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29 November, 2002

29 November, 2002

Up at 3 am, to do wash, but no go. I hunted through the Windsor like a dog on the trail of a rabbit, finding the laundry after a lot of twists and doorways, but locked until 7:30! The door was locked behind me, so no chance to just walk back the way I'd come. Snooped around the outside of the building, which has many additions, alleyways, and fences to contend with, ended up on the street about a half a block away from the B & B with an armful of dirty clothes, but found my way back.

I was concerned to get up early, and have everything ready to go for the 6 am airport shuttle. Issues :

a) plane to Antarctica leaves on the dot, don't be late (unfounded concern)

b) no laundry service available at pole, foolish to arrive with any dirty laundry for a 2 1/2 week stay (reasonable, but ultimately undone by later events)

c) for plane ride, allowed one hand carry bag of quite limited size, into which everything I might want for a long period must fit. This bag will require some fixing and arranging and choosing what's important in the 10 minutes between arrival at the Antarctic terminal and the plane's takeoff ( again, unfounded concern, plenty of time)

d) In that same 10 minutes, have to put on all cold weather gear for plane ride (also unfounded)

Well, I had a cup of tea around 4:30 am with Mike & Mike, who'd already moved into their breakfast bag provided by the B & B, full of weird English-type stuff like Pam's Fruit & cereal bar. Then: flight delayed, shuttle at 9 am. So we had another breakfast at 7, and a slow ride to the airport, and more delays there, and ended up getting airborne about noon. I even had time to completely charge the computer (the Center has 110 volts, unlike most of New Zealand). I hoped to listen to music from the computer on the plane.

The plane was NOISY. (See the video on the website). Earplugs in the entire 7 hour way. Music was so lo-fi as to be impossible, but I could kind of make out some Ray Romano comedy I got from my student Alison V. At first, it was pretty cramped, but folks started to move around, and climb up on top of the big pallets of equipment at the back of the plane, and it got better. About halfway through the flight, someone on the plane started playing music over the loudspeaker! Crowded House (a New Zealand band), Cat Stevens, a Burt Bacarach collection! Through earplugs, headphones, the deafening roar of 4 turboprops, MUSIC! The lowest fidelity music in the history of the universe! It would have made any Guatemalan bus driver proud.

I got up to use the "bathroom" (read : "funnel") and saw we were starting to get over sea ice. Lots of pictures. I saw this beautiful tabular iceberg, the kind with high vertical walls that breaks off from Antarctica's ice shelves. And the sea ice was spotty, then thicker, then in lots of pieces covering the surface like the facets of a jewel, then continents with fault lines and open leads between, then solid white, then over the real continent. Scabby jagged mountains poking through the unsoiled sheet of snow, endless black & white studies on form. Long shadows are the constant here, as the sun never gets very high.

It got colder and colder in the plane, and we put on any remaining gear on the landing approach. Everyone on the cargo seats took up a lot more space with their big parkas on, like too many cushions on the couch. An easy soft landing way out on the ice, a ride to McMurdo, an orientation talk, a walk to "Bag Drag" to route our stuff to the pole for tomorrow morning's flight, a late dinner held over in the galley (which is absurdly nice, given its location), and to the room to pass out.

The bunny boots. They are inflatable, to create an insulating layer of air. The light in this picture is about right. Dark inside the plane, blinding light pouring through the windows.

A panorama of the plane we rode to McMurdo. This is a C-130, operated by the Royal New Zealand Air Force. New Zealand and the US don't see eye-to-eye on some international questions, but they have a very close working relationship on Antarctica.

Mike Janech & yours truly in a very NOISY place. I wondered about the cargo seats, but getting in the plane, it was pretty obvious. The webbing "seats" stow away very easily, so the entire airplane can haul cargo.

Antarctic science is a truly international, cooperative effort. What's the good of doing science ? It's about finding out about our world, sure, but it's also about building bridges.

A lovely fractal pattern of sea ice blocks, broken out of a solid sheet by wave action. This is a yearly pattern, as the sea grows & shrinks by the size of the United States.

I was reading a book about Picasso & Einstein, paralleling their breakthroughs, which happened at almost the same time, 1905 to 1907. Picasso's Les Demoiselles D'Avignon required years of effort, and thousands of sketches of form and shape. I was struck by the endless variety of form in these black & white studies.

I made a slide show show of the entire collection of pictures I shot through the window, and it's available on my website at:


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