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Tips From Antarctica For How To Stay Warm During The Bomb Cyclone


The winter storm working its way up the East Coast has brought record cold temperatures and snow to some cities that haven't had a hard freeze in years. So we're going to get some advice now on how to keep warm from someone who has had a lot of practice. Keri Nelson has spent six winters in Antarctica and joins us from the Palmer Station - part of the National Science Foundation's U.S. Antarctic Program. Welcome.

KERI NELSON: Hi - nice to be talking to you.

SHAPIRO: What is the coldest temperature you've ever seen down there?

NELSON: I think the coldest that I have been around for is about 60 below Fahrenheit.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

NELSON: It does get quite a bit colder in some of the places that Americans go to. But so I'm sort of middle ground, but that's pretty cold (laughter).


NELSON: It feels cold.

SHAPIRO: If you're going to go outside in weather like that, how do you prepare yourself?

NELSON: Well, you know, better than I did when I first started in the program...

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

NELSON: ...Even after having come out of Minnesota. I now have my favorite things that I like to put on. And it all includes a lot of different kinds of layers. If I'm heading out into 60-below weather, which I try not to if I don't have to, I make sure that I have lots of socks on and good boots, a couple - three layers of, like, long underwear - so my thin layer and my medium-weight layer and then a wind-breaking layer and maybe a padded wind-breaking layer and make sure that I have maybe even a double (unintelligible) - two of them, one for the lower part of me and one for the upper part of me - goggles, which you don't always need for wind but actually keep your face really warm and double layers of gloves, if not more.

SHAPIRO: So lots of layers - that seems like advice that anyone can take.

NELSON: Lots of layers.

SHAPIRO: So let's imagine that you've been outside. You come back indoors. You're shivering. You can't feel your fingers. What's your first move going to be?

NELSON: I like to grab hot drinks and warm myself from the inside out. At these stations, because we're out in the cold, there are sauna facilities provided. And sometimes I'll even with all those layers on go stand in the sauna and just warm myself...


SHAPIRO: With the layers.

NELSON: ...With the layers because it's just so cold sometimes. And you really get chilled through. And it just kind of helps you from the inside out.

SHAPIRO: Part of living in extreme cold is facing cabin fever. When you can't go outside for...


SHAPIRO: ...Days or even weeks at a time, how do you deal with not going just stir-crazy being cooped up inside?

NELSON: (Laughter) When I was thinking about this concept of staying warm in the winter, there is all the physical stuff, right? And all of that you can get on tips line on the Internet. But there is definitely this dimension of needing to warm yourself mentally and spiritually when there's cold and dark about. And so I have hobbies that I can do by myself or I can draw other people into. And so I think that's really important.

SHAPIRO: Like what?

NELSON: Well, I write music and play music. There was once we attempted to shoot a little soap opera, or we make art or have art nights. Or here at these stations, we have science lectures where we learn about the science that's happening down here. I think all of those things are just little virtual heaters for us to kind of warm our hearts and our minds when it's cold outside.

SHAPIRO: Keri Nelson speaking with us on Skype from Palmer Station in Antarctica where she works as a station administrator - Keri, thanks so much.

NELSON: Yes. It was wonderful to talk to you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.