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October 9, 2009

The Journey

This winter I will be traveling to Antarctica to work at a remote field camp. The camp is located about 70 miles from the main station and in one of the few snow free regions on the Antarctic continent. I will be sharing the camp duties with the camp's long time supervisor and together we will maintain all of the amenities of the field camp in addition to assisting resident scientists with various aspects of their research.
But, before we can be of any use to the researchers, we have to first get to Antarctica. This year, the journey from Bellingham to McMurdo lasted ten days....

Day 1- Fly from Bellingham to Denver and Raytheon Polar Services HQ for two days of orientation.

Day 2 and 3- Denver orientation: training, power points and too much coffee.

Day 3 cont.- Load the bus to Denver International Airport. Begin mental preparation for the almost 24 hours of travel that lies ahead. Denver to LA, LA to Sydney, Sydney to Christchurch, Christchurch International to hotel. Phew!

Day 6- Arrive Christchurch NZ. Get settled in cozy British B and B. Beware of persuasive resident Dachshund loitering at your feet during breakfast.

Day 7- Stretch out legs with a wander around the Christchurch Botanical Gardens. Spring in New Zealand is always a pleasure.

Day 7 cont.- Catch shuttle to Antarctic Center for more orientation and extreme cold weather gear issue. Every participant receives two orange bags filled with polar tested cold weather gear.

Day 8, 9, 10- Enjoy the fine weather in Christchurch compliments of poor weather in McMurdo and canceled ice flights. The small town behind me is Lyttelton harbor, the departure port for almost all of the early explorers to the Ross Sea and for all of the modern vessels that service McMurdo Station.

Day 11- Weather finally clears in McMurdo. 0500 alarm to board the C-17 military jet by 0800. Arrive Antarctic center, change into cold weather gear, show ID, check luggage, have breakfast, more briefings, pass through security and board plane.

Day 11 cont.- Five hour plane ride from Christchurch to McMurdo Station. Temperatures in the plane turn progressively cooler as we descend into Southern latitudes. Read, sleep, eat and eventually, arrive McMurdo.

To Be Continued.

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