Monthly Archives: September 2014

Packing for Antarctica

When I leave Cape Town, I won’t be near a shop again until well into 2016. We need to bring everything we need to survive and enjoy life for the next 15 months with us. If we forget something, we have to do without in most cases. So, what did I bring? We get two items of personal belongings shipped down with us – a 65l duffel bag of clothes and a small plastic crate we can fill with anything we want to entertain ourselves for those months. We can also bring a few more things with us when we fly to Capetown.

For my clothes bag, I went on the biggest clothes shopping spree I’ve ever done. I spent close to £400 on new tshirts, underwear, tops,trousers and anything else. Apologies to Kim, Tessa and Michelle, as the sense of style they have patiently tried to imbue me with over the years crumbled and reverted to my original level (“if something I wear is fashionable, that’s purely by chance”). We only get to do laundry out there every other week so, with some spares, I needed to pack a good 20 pairs of socks and pants. Otherwise, it is hard to say how much we need. Some people down there apparently maintain a very normal and varied style of clothing, while others just wear the same things for days on end hoping their colleagues won’t notice. I will adopt a strategy somewhere in between.

For my crate, I took a bunch of stuff I thought would be useful to pass the time. Parts for my computer, fancy dress, a frisbee, running gear, microscope slides, model-building kits – a strange mix. A few items I can’t reveal here as they are surprises for my colleagues (Halley team: these are nice ones, honest! Do not be afraid!). I also emptied some Tesco shelves to bring a silly amount of shower gel and antiperspirant, 5 bottles of E45, toothbrushes and no Vaseline at all. Finally, and most importantly, I packed 61 letters sent to me from friends and family all over the world. These will be my most tangible and real connection with the outside while I’m there. Thank you all for sending me them.

Everything I’m taking is a “bonus”. I could take nothing at all and still be able to survive out there. The Survey provide everything a polar explorer needs to live. All our food and basic hygiene requirements, all our booze, all our cold weather gear is provided for us. Left in the base from previous years are games and other fun stuff. I could go down with nothing at all in my bag, and the worst that would happen is that I would be very smelly from not having any changes of indoor clothes.  This is reassuring, as I have that familiar fear that I left something important behind…

The sum total of the stuff I’m taking to Halley with me. Most of the non-clothing stuff is already in the crate at the back, with the large white liner bag (this is for waterproofing). These are all the clothes I will have for the next 16 months…

Bags packed! The top crate and red bag go on the boat now, while the left bag is the things I want in the UK between now and departure day.  I will take this down with me on the flight.


In addition to my packing, there are many people packing many other things for the Ernest Shackleton to carry to Halley. Here, for example, are four new snowmobiles. Our logistics team is also arranging for tonnes of food, fuel, spare parts, generators and science gear to be shipped – there’s a small warehouse full of boxes to go to Antarctica…