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26 December, 2002

F6 - We've arrived!

Jen and I awoke with a start this morning - we had overslept and were afraid we had missed our bag drag. The bag drag is the time your group is assigned to have your bags at the helo-port or the staging area for the cargo planes. We were told to be at the helo-port early - but not knowing what time early was, we were afraid that 8:00 might be too late. We quickly showered and finished packing, called for a shuttle and went straight to helo ops. We had received a memo that the Stream Team had never been late for a helo flight - we sure did not want to be the first! The guy was surprised, and said he did not usually see people there so early for their flights! Ours was scheduled at 11:30, so Phew! We were even able to get a cup of coffee and relax a little.

We arrived 45 minutes early for the flight and watched as the pilot and helo techs loaded our gear. There was a LOT of gear. They then gave us a safety lecture which included what to do in case of a crash or hard landing - I asked how many of those landings they have had to make. He hedged on his answer when he said, Not as many as in the States. What does THAT mean?! Jen, Pete, Sarah (from the glaciology team) and I were piled into the seat facing backwards, with our knees crammed up against the gear. Four sets of shoulders were wider than the seats, so we could not all lean back at the same time. As the helicopter lifted off it seemed to groan under all the weight, but finally started to make a little altitude. I was wearing a helmet, so could not carry on a conversation, but it was so loud that we could not have heard each other anyway.

As we left McMurdo and flew across the Ross Sea, we could see the beginnings of leads in the ice where soon it will melt and break apart. Maybe then we will see penguins and seals coming in closer to land! The icebreaker is scheduled to arrive and break a path to McMurdo while we are in the valleys.

The most incredible scenery was on the other side of McMurdo Sound as we entered Taylor Valley. The mountains tower 4000-6000 feet on both sides and the glaciers lick through. Commonwealth Glacier greets us as we step out of our tents, and Canada Glacier is within walking distance. Both are breathtakingly beautiful.

We landed near the F6 hut and took a tour. We began setting up our tents and then John and Karen arrived. Finally we are together as a team. Erin should arrive in a few days, then Daryl a week or so later, and then the Stream Team will be whole. I plan to do a separate journal on each team member so you can meet them individually. Tomorrow I'll describe life at F6.

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