Graeme Hart at Halley Research Station, Antarctica
Halley, ANTARCTICA

Clothing

I am often asked about the clothing we wore. Here is an almost complete account of the standard issue BAS gear. Some of it looks like the sort of things that Captain Scott wore, and some is standard issue for people that work in freezers in the UK. The clothing is designed around a layered principle, so I'll start with the layer nearest the skin, and work my way outwards. We were issued with lots of kit and anything that was still useful at the end of my tour was left on the base for the next set of winterers. Most of the kit wore out due to the extreme conditions it was subjected to.
Antarctic Clothing - thermal top.

Next to the skin we wore pretty normal thermal top & trousers These were figure hugging and designed to wick moisture away from the skin. Any moisture next to the skin would cause a lot of heat loss, so this layer was vital when moving around outside.

Antarctic Clothing - thermal trousers.

I still use a couple of rather tired looking thermal tops for hockey matches during the winter - they're excellent.

 

Antarctic Clothing - Moleskin Trousers

 Moleskin trousers are quite thick and hard wearing. They're also very comfortable. They are reasonably wind resistant, so you could go outside in a pair of these with nothing over the top in surprisingly low temperatures.

 

Antarctic Clothing - BAS Shirt

 The BAS Shirt comes in several colours and designs, but they're all variations on the checked shirt theme. These are warm and quite long, so they cover the gap around the waist well.

 

Antarctic Clothing - Helley Hansen Fleece

 Helley Hansen fleece. Very warm and comfortable, but absolutely no use in the wind. This makes a very good warm layer underneath the wind proof outer layer.

 

Antarctic Clothing - Ski-Doo Suit

 Doo Suit. This is, basically, a very warm boiler suit. It is so good at it's job that I would only wear it when the temperature was below -40C or for a short walk between platforms in fine weather. I once wore this with windy top & trousers over the top and got so hot while walking to my ski doo in soft snow that I realised it's almost to warm for it's own good.

 

Antarctic Clothing - Sallopettes

 These were much thinner than the Doo suit and so I used them much more often when working outside or on field trips. They are reasonably wind resistant and I wore them so much that most of the insulation has deteriorated.

Thermal top & trousers, fleece, sallopettes and a windy top were just about right for physical activities between -20C and -40C.

 

Antarctic Clothing - Windy Top

 This windy top served me well. I wore it a lot of the time when working hard outside as it is often sufficient to wear a fleece and just his top to keep the wind off. The effort of working generated quite enough heat. It low temperatures ( under -30C) this top would end up with a layer if ice inside it, but I'd be nice and warm. The top is made out of Ventile - a close woven cotton a bit like canvas. There is a little clip in the middle of the bottom hem to clip the front to the back. When it was windy, the top would blow off without this. They are generously cut, so when you go out in the wind it flaps about quite a bit and the hood makes a deafening racket around your ears.

 

Antarctic Clothing - Windy Trousers

 I only wore these windy trousers when it was really windy. They were good over a pair of moleskins for getting about between platforms, but I needed something warmer when working outside in the cold (Sallopettes).

 

Antarctic Clothing - Balaclava

 This balaclava was given to me by my mother before I left and it proved very useful indeed. Whenever it was windy, I would wear this balaclava under the hood of my Windy top. The viewing hole was slightly smaller than my goggles, so I could seal myself inside with no exposed skin to get frostbitten. It also has a long neck to tuck into the fleece.

 

Antarctic Clothing - Bear Paw Mittens

 Everyone had a different theory on the best gloves to wear. Just about everyone chose some form of mitten as they keep your fingers together which helps to keep them warm.

I preferred these big "Bear Paw" mits. They're made of soft leather with a canvas wrist cover. They were very hard wearing & perfectly windproof. I removed the original quilted inners (below) and used fleece mits instead, which were warmer and thinner, so I could still feel what I was holding. I made the strap which goes over my head - it's all too easy to take a glove off and then watch it blow away, so this strap kept the mits close by, to minimise my finger's exposure to the elements. I wore very thin woollen gloves inside the lot, mainly to stop my fingers sticking to metal objects when I took them out of the mits.

 

Antarctic Clothing - Bear Paw Liners

 These are the standard Bear Paw liners but I found them too stiff & thick to be of any practical use.

 

Antarctic Clothing - Fleece Mits

 These fleece mits were excellent, though they needed a windproof over mit to make them useful. I wore them inside the bear paws, or sometimes inside a waxed mit.

 

Antarctic Clothing - Wax Mits

 These Wax Mits are made of waxed cotton. They are wind proof, but not as long as the bear paw. They also wear out very quickly. As soon as there is a hole in your wind proof layer, you get frost nipped, or frost bitten, so I got through a few pairs of these before deciding that Bear Paws were the better choice.

