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4 December, 2003

And We’re Off…

Today’s the day! The weather has cleared and we are off to Fang Camp. I am in the last group to shuttle up in the helicopters, so the following are photos of the rest of the “B Team” (as the stranded party has come to be known) taking off and then some scenic shots from my flight up to Fang. We are headed for the 2,900 m (9,500 ft) acclimatization camp on the Fang Glacier. We will spend two nights there acclimatizing before ascending to the Lower Erebus Hut located at 3400 m (11,400 ft) on the side of Mt. Erebus.

1. Figure 1 – Passengers are led to the pad by a helitech (center). You need to approach from the front of the helicopter and steer clear of the tail rotor, which is nearly invisible when rotating.

2. Figure 2 – Radios in the helmets allow you to talk with the pilot and listen to the take off procedure as radioed to operations. The small A-Star Helicopters are crowded with two passengers and the pilot so most of the gear is stowed in the white basket outside (bottom right) and in the tail compartment.

3. Figure 3 – Large gear can be slung beneath the helicopter. This is a radio tower headed to another field party’s site. Our snowmobiles were slung up to Fang Camp earlier in the season.

4. Figure 4 – Scott, our helicopter pilot, has the best office in the world!

5. Figure 5 – The “tongue” of ice projecting out to the top left of the photo is the Erebus Ice Tongue. It is part of the Erebus glacier, which extends out into the seasonal sea ice.

6. Figure 6 – The dark projection of rock in the top left of the photo is the Fang Ridge. Our acclimatization camp is located on the plateau to the left of the ridge. Our three yellow Scott tents are too small to be visible in this photo. The Lower Erebus Hut and the crater rim are uphill to the left of the photo.

7. Figure 7 – After dropping us off, the helicopter carried extra gear back to McMurdo. Kurt is loading two of the “fins” that are used to stabilize the snowmobiles as they are slung underneath the helicopter. The fins keep the snowmobiles from spinning as they are flown up the volcano.

8. Figure 8 – After the excitement of finally flying to Fang Camp, we set up our sleeping pads and bags, cooked dinner in our tents, and enjoyed a cozy visit from the rest of our team who Skidoo’d down from Lower Erebus Hut. We packed 11 people into a 3-man Scott tent. With our cook kits, stoves, and dirty dinner dishes, it was a tight fit as you can see. We are all thrilled to finally be up on Mt. Erebus! We have two days to acclimatize at Fang Camp, so tomorrow we’ll be Climbing Fang Ridge.

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