Ice Delay, Big Red vs Little Green

Got the note slipped under my door that our ice flight has been pushed back by a day. USAP has been wrestling with a housing crunch at McMurdo, which is the bottleneck to Pole and the field camps, so non-essential folks are being held in CHCH a little until they get the throughput worked out. I’m a logical person to keep on hold – my job is to help folks with their computer problems, so it makes sense to get the people down there to have the problems first, right? So I, and a bunch of the folks who met in Denver are going to head out to the coast tomorrow to do some tromping around the countryside.

New bit of terminology tonight: LGBs, or “Little Green Brains”. Refers to the pocket notebooks many of the OAEs (“Old Antarctic Explorers”, i.e. USAP veterans) carry around to remind themselves of all the details of the day they can’t keep in their head. As Megan explained, there’s a hormone that the body puts out in response to extreme cold. In muscle tissue, this hormone makes the muscles feel stiff, requiring more effort to move, and thus generating more heat. Problem is that this use of that hormone is a special case – its use in the body under normal conditions is to help regulate memory, and when you’re cold, there’s not enough of it to do both the muscle thing and brain thing at the same time. So you tend to get the Stupids when cold, and need to rely on your LGB to remind you what to do when you find yourself sitting in a tractor with the key in your hand. Don’t know if that description is physiologically correct, but the other veteran Polies nodded in agreement as she told the tale.

Other news: today was ECW (Extreme Cold Weather) gear day at the CDC (Clothing Distribution Center)! Awesome fun. For a gear junkie like me, it’s hard to put into words how much fun it is to slip on a parka that says “David Cohn – South Pole Station” on the front. The full ECW gear fills two bags, and our job was to make sure it all worked and fit properly. Three pairs of gloves, one pair mittens, canvas Carhart parka and bib pants, massive thermal “bunny boots” and a bunch of other stuff. And of course, “Big Red”.

Except that I didn’t have a Big Red in my bags. I’d been given one of the special “Science” parkas, a closer-fitting green outfit. I’d remembered Beth saying something about those, that they weren’t quite as warm, and that some folks had had trouble with the zippers. I asked Dan and Ben, my patient mentors, and yeah, they agreed with Beth: Big Red was going to be warmer. But the Science parkas were considered very cool – they were the only ones that actually said “South Pole” on them. Waffle waffle waffle. It’s the South Pole – I decided I’d rather be warm than cool, and swapped “Little Green” out for the fabled orange parka.

(More photos uploaded to, by the way…)

3 responses to “Ice Delay, Big Red vs Little Green

  1. Pingback: My Ship Comes In | David Pablo Cohn·

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