In the "old days", before I worked for the Open University, I worked for the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge. Actually this wasn’t that long ago – only 1995. Anyway, before we went South for the first time we got issued with our polar clothing. Off you trooped to the stores where you were measured out and fitted with your clothing for Antarctica, but it was usually five or six months before you actually got your hands on it in the Falkland Islands.
From that point on, everyone was dressed the same way.
The same trousers, the same boots, the same hats, and my personal favourite – the FID check shirt.
Now the FID bit is because before the British Antarctic Survey was formed, it was called the Falkland Island Dependency Survey or FIDS. So everyone who worked for them became a FID. (Sometimes BAS people are still called FIDS). But the check shirts… what can I say! They almost came down your knees, were so fiercely woolly that only a real man could wear one next to skin, and of course there was a large check pattern.
Times change because when I got my kit bag a few months ago all that had gone. In its place were acres and acres of fleece instead of wool. Top clothing – really seriously good stuff. But there is one bad result….
It is very dry in Antarctica, and it is also cold. Mix cold and dry with fleece and what do you get?
Yup static electricity.
I have lost count of the times each day I get electric shocks. I know I know – its only an inconvenience, but every time I get that crack as I touch a door, a chair – in fact almost anything, I jump, hit the ceiling (deck head if you want to be technical about it) and try not to yelp. I guess the only good thing is that everyone suffers – and it is funny when you hear that snap and someone else gets a jolt.
I am longing for the day when I take off my clothes and they don’t menacingly crackle at me.
The science interest at the moment is, despite the blizzard outside, the temperature of the ocean has risen above 0°C for the first time for us in over 6 weeks…..
Must be heading northwards a bit!
Iceberg at dawn.