Tuesday, October 5, 2010

McMurdo at Last

A lot has happened in the last couple days. I apologize for the lack of posts lately, I'll be writing daily from here on out, usually posting around 3am eastern time.

After a weather delay which kept us in Christchurch for an extra day, we shipped out at 5am this morning to board the C-17 for our ice flight. I narrowly made my shuttle after bolting out of bed late, worried that I might not make it on the flight. We arrived at the US Antarctic Program headquarters to suit up in Extreme Cold Weather gear and do our final packing, which was a little more complicated than a normal flight. You get a small carryon, a large checked bag, and a 'boomerang bag.' In the event of stormy weather which would prevent the plane from landing at McMurdo, the boomerang bag is the only bag that will be returned to us when we land in New Zealand, so that has to contain nothing that we want on the flight, but everything we would need if we had to stay another few days in Christchurch.

After suiting up in our gear, we had a 'hurry up and wait' situation before another video briefing (number 2), then passing through customs and security. I was surprised to see that we have to go through the equivalent of pre-9/11 airport security. We then bussed out to the tarmac and boarded the C-17 in a single-file line of 70 ridiculously overdressed and sweaty people wearing bright red ECW jackets.

Our flight attendants were all air force 'loadmasters' who were in charge of stacking us in between cargo pallets and bags. I was told that the total lift capacity of the plane is around 170,000 lbs, which is enough to lift the largest tanks the US uses. I don't have much more time on internet so I'll let pictures speak instead.

Looking over the Mountains about an hour outside of McMurdo

Gracie has been kind enough to show me around and not treat me like a total fungi (FU***** New Guy on the Ice).

One of the great things about this trip is meeting all sorts of interesting people. This is 'Diesel' showing off her sporty calculator watch from 1995.

Unloading on the ice sheet downhill of McMurdo.

Immediately after unloading the plane, I got onto a bus and took this photo. The girl in the photo looked at me and said "Eric Trautmann? Didn't you go to Ithaca High School?" Turns out Anna and I sat next to each other in 9th grad social studies class. This is the third extremely small world experience I've had so far on this trip, at this point I'm just expecting it.

These are my accommodations for the next week before we head out to the shear zone on the ice.

McMurdo isn't the most beautiful town in the world, but the surrounding scenery is breathtaking. More photos to come.


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