Earth Sea Sky & Antarctica: Tested to -55˚C for Over 65 Years.

In 2007 Earth Sea Sky was awarded a 10-year contract to design and make Antarctica New Zealand’s ECW (Extreme Cold Weather) clothing. This involved a complete redesign of Antarctica New Zealand’s ECW wardrobe. The brief was to modernise the garments by using the latest high altitude mountain clothing styles, introduce a more versatile layering system and establish a full men’s and women’s size grading.

Antarctica New Zealand Field Camp. Photo: Duncan Ritchie

From the beginning it was a collaboration process using Antarctica New Zealand’s field knowledge and Earth Sea Sky’s technical expertise in fabrics, design, and construction. The final design brief was simplified to functional, good-looking, work wear.

It took 12 months to design, test and finalise 5 jackets, 2 trousers and 4 headwear items. Many of the garments originated from Earth Sea Sky’s standard mountaineering range but the large down-filled ECW jacket and the lighter quilted Primaloft jacket were designed from scratch. All the items were made at Earth Sea Sky’s Christchurch and Dunedin factories.

Duncan Ritchie wearing the Extreme Cold Weather Jacket. Photo: Andy Thompson

Now well into the second 10-year design and supply contract, the Earth Sea Sky wardrobe has received a number of modifications to maintain its position as one of the most functional ECW clothing systems in the world. Its distinctive colouring and styling also clearly define New Zealand’s presence amongst the many other Antarctic nations.

Earth Sea Sky also supplies ECW Polar clothing to RNZAF, RNZN, NIWA and the Australian Antarctica Division. Our extensive clothing range can be adapted for any organisation’s individual requirements for any conditions from the tropics to the Poles. We specialise in small production runs, keep a comprehensive inventory of specialised fabrics, and draw on years of hands-on experience in fabrics and design.

For each item in the Antarctica New Zealand’s ECW wardrobe there is an equivalent available in the Earth Sea Sky range.

Iain Miller and Emperor Penguins. Photo: Iain Miller

Our Antarctic heritage

Earth Sea Sky operates in the back streets of Addington, Christchurch, New Zealand. Established over 30 years ago by David Ellis, this small family business has a unique heritage of making and using all the products they design. It was David’s grandfather Roland, a keen mountaineer, who in the late 1920’s started the production of down-filled sleeping bags in his Dunedin bedding factory. By the 1950’s they were considered world leading, good enough to be used by Hillary and Tenzing in their high camp the night before their first ascent of Mt Everest.

Tractor team at South Pole 4th January 1958 from left: Jim Bates, Peter Mulgrew, Ed Hillary, Murray Ellis, Derek Wright. Photo: Ellis Family Archives

Three years later the family’s down-filled sleeping bags and clothing were chosen by the New Zealand, Hillary led team which was part of the 1956-58 Commonwealth Trans Antarctic Expedition. David’s father Murray, an engineer and mountaineer, was a member of the team who helped build the original Scott Base and later joined the five-man depot laying party who infamously drove the Massey Ferguson farm tractors to the South Pole.

The Ellis family have been designing and making Antarctica New Zealand’s ECW clothing ever since.