My flight out of Baltimore leaves tomorrow at 2:35pm. I took yesterday and today off to start packing and run errands. While USAP issue Extreme Cold Weather Clothing (ECW), I’ve packed my own clothing for New Zealand and McMurdo as well as personal items and entertainment (MP3 Player, E-Reader, and noise canceling head phones) and work equipment (laptop, hard hat, safety shoes, etc.).
This season’s USAP luggage tags
I’ll be gone for three months, 2 1/2 on ice and the rest in transit and leave in New Zealand. The flights take more than a full day, and I going to take a few days of leave in New Zealand on both ends of the trip. Normally you fly directly to Christchurch, NZ where United States Antarctic Program’s (USAP) logistical hub for McMurdo and South Pole Stations is, but I’ll be traveling from Auckland to Christchurch on leave by train via Wellington.
The process to get to this point was quite involved. We’ve been preparing for the McMurdo Upgrade/Depot Level Maintenance (DLM) for over three years. This has involved reviews, meetings (including in Germany with EUMETSAT), seemingly countless telecons, as well as a site visit to McMurdo in January 2010.
The process the USAP uses to Physically Qualify (PQ) people traveling to Antarctica involves a medical exam tailored to your age as well as a dental exam with X-rays. Our Health Unit at Goddard routinely does this (for example see Operation Ice Bridge) so that was easy, and I timed my semi-annual dental exam to support the requirements. Raytheon Polar Services Corporation (RPSC) doctors and dentists reviews the material and either approves you, requests more tests, or disapproves you (Non PQ)–we planned for an alternate for most positions in case of a Non PQ of our primary candidates for the deployment. There is also a lot of other paperwork to fill out (clothing sizes, flight and hotel preferences in Christchurch, etc.) as well as USAP Information Technology Security and Environmental Training that must be completed on line. USAP has an extensive web site with a lot of information on the process including a USAP Participants Guide.
Now, it’s time to wrap up a couple of more things for work, run a few more errands, and finish packing. My next post will be from New Zealand!