This Thursday, I begin the trip from Brooklyn to Antarctica which will span five days, four planes and three continents. I’m usually a minimalist, Zen-like packer, but I’ve never before gone to a place this desolate, wild and supply-free. A taste of the miscellany in my luggage: spices and Aftelier chef’s essences to enhance five weeks of canned food, Four Roses bourbon, high-tech sunglasses that block all UV rays, a go-girl, my childhood stuffed penguin toy, and six new titanium darts, requested by the fish scientists to replace the currently beleaguered dart set at the McMurdo Station pub.
What I do not have packed is serious outerwear: as I was told by my bemused Antarctic handler, you can’t buy at EMS what you need to survive in Antarctica. So our penultimate stop is Christchurch, New Zealand: within this bucolic, balmy town is an enormous Antarctic gear warehouse. Every scientist en route to McMurdo Station stops here for a day to get custom fitted with a giant red parka, snow pants, goggles, and bunny boots. They’ll give us our Southern Hemisphere flu shots and scrub all of our shoes, so that we don’t inadvertently track any seeds or plant matter onto the pristine continent. And in Christchurch, I will make a final panicked run to a supermarket to load a duffel bag with oranges, lemons, avocados, kale, and other fresh fruits and veggies, which are one of the most priceless commodities on the continent, along with fine chocolate, good coffee, and apparently, a new titanium dart set.