Prepared for the cold

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Travel Weekly's Tom Stieghorst dressed warmly for penguin viewing.
Travel Weekly's Tom Stieghorst dressed warmly for penguin viewing.

Cruise editor Tom Stieghorst is on an Antarctica cruise with Abercrombie & Kent.

The weather report for my first landing in Antarctica wasn’t too daunting: 28 degrees, mild snow flurries and a light wind.

Nevertheless, I’ve lived for 30 years in Miami and there’s no telling how thin my blood is, so I’ve come prepared.

I’ve got two pairs of woolen socks on beneath my rubber boots, issued by the expedition operator on my Antarctic cruise, Abercrombie & Kent. My legs are sheathed in a pair of long johns, a pair of stretchy exercise pants, a pair of heavy blue jeans and the A&K issue black snow pants.

Up top, I’m sporting a sheer undershirt, a long sleeve cotton shirt, a wool sweater, an LL Bean down jacket and a red A&K all-weather parka. I’ve got a pair of gloves I bought at Macy’s last time I was in New York.

For headgear, I’ve got something that no one else on my cruise has. It’s a rabbit fur hat from the Peking Friendship Store in China. I got it as a gift, purchased for me back when Beijing was known as Peking by a work colleague on a trade mission. I’ve been waiting the better part of 40 years to wear it.

After putting all that on, I feel like the Michelin man. I still have to fit on a lifejacket over everything else, and a backpack in which I’ve stowed a pair of binoculars and some specially purchased sunglasses that I won’t need.

On the ship, I’m warm, verging on hot. Stepping into the Zodiac for the 5-minute trip to the beach, I feel the bite of the wind, which picks up notably as the inflatable craft gains speed and my face starts to chill.

I grew up in this kind of weather in Wisconsin, but it has been a long time since I had to dress for it. I only hoped I had everything I needed. I had brought a wool scarf but left it in my cabin because it was getting in the way of zipping my jacket.

Now as I reached the beach, I wish I had it. 

In my 90 minutes ashore watching penguins do what penguins do, I stayed pretty warm in my get-up. My core was fine. My feet weren’t cold at all. My face and ears were exposed, and they got cold. A ski mask would have been nice.

The biggest problem was my hands. To get pictures, I had to take my gloves off to operate the camera on my iPhone. Then, pictures taken, I had to get the gloves back on. By the end, my hands were stinging cold. 

When I got back to the ship, I got a cup of coffee, but used it more as a hand warmer than anything else.

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