Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7

In the early part of the 20th century, numerous expeditions to Antarctica were funded by private subscription and a bit of government assistance. The initial push was to reach the south pole - an event exactly 100 years ago this year (in December 1911) and one I'll cover in more detail in a latter chapter. Science took part as well, but the main challenge was one of endurance.

Endurance certainly sums up why my wife and I are going. Running a marathon is hard enough, but running in Antarctica is crazy. That's perfect for me. My parents inspired a love of travel early on (see Chapter 3 photos). And my job has me on the road more weeks than it has me at home. As such, I've become quite comfortable packing, unpacking, being in airports and running for airplanes (although usually to board them not to find a purse!).

But packing for this trip was different. First off we have two climates to deal with. With 3 days going and 1 day coming back in Buenos Aires, we need warm weather clothes - shorts, light shirts, etc. The packing list they sent from Marathon Tours and Travel said to expect 0-40 degrees once we hit the South Shetland Islands and the Palmer Peninsula. That's a lot colder than 85 and sunny in Argentina (or Los Angeles where I live for that matter). Some highlights:

Winter Parka
Synthetic long underwear
Rain Pants (it gets very wet getting in and out of the Zodiac shore boats)
Wool socks
Dry bags for camera equipment (had to find that at a boating store)
Gloves - very warm ones but also thin ones so you can take pictures too
Layers, and layers for warmth
Hiking or otherwise sturdy boots
Cold weather running gear

More about my gear

For me, the last one was actually the hardest. Living in Southern California, the worst cold we face for running is in the 40s. Usually at that temperature, a long sleeve shirt and light gloves are enough. Even in the occasional rain, I just wear a pull over. For Antarctica, I had to experiment by traveling to colder locations. With the help of a running store in Fort Collins, Colorado, I found all I need - I think! Running pants over my shorts; a set of gloves and glove liners; a pull over cap and muffler for my mouth if it is very cold. I'll have a Nike undershirt, my normal running shirt and windbreaker top covering my torso.

On my feet will be normal Asics trail shoes, and I may add in Yak Trax on the very bottom. I used these during one of my runs in Baltimore and they are great in icy or muddy conditions. So yep, I'm likely to need them.

But let's be fair - I have it easy (other than actually running the marathon). We are on a state of the art small cruise ship; see what I mean? That's our ship starting beginning February 25. I don't have to worry about food or bedding or shelter like the men 100 years ago. (And I get to bring my wife too - the first woman didn't make it to Antarctica until the 1950's. The first child wasn't born there until 1979 - not that this is part of our plan. However, two kids are making the journey on our ship with their parents.) And of course I am only gone a few weeks versus multiple years. That all seems pretty easy to endure. It's a vacation after all.

But what if I had been part of Sir Ernest Shackleton's 1914 plan to be the first to cross the entire continent on foot - the famous Endurance expedition where his crew had to survive the destruction of their ship by fast forming sea ice? They were trapped in something like a few days in the Wendell Sea. Frank Hurley's famous photographs documented the ship’s collapse from pressure over the next few days. After taking refuge (after a hike on the ice to Elephant Island), Shackleton himself led an open water boat journey to the South Georgia Island. Open water. Small 20 foot boat. In freezing cold temperatures. 800 nautical miles. They all survived - and by all I mean the men in the boat and those left behind waiting for rescue. It was incredible and is remembered more than any other expedition in the way that Apollo 13 is almost the most famous lunar mission. Oh, did I mention that Shackleton's party landed on the south side of South Georgia and had to hike over it's mountain to reach a whaling station on the northern shore? Any small hills on the marathon course will pale in comparison.

Click to Enlarge
A. Scarf
B. Gaiters
C. Gloves
D. Nalgene Water Bottles
E. Camera Charger
F. Pull Over Mouth Cover
G. Camera LCD Magnifier
H. Luggage Tags
I. Packing List
J. Running Cap
K. Plastic Bag
L. iPhone case
M. Squeeze Bottles for Gels While Running
N. Yak Trax
O. Indy in the Classroom print out for photo op

Compare Laird's gear to that of past explorations! (Choose Download Version)

Introduction to NOVA's documentary about Shackleton

Back to the Top
Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7