at least 45 minutes before departure time. Upon arrival the helitechs will record the weight of any bags or equipment you are carrying with you, as well as your weight in your full ECW and flight helmet, and then give you a full pre-flight safety briefing.
A few tips for flying on the helicopter:
Apply sunscreen to your exposed parts and double check your bags to make sure you have everything you need for your trip before you head down to the helicopter passenger terminal.
To get on the helicopter, you must be wearing your full ECW:
- Flight helmet (you can choose your size, but it’s better to have one that is a little loose fitting than one that is too tight.
- Big red parka
- Bunny Boots
Obviously, underneath these things you will be most comfortable if you are wearing your base layer of thermals, wool socks, and your fleece jacket. If it is really cold (ask, and we will tell you!) you may want to add an extra layer of fleece pants and polypro top.
Things to have in the pockets of your big red parka (basically, anything you will need during your short flight to the dry valleys (usually about 40 minutes)
- Sunglasses (1 pair) -- if they are small, you can wear these under your flight helmet. Your flight helmet has a built-in tinted visor, but sometimes these are scratched up, or they can jam in the retracted position. Some sunglasses will hurt your face and ears if you try to stuff them under your flight helmet. Be sure to try your helmet on with and without your sunglasses to see what works best for you before you get on the helicopter. Personally, I usually just use the built-in visor when in flight.
- Camera -- in an outside pocket that is easy to reach. You will want to take pictures from the aircraft, but you will be strapped in tight with a shoulder harness style seatbelt and you will not have access to any bags or packs that brought with you.
- Stocking Cap/Beanie, yazoo, etc. -- when you depart the helicopter at the field sites you’ll most likely leave your flight helmet in the helicopter and you will want your hat as soon as you take off the helmet.
- Gloves: Getting buckled into the helicopter can be difficult if you are wearing heavy gloves. I usually keep my gloves in the outside pockets of my parka until I am all buckled in. It can be cold in the flight cabin while you are traveling, so you will want them where you can put them on again after you are buckled up.
- Neck gaiter: Usually the first thing I put on after I take off my flight helmet
- While you are in the helicopter you will have the opportunity to converse with each other via radio headsets that are build into your flight helmet. You will receive instruction on how to use these (and when not to use them, usually during takeoff and landing or when instructed by the pilot).
What to pack in your overnight bag:
You will likely be bringing with you all your personal gear for your overnight stay at Lake Hoare camp. This can easily fit in the orange USAP duffle bags you received at the CDC in Christchurch. Do not worry about how much space or weight your personal gear takes up. It is better to come with too much gear than not enough. Here are some things to keep in mind:
You will likely spend some time working in the hut at Lake Hoare Camp. Before you enter the hut you will want to take off your bunny boots (keeps the grit down). The hut is heated, and you will probably want to slip out of your parka and windpants. We have all seen each other in long underwear, so nobody is going to bat an eye if you are comfortable in just that, but I am usually just about the right temperature in the hut if I pull something like my fleece pants and shirt over the top of my base layer.
You will be warm in your tent, but your other stuff will be cold, and can even freeze. There is a cubby box in the hut where you will probably want to keep some of your personal items, like contact lens solution, sunscreen, toothpaste, hand lotion, etc.
In addition to your ECW and personal items, bring your field boots (hopefully you brought these from home). If you do much hiking or working around the camp you will find they are far more comfortable than bunny boots.