Imagine you’ll be spending two months in the coldest, stormiest, and most remote region on the planet. For added excitement the expedition management has decided to go in winter (‘because then the waves are smaller’, which I’ll have to see first before I believe it) so successful completion of the adventure/madness requires extensive planning from all parties. One little thing: airlines do not consider ‘I’m going to the Southern Ocean’ a valid reason for unlimited hold luggage. Getting all the necessary items in a standard 23 kg bag resembles a maths exam complete with geometric equations, so if anyone ever plans on heading out to the same area, here is my solution:
- Indoor clothes. These were surprisingly simple. The ship has a daily laundry service, soyou only really need to bring a few changes of clothes. A couple of fleeces, some thinner layers to adapt to changing temperatures in the labs, and your favourite pyjama are enough. Contribution to total suitcase weight: 20%.
- Outdoor clothes. Essential if you’d like to spend time on deck and live to tell the tale. Mine include a thick winter coat, a wind- and waterproof sailing jacket to go over the winter coat, windproof trousers to be worn over normal trousers, and the warmest woolly hat I own. Requires a lot of space. Contribution to total suitcase weight: 20%.
- Toiletries. These were tricky. We’ll be away for two months on some of the remotest seas on the planet: at its furthest we’ll be over 2000 km away from land. This means that even the International Space Station will be considerably closer than the nearest supermarket, and if you run out of deodorant halfway through the trip your crew mates might lock you in the hold to get rid of the smell. I never kept track of how much shampoo or toothpaste the average human being uses in two months, so I’ve packed lots to be on the safe side. Total contribution: 40%.
- Electronics. I’m here to work (12 hours a day to be exact) so laptops and accessories are essential. Also needed are chargers (!!!), socket converters, external hard drives for all the data, and an e-reader with electronic library. Total contribution: 15%
All this left about 1 kg for personal items. I could just about squeeze in my sketch books, but the snacks had to go. And these were really important too: we’ll get meals on the ship, but we have to bring our own sweets. As everyone has the same packing issues most of the snacks run out after a few weeks. From this moment onwards, chocolate becomes the standard currency on board. A simple chocolate bar will open new doors. A KitKat can make the difference between rivalry and life-long friendships. What to do?
For your and my protection I shall not bother you with the details. Suffice to say that the contents of my camera bag, which I could bring on as an exception to the one-piece-hand luggage rule, were only 25% camera. My modest backpack greatly exceeded the hand luggage weight limit, and my coat (‘everything you wear on your person doesn’t count’) was rather on the heavy side. But the future friendships on board are safe.