 

Antarctic Clothing - Woollen Mits

 These woollen mits were quite thick & close woven so they provided a certain amount of wind protection, but not enough. They fit nicely inside the waxed mit outer for wind protection, but their thickness means that it's harder to feel what you're holding.

 

Antarctic Clothing - Headband

 The headband was OK in warm temperatures (-10ish), but in any serious weather, I'd wrap up my whole head so I didn't wear this much. Sometimes it'd be a nice day apart from a slight breeze that was enough to frost nip the edges of my ears, so this would do the trick.

 

Antarctic Clothing - Headover

 This is a Headover. it is basically a cloth tube that goes over your head and under you chin, instead of a scarf. It plugs the hole around your neck nicely. When it was windy, I could pull it up over my nose & put on a hat & goggles. This would be enough to stop my face freezing. My breath would turn to ice in the headover, forming an effective face mask.

 

Antarctic Clothing - Australian Hat

 When I arrived at Halley, were were given a few of these hats to try out. They came from our Australian counter parts and we were asked to give them a go & return some feedback to HQ. I was lucky enough to be given one and found it to be absolutely excellent in all conditions. The ear flaps could go under your chin in windy conditions, tuck around your ears in cold conditions, or go over the top in mild conditions. It also had a face mask for bad weather and a peak to keep the sun out of your face. I wore is nearly all of the time that I was outside.

 

Antarctic Clothing - Mukluks

 These are Mukluk boots. The outdoor footwear of choice, capable of keeping my feet warm in -55C. They have thick soles and a canvas top. The key to thier success lies in the inners (below). They also had a bit of metal embedded in the sole, which help when digging holes with a spade. The laces wrap around the upright part of the Mukluk and the top has ties to keep the snow out. The only draw back was that it was quite easy to tear them, at which point they become useless as the wind gets in and your feet freeze.

 

Antarctic Clothing - Mukluk innerds

 This is what is inside a mukluk. There is a woollen double sock, sitting on a thick felt sole pad itself sitting on a woven nylon insole. These were extremely comfortable.

 

Antarctic Clothing - Plastic Boot

 This is a plastic climbing boot. They were worn whenever we were travelling off base or needed to use crampons. They are a technical boot, but were not very good in the cold. It was usually cold on field trips, but you just have to put up with it. On my first field trip we wore these every day for a week and I think I had feeling in my feet on the day we left and the day we got back but not on any day we were out. When worn without gaiters, the snow falls down inside & freezes your feet. I didn't get any gaiters until my second winter and they were one of the most prized items of kit the I left behind when I left.

 

Antarctic Clothing - Plastic Boot Inners

 These are the inners from the plastic boot, above. They make quite good slippers for inside the tents on field trips, but sadly they're not very good at keeping your feet warm below -20C. On my first field trip it was about -30C or less.

 

Antarctic Clothing - Bolle Goggles

 I wore these goggles whenever it was quite windy. They were needed to keep the wind out, but the show always got into them & stuck to the inside. Despite the double layered lens, they would steam up quite easily too. They were not much use in the dark either, so I was advised to take my own pair of clear goggles before I left. This proved very sound advice as you still need to protect your eyes when walking around in a snow storm in the dark - and it's dark for a very long time at Halley. After two years, the lenses looked like they had been sand blasted, such was the ferocity of the Antarctic weather.

 

Antarctic Clothing - Glacier Glasses

 I wore glacier glasses most of the time that I was outside unless it was windy. The sun reflecting off the snow was so bright that you had to wear something at all times. Even when it was cloudy, there was a lot of UV about as the base was located under the ozone hole. These glasses are very dark, and they have flaps at the side to keep the sun out. The slightest gap, or scratch on the lens, would lead to sun blindness so I looked after these very well indeed. Even so, I got through a few pairs - it's a tough place to live & work. At night it was so cold that I wore clear goggles just to keep my eyes warm.

  MISSING..

Various bits of kit are missing. I had a useful freezer jacket (Like a Doo suit but without the legs) which got covered in grease on the ship on my journey home so I had to throw it away. My clear goggles were donated to to someone I left behind, though they were so pock marked by the blowing snow that you could hardly see through them (BAS didn't supply us with clear goggles, despite the extended darkness we experienced). Various pairs of mittens, gloves, socks, mukluks, glacier glasses & moleskins fell apart and ended up in the compactor. I also donated a useful insulated boiler suit that was not as hot as the Doo suit, but very good for just slipping over indoor wear and nipping out for five minutes.

I took lots of hats with me which I might dig out somday and add to this page. My favourite was the Uraguayan Sheep Herder hat...

 

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