Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Antarctica Part 1 - Getting to the ice.

After about 20 hours of traveling I arrived in ChristChurch, New Zealand. It was early morning, and I didn't really now where I was going so I walked from the airport to Antarctica New Zealand. I tried on all of my clothing that they provided including enough to have 6 layers on top, 4 layers on bottom, 2 pairs of boots, and lots of other accessories. I met with the rest of the research team who are based out of University of Waikato:
Craig Cary, PI
Ian McDonald, PI
Craig Herbold, Post-doc
Chelsea Vickers, Master's student

That night we all attended the 2010 New Zealand Research Honours Dinner. This was the beginning of a crash course in NZ culture. Considering that I would be spending most of my time with these people in close courters with out running water, it seemed fitting to start the trip with everyone all dressed up.

After spending a day getting little things done in Christchurch, our flight for Antartica left the next morning. For our flight we had to be wearing (or at least carrying) all of our ECW (Extreme Cold Weather) gear. We were given a short intro video on Antartica, then we went through security, and boarded a bus. A short bus ride took us out onto the tarmac and we picked up a bagged lunch as we boarded our plane.

Seating was first come first serve so I grabbed one of the business class seats and settled in for the 5 hour flight. Almost everyone on board are scientists so there was lots of interesting projects being discussed on the flight. For example, the person beside me worked for NASA and was studying the soil and microbes in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, because these regions are thought to be very similar to Mars.

Interestingly, the cock pit was open and you could go up at anytime to chat with the pilots and to check out their view. The visibility was perfect and the views were fantastic as we started to approach Antarctica.

As we got closer to Ross Island, Mount Erebus was clearly visible and it was unimaginable that I would be living on top of it for 2 weeks.

After landing on the ice runway, it was a short drive through the American McMurdo Station (max. ~1100 people) and into the smaller, cozier, New Zealand Scott Base (max. 86 people). At last I had arrived!