So, I has arrived in Christchurch on a Saturday afternoon and left late Sunday evening. Well, it was supposed to be late afternoon on Saturday, but of with travel and especially related to Antarctica, it can be a case of hurry up and wait.
I had to report to the Clothing Distribution Center (CDC) near the Christchurch airport at 5pm, so there was a shuttle scheduled to pick me up at 4:30. The trip to the CDC was uneventful and it was here that I was issued a full complement of Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) gear. (Aside: you might notice a lot of acronyms are used in Antarctica, maybe no more than in normal life, but sometimes it sure feels like it!)
ECW consists of Big Red, little red, carhartts or wind pants, bunny or FDX boots, winter socks, long underwear, fleece pullovers, a hat, various gloves and glove liners, and two orange bags. The idea is that you try on ALL of your ECW and if somethng doesn’t fit, then you trade it in for the right size. This is very important since the ECW available on the continent is very limited so you want to be comfy, warm, and able to move comfortably in your ECW! There is a lot of ECW, but if it is your first time in Antarctica, it is a good idea to take everything they issue you until you know what you like. For example, which gloves you prefer and more importantly, work well and keep you warm.
The original flight time was 7pm, so we checked in our bags and then hopped on a scale with our carry-on, so they knew how much that weighed. Flights to Antarctica are, in general, flown by an Air Force Reserve Unit based out of New York (the 109th), so basically a military flight. The entire checking-in and security are done at their own special building, with a door just around the corner from the CDC.
After not too much waiting, we we’re informed that our flight had been delayed due to weather. We were given about an hour and a half to relax or wander around before we would need to return to the special terminal. At that time, we returned to the waiting lounge, are told our flight was still were uncertain but we would walk through the metal detectors and have our bags scanned so we would be ready to go if the word came back positive. This also made the room we were in secure and we couldn’t leave it until we either left for the plane or left for the hotels.
As it turns out, we waited probably less than an hour and the light was green! We were going to have our ice flight that night! We boarded two special buses and were driven to the parking spot of a C-17 aircraft. As we boarded, we were given our flight meal and then we climbed aboard to find a seat.
Here is a photo of what getting into the C-17 looks like (it was dark when we loaded so I borrowed this image)
This particular C-17 had lots of cargo and so passengers (moving cargo) sat only on the sides of the plane.
Our trip from Christchurch, NZ to Pegasus Air Field near McMurdo and Scott Base in Antarctica took about 5 hours. We left after midnight in the dark and arrived after 5am in broad daylight.
Of course, it wouldn’t have mattered what time we arrived since it is daytime 24hours a day in January in Antarctica. The sun might drift slightly up or down, but basically it just circles the sky.
Upon arrival, my passengers and I deplaned and walked over to Ivan the TerraBus (pictured on the right).
We only have to take our carry-on bags as our checked bags will meet up up in McMurdo after we arrive. The drive to McMurdo from Pegasus is less than 20miles, but it takes an hour in Ivan because we have to go slow to not mess up the snow/ice roads and because Ivan is such a big guy!
More on my short stay in MCM (McMurdo) soon!