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What to take to Antarctica

If you buy anything new to take South, such as camera or outdoor equipment, you should carry the receipt with you. When you re-import the goods to the UK, the receipt will provide clear evidence that duty has been paid on the goods. There should be no problems re-importing equipment that is clearly well aged.

Please note that thefts from baggage can occur on commercial flights between UK and South America. You should therefore ensure that any valuable or particularly precious personal items are carried as hand luggage and not placed in the hold.

Antarctic Clothing
Temperatures in the Antarctic can vary rapidly and widely. The best way to manage these changes is to use a number of layers of clothing, rather than one bulky layer. This allows you to add or remove layers in response to changing temperatures and also traps layers of air providing better thermal insulation.

BAS issues all outdoor and work clothing required, except where there is prior agreement between BAS and another institution that we will not do so. In those cases, the clothing used must be of an equivalent standard to that issued by BAS.

Clothing is issued from the clothing store in Cambridge. You should make every effort to contact the Clothing store manager and arrange a fitting session.

For most personnel, your Antarctic clothing will be transported South by ship. Your kitbag will then be issued to you either when you join a ship or, if flying by Dash-7, on arrival in the Falkland Islands. You may have some time in the Falkland Islands before you can gain access to your kitbag, so you should carry some of your own outdoor clothing such as outdoor shoes or boots, trousers, top and waterproof jacket for immediate use. There is a good swimming pool in the Falkland Islands and you may wish to take a swimming costume.

All BAS issue clothing remains the property of BAS and must be returned at the end of your Antarctic tour. All items should be replaced in the kitbag and stored on board ship or station for return to the clothing store. The clothing is expensive (about 1000 per person) and vital for your own safety and comfort. You must look after your clothing properly, keep it clean and make repairs as necessary.

BAS does not supply indoor clothing, so take your own. All ships and stations are warm inside. You will require items such as jeans, tracksuit bottoms, shorts, T-shirts, sweatshirts or similar, as well as nightwear, underwear, indoor socks and indoor shoes or slippers.

Most stations have semi-formal meals or other events on Saturday nights and the RRS James Clark Ross runs a formal messing system, so you will need at least one set of reasonably smart clothes.

If you wear glasses, ensure that you take at least one spare pair with you. Leave a copy of your prescription with Personnel Section so that replacements could be obtained in an emergency. Contact lenses have the advantage that they do not get steamed up or frozen.

As part of the clothing issue, BAS will supply one pair of prescription sunglasses if required. Prescription safety glasses will also be supplied if required as part of your work.

Provision of contact lenses and supplies for them are your own responsibility.

We will supply all items necessary for your safety in the Antarctic. High factor suncream and lipsalve are freely available on ships and stations (although you will have to provide your own when you first arrive in the Falkland Islands.)

General toiletries are supplied on station; these include soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, floss, razors and shaving foam (but not deodorant or shower gel). On ships, these items have to be purchased from the ship's bond. There is not a great deal of choice; you may wish to take your own favourite brands and your own cosmetics. However, please do not take aerosols to the Antarctic, as they are both hazardous and environmentally unfriendly.

For women, sanitary towels or tampons are provided for wintering personnel only - summer-only personnel must take their own supplies. Bins for disposal of sanitary waste are provided on ships and at stations. When in the field, sanitary/medical waste should be placed in yellow bags (provided in field boxes) for return to station and appropriate disposal.

All ships and stations are well stocked with medicines covering requirements from first aid to emergency treatment. The ships carry various anti-seasickness remedies though it is worth starting such a course just prior to the voyage if you are so disposed.

The stations are well supplied, but do not have the range of medication available in the UK, and are equipped to deal with emergencies, not ongoing problems. If you are taking regular medication of any kind, (including contraceptive pills,) you will as far as possible need to take sufficient quantities for your tour. GPs will usually give prescriptions for up to a year; if your tour is longer, or there are any problems with this, contact BASMU as soon as possible, and well in advance of your departure date. If you have any concerns at all, please discuss your medication with BASMU well in advance, who will advise or assist in ensuring you have what is needed. To avoid potential problems at customs, ensure that all medicines are carried in their original containers with labels intact. If you are taking any prescription medicines, or are carrying any controlled drugs, this must be declared on your medical questionnaire and at your medical and should also be advised to the doctor or Master/BC when you join a BAS ship or station.

Photography is a major recreational activity in Antarctica. You will be given further advice on equipment at the Cambridge Briefing Conference, but a few general points follow. All modern film, digital and video cameras work perfectly well in the Antarctic. Low temperatures can reduce battery performance, so ensure that you have plenty. Wildlife is generally approachable; you will not require very long lenses (200 mm is quite sufficient). Hand carry enough film with you; it is not possible to buy film from the ships' bond. A small, automatic camera is useful to carry in your pocket and for party nights. Good camera bags are a sound investment. Ask your Base Commander for details of darkroom facilities on your station.

As the use of digital cameras increases, more people are downloading photographs onto disk for return to the UK, even if they did not originally take the photographs. If you wish to do this, you must take your own recordable CDs. The BAS image collection relies heavily on photos taken by everyone who goes South, so please email photo@bas.ac.uk, or drop into the photographic office on your return, to find out more about submitting your best pictures.The minimum specification for digital cameras if you would like to submit images for publications such as the BAS calendar is 6 million pixels.

Music and videos
All stations hold large collections of books, CDs and videos/DVDs. A personal cassette/CD/minidisk/MP3 player with headphones is useful and wintering personnel may wish to take a portable CD/cassette player or mini-hi-fi system. Remember to take sufficient batteries for portable equipment - rechargeables (with a charger) are recommended. Musical instruments are popular and concert nights are sometimes organised.

Skis and snowboards
There is a selection of skis available on the larger stations, but you may wish to take your own skis or snowboard. Recommendations vary between stations; you should consult your Base Commander as to local preferences before purchasing new equipment. Wrists guards, releasable bindings and other appropriate protective equipment should always be used when skiing or snowboarding. Please consult the Operations Group if you intend travelling with skis.

Other items
The Antarctic is hard on watches. You should take at least two watches; inexpensive digital watches are quite adequate. Spare straps and batteries are also useful. A watch with an alarm is recommended for Met. staff. You may consider taking items such as binoculars, hair dryer, alarm clock, etc. The latest bestsellers and newspapers and magazines are always welcome on station.