Sunday, November 30, 2008

New Zealand - Nov 30, 2008 - Logan

Logan Mitchell
Date: 11-30-2008
Location: Christchurch, NZ to McMurdo Station, Antarctica
Time: 10 pm
Latitude: 77°50'46.42"S
Longitude: 166°39'59.78"E
Elevation: 34m (112’)
Temperature: -5 °C ( °F)
Wind Chill: -10 °C (°F)
Breakfast: Trail mix snack
Lunch: Bag lunch: sandwich, chips, granola bar, apple, water.

Me in front of the LC-130
The inside of the plane. Note the sleeping people, seating on the side of
A closer look at the drift ice…
Land Ho!!! This was my first sight of Antarctica!
Ivan the shuttle bus.
McMurdo Station from Observation Hill.
5:30 AM – Wake up.
6:00 AM – Catch the shuttle to the airport.
7:15 AM – Check in.
9:00 AM – Take off from Christchurch!!
3:00 PM – First sight of Antarctica!!
5:00 PM – Land on Willy’s Airfield.
6:15 PM – Intro briefing for McMurdo.
7:30 PM – Ate dinner.
10:00 PM – Hiked up Observation Hill.
12:00 AM – Met some resident forklift drivers.
12:45 AM – Ate “Midrats” or Midnight Rations.
1:15 AM – Finally went to bed.

We are flying in a LC-130 which is a large cargo airplane operated by the U.S. National Guard with 4 propeller engines and a combination of skis and wheels for landing gear. Since it’s a military plane it is very basic and very loud. The airplane we were supposed to fly on was the C-17 which is larger, has 4 jet engines, and it can fully retract its landing gear, so its much faster and quieter. As such, our flight is going to be 8-10 hours instead of 4-5 hours for the C-17. On the flip side however, the LC-130 has a lot more windows which I am very happy about. Riding on this plane is Spruce, Natalie, Marie, Tim and I as well as ~15 military folks, some U.S. and some New Zealand. Right after we took off the military folks set up 5 cots to sleep on. It seemed to me that they had taken this flight so many times that they were not interested in the view, only in getting some rest while they were in the air. Two people also slept on top of the large pallet where all of our luggage was packaged. Once one of them got up I snagged that spot and slept for ~2 hours. It turned out to be quite comfortable! For ear protection they gave us earplugs, but I was excited about trying out my new noise canceling earbuds. They worked pretty well, but not as well as I was expecting/hoping. There are two “bathrooms”, the one at the front of the plane is just a urinal and the one at the back is a normal sit down toilet. Instead of doors/walls around the toilets there were curtains that could be folded back when the plane was taking off or landing. The only tricky thing was that since it is so loud in the plane, the only way to find out if someone is using the bathroom is by peeking behind the curtain. The plane was warmed by large hot air vents in the ceiling of the plane. This was nice except that they were too warm and if you were under the vents you got roasted!

The coolest thing about the flight was watching the progression of flying over open ocean, to seeing the first icebergs, to seeing lots of icebergs, to seeing the ocean almost totally covered in icebergs, to seeing the glacier and ice sheet covered mountains of Antarctica. The mountains we flew over were the Trans-Antarctic mountain range for about 3 hours of the flight. I have seen a lot of mountains and glaciers in my life, but these were by far the largest and most expansive.

We landed on Willy’s airfield which is just compacted snow on the Ross Ice Shelf! It is amazing to me that below the ice shelf there is seawater. From Willy’s airfield we took “Ivan” the terra bus over to McMurdo. Once we got into McMurdo we had our initial briefing about the town of McMurdo, ate dinner, and then went and got our luggage. After that Spruce & I hiked up Observation Hill (or Obb Hill for short) to get a view of the lay of the land. Even though I was mentally cognizant of the fact that the sun wouldn’t set while I was here, it was still surprising to be out hiking at 10pm at night and still be in broad daylight. After our hike we went exploring in a few of the buildings and we found the bouldering cave! I’m very excited about this, I had been told that there were some climbing holds on a wall, but not a full bouldering cave! I did bring my climbing shoes, and I’m hoping to get some bouldering in while I’m down here. We also met some people who are working here for the summer and hung out with them for awhile. This was fantastic because they gave us the low down on the fun things to do around McMurdo. Overall, I am really excited to finally be in Antarctica!!

Happy birthday Bess!

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