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19 December, 2002

Thursday, December 19, 2002

McMurdo Station

As the Kiwis say, ďNo worries!Ē Phew! We did not have to boomerang back to Christchurch. Can you imagine flying for eight hours, cramped on a hard bench, not able to talk to anyone because itís so loud, and then end up where you started? Me neither!

The excitement was palpable when the army guy announced that Antarctica had been sighted. People began climbing up on the benches to share portholes and to take pictures of the cracks in the sea ice and the mountain ranges of the continent as it came into view. I couldnít help but imagine what the early explorers must have felt when they first laid eyes on the frigid blues and whites of this Ice continent. In some ways I feel like an explorer, because I will walk in places that few people will ever have the opportunity to see. Iím sure I will explore my own limitations, too, as I face challenges physical, mental and emotional. But, Iím readyóhere I come!

As the door opened, I expected a blast of cold air, but the cool, crispness was actually welcome after the long, claustrophobic flight. I stepped out into the blinding brightness and turned 360 degrees to soak up the breathtaking view. It was even more beautiful than I had imagined. Photographs canít begin to paint the picture I witnessed. The Trans Antarctic Mountains rose up on the other side of McMurdo Sound, and the dips between them are the entrances to the Dry Valleys where I will travel in a few days. Mt. Erebus marks the direction north. It puffed gentle smoke rings from its molten interior and sent hot air rising to condense in the cold air at the summit. This active volcano looks pretty tame at the moment but has been known to explode and send lava bombs sailing in all directions. I hope to see one, but not flying too close in my direction!

We drove into McMurdo in Ivan the Terra-Bus, a huge tractor-wheeled contraption that lumbers slowly, but steadily over the ice. Iíll give the McMurdo tour to you in another journal entry!

1. First steps in Antarctica. Is that a happy face, or what?!

2. First glimpse of the continent.

3. Mountains marking the entrance to Taylor Valley where I will be living in a few days.

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