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16 November, 2001

Late last night a fax was delivered to my room indicating the flight to McMurdo was delayed by four hours. Not being much of a morning person, I welcomed the delay for it meant more sleep. Unfortunately, when I awoke in the morning another fax message was waiting at my door. The flight was canceled due to mechanical problems.

Since the cancellation meant another day in Christchurch, I had to find something to occupy the day. I met with Marietta Cleckley, another TEA, and two of the members of her research team. The four of us boarded a shuttle and headed out to the Christchurch fairgrounds to view the Agriculture and Poultry Festival. This event is very similar to county fairs held throughout rural areas in the United States.

Each year, farmers from the area bring their livestock to the festival grounds for display and competition. Since there are around 48 million sheep in New Zealand, compared to the Kiwi population of around 3.8 million, there were quite a variety of sheep on display. In addition to the sheep, there were also some other animals not widely seen in the United States, such as ostriches and alpacas.

The most interesting part of the day that I witnessed was a sheep herding competition. The event did not focus on a human’s ability to herd sheep, but rather a canine’s skill. Each dog was judged on its proficiency and speed in herding a small flock