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29 October, 2001

Going South

Hurrah! We're here!! What a day. So many things happened today that it feels like it's been two days instead of just one. We got up bright and early to be out at the airport at 6 AM. It was easy to get up because the excitement made it hard to sleep anyway. We changed into our cold weather gear, had breakfast, and then had a quick briefing on what to expect. Then we went through securityand boarded the plane. We lucked out today because we flew in a C-141, which is much faster than a C-130. So instead of an eight hour flight, we only had a 5 hour flight. We were packed in pretty tightly on this cargo plane, but it still seemed better than the sardine feeling you get on a fully-loaded commercial plane. The weather was fairly clear, so we knew we would make it into McMurdo and not have to turn back because of bad weather. The flight crew was very friendly, and I got to go into the cockpit--quite a lot of instruments in there. They had 2 pilots and 2 navigators. I'm sure glad they knew what they were doing! I spent most of the flight dozing and reading. We had to stay pretty bundled up because it was cold, although they did have the heat on.

And then...we landed! I've been waiting a year and a half for this moment so you can imagine how thrilled I was. After stepping off the plane I just immersed myself in the scenery., one of the biggest reasons I wanted to come. We were out in the middle of a sheet of ice (McMurdo Sound), surrounded by snow-covered mountains. It reminded me of the Rockies in the middle of winter. Just spectacular! We boarded a bus called Ivan the Terrible and headed into town. I learned later that the ice was only 12-feet thick, which seems awful thin when you think of landing an airplane on it.

Ivan brought us safely into McMurdo Station right up to the National Science Foundations's building. We had another briefing about our schedules for the first few days and then we were off to our rooms--a very welcomed site after the long trip. McMurdo is on a volcanic island called Ross Island. It doesn't seem like an island, though, because it's surrounded by ice instead of water and it seems like you're on land. The town is not the least bit fancy--mostly aluminum and wood buildings and dirt roads. I was surprised that the snow had melted enough already to expose the dirt. The town has it's own little chapel, a firehouse, dorms (where we sleep), a dining hall that serves cafeteria style, a big building of offices and labs for the scientists, and various other buildings that are needed to run a town. There is even a little coffee house and a gym were they hold exercise classes.

I found out today that we'll be in McMurdo for about 10 days just getting all our food and equipment organized and packed up. Tomorrow--snow school.

Temperature: -15 C; 5 F

Wind: 8 knots

Wind Chill: -25 C; -13 F

Preflight briefing in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Inside the cargo plane.

Safe landing in McMurdo.

First sighting of McMurdo from the airstrip. McMurdo is nestled under the hill in the lower right.

National Science Foundation in McMurdo.

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