By Hugues Goosse
Yesterday, we arrived late in the evening in Cape Town. Before our flight to Antarctica that it is planned for Tuesday, we have collected today our polar clothes. The International Polar Foundation has a stock that is reused by the different teams going to Princess Elisabeth station in which we can choose what we need.
This may seem a bit strange to try polar clothes during a warm summer day in Cape Town but this has to be done very carefully to be sure that we have all the equipment and that it fits well.
The basic principle is standard: a superposition of layers keeps your body warm, allows perspiration to disperse and to adapt quickly to conditions that can change rapidly.
The first layer is warm polar underwear. We all have brought our own from home. We have windproof pants, which are warm and resistant but similar to the one people take for skiing. For the upper part of the body, three layers are usually proposed: a fleece sweater, a fleece jacket and a windproof jacket. This is complemented by a neck warmer, a balaclava and a warm hat.
The number of layers must of course be adapted to the weather as during very cold conditions, additional layers may be required. During windless sunny days, one layer may be enough.
Hand and feet need a particular attention to avoid cold injury. This is achieved by using two layers of gloves and the polar boots that, with warm socks, are guaranteed until -40°C.
Finally, eye protection is essential because of the strong solar radiations that are reflected by the snow and of the strong winds, requiring goggles and efficient sun glasses.