8 November, 1999
Monday November 8, 1999
Alarm went off at 0345 hours, I showered, packed and made myself a cup of tea. Ethn came out if his room about 0450 hours and we chatted for a moment then he and I went to finish up our rooms. I walked for the shuttle at 0410 hours and they were already loaded and waiting for me. I honestly don't thing I've been late more then ten times in my entire life so I could not figure out what had happened. It was simple, the shuttle company, as I guess is typical in NZ, was early.
Got to the airport and found they had off loaded all of our hold gear. That means I had access to clean clothes and all my battery chargers. Oh well!
It looks like good weather here and everyone is sure today is the day we'll fly. I hope so.
We dressed and did a bag-drag and waited in line to get checked. Then we waited in line some more to be checked. Finally they checked our gear in (check passports and weigh and check any baggage and you); then it was off to the holding pen where many literally strip down to their long-johns and simply lie around. We were told we could go over to the Antarctic Center for breakfast, but that we had to be back by 0615. Good vibes. We are going !!!. I stayed in a the holding pen and talked with a couple of researches. One of the fellows I was suppose to have gone to see the Palmer with was there so I humbly apologized. He graciously accepted it.
It is the way in Antarctica , you must work when you opportunity arises. Mother Nature is the boss and calls all the shots. An example of this is the U.S. Itase: High Resolution Radar Profiling of Snow and Ice Startigraphy Headed up by Dr. Steve Arcone from C.R.R.E.L. This is the project that many of in New England probably saw on TV at the middle of October. They are hooked up with the Museum of Science in Boston and are going to be crossing Antarctica from Byrd Station to the Upstream C site looking at the stratigraphy along the way. I'll have much more to say about the Itase latter, but, my point is this. While standing in the holding pen with Steve and others, he learned, from a C-130 pilot, that his expedition was already a couple of weeks behind because the weather had precluded the support people from getting into Byrd Station and putting the base on an operational ready basis. Nature is the real "Boss Lady" here.
About 0615 hours those who left returned and reported a shuttle out front to take us to the plane. Then a call to line up and get searched with metal detectors and dogs. Looks like we were going. Bused to the plane, we are taking the C-141, a jet transport. We are packed and stacked in like sardine and strapped in and given a lunch. It looks like we are off. Everyone is seated and sweating like pigs but we are anxious to go. Then load master yelled for attention and told us to get of his plane; there was an hour and a half delay. We all thought he was kidding. But he was not, It will take that long to get off the plane. We went told holding pen and we were told we could go to the 60 South café, but no further. Everyone is exhausted.
At 1206 hours we left Christchurch, now everyone is wondering if we will boomerang, that is get part way to the ice and then be forced to return. The flight was most uncomfortable, literally side by side with one foot in front of us then another person. So close that only one person on either side of the one-foot wide isle could stand at a time. There is porta-potties at one end of the plane and a bucket (urine) only at the other, however to get to either one was an ordeal for the person and all those he MUST step on. About every 1/2 hour someone, one on one side of the isle would stand for a few minute. Cramps where I should not have cramps.
The flight took 5 hours and we were told the winds were a gentle breeze at 25 mph and the temperature is -8C. Not too cold. The sight was breathtaking flat white blue ice runway and then mountains across the horizon. Off in the distance was Mt. Erebus, an active volcano. Wow! Awesome!!
We were pick up by Ivan the Terra Bus, a huge bus like vehicle that was driven by a young girl probably 20 years old at the most. As we approached McMurdo Station the appearance around the station was not one of pristine Antarctica, but of a very busy base occupied by humans who had needs. Shelter, buildings everywhere; water, pipes coming from the sound to bring sea water for desalination, a fuel farm of tanks and pipes to supply the town with heat, and construction vehicles everywhere. I must confess it was a little disturbing.
We were taken to the Science center for an orientation meeting, and given times for other meetings. Tomorrow at 0800 hours a waste management meeting and at 1100 hours a meeting with the administrators of the station. I found my room at the Mammoth Mountain Inn. A little cubby with two closets for all our gear, bunk beds, a dresser, two chairs and a desk. Quite Spartan, but I am sure it is palatial compared to the tent I will be in just three short weeks. WoW! But as I said earlier, Nature is the Boss, and when she calls we MUST answer; no matter what the facility looks like. Again the field camp will be much more Spartan and we will have to bag it all up and bring it out to boot. Yuk!
I made my bed, unpack, put my ECW gear back on and went to supper. All you can eat, the food is great so I will have to be careful or I'll come back a "cowasaurus".
I returned to my home. No roommate yet. Must have fallen asleep, even with full sun at 2000 hours, remember we have no darkness at all here during this time of the year. The station works around the clock.
Penguin Peter the Polar Man
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