As you'd quite expect, nothing about travelling to the coldest, windiest, driest place on Earth is normal.

Your mode of travel isn't an economy seat on an Air New Zealand Boeing 777-300, but a space in the back of a massive, rumbling US Air Force C-17 Globemaster or C-130 Hercules.

Your plane attire isn't a pair of leggings and a comfortable old T-shirt but the heaviest jacket and pair of boots you've worn in your life.

There's no in-flight magazine or movie selection, but the most incredible view one could ever get out a port-hole plane window.

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As you spot the first sheets of sea ice glimmering against the light, it's inescapably clear you're headed somewhere most of us could only dream about going.

When you first set foot on the ice, and take in the great white world you've just landed in - where far-off mountains appear deceivingly close, a trick of the pristine atmosphere - that feeling is yet more profound.

It hit me even as I was pushing a trolley laden with issued polar gear back to my Christchurch hotel room.

Here's a brief checklist: balaclava, windproof cap, headband, neck gaiter, sunglasses, visor, salopettes, primaloft jacket, soft shell jacket, down jacket, thermal jacket, thermal underwear, trousers and shirt, woollen socks, drink bottle, extreme cold-weather (ECW) mitts, woollen mitts, leather gloves, woollen gloves, polyprop gloves, Sorel boots and ECW boots.

At Antarctica New Zealand's warehouse, I'd found all of this nicely prepared for me, complete with my own velcro-backed name tag and field manual.

These heavy extreme cold-weather jackets are required to be worn on flights to Antarctica. Photo / Jamie Morton
These heavy extreme cold-weather jackets are required to be worn on flights to Antarctica. Photo / Jamie Morton

All of this has to be either worn – you're required to step on the plane wearing full ECW gear – or crammed into a couple of bags, along a few changes of casual clothes and toiletries.

Your carry-on bag needs to have everything you'll need on the flight and immediately when you arrive at Scott Base, while the rest of the luggage goes in your checked bag.

Most people also pack what's called a "boomerang" bag – that's a separate item in your checked baggage that gets returned to you in the all-too-common event of a weather-delayed flight requiring another night's stay in Christchurch.

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A pair of Antarctic issue extreme-cold weather boots, dwarfing my pair of jandals. Photo / Jamie Morton
A pair of Antarctic issue extreme-cold weather boots, dwarfing my pair of jandals. Photo / Jamie Morton

The sight of me lugging all of this amid the 30C heat of a mid-afternoon in Canterbury proved all too weird for one passerby.

"Where the bloody hell are you going that you'll need those?" she asked, staring at the pair of goliath ECW boots perched atop my trolley.

Fair enough I thought: the bulky things did look more appropriate on the feet on an astronaut.

Then I grinned, unavoidably smugly, and pointed to the penguins painted on the side of the International Antarctic Centre.

"Wow," she said.

"Well aren't you lucky then?"

Indeed I am. This isn't normal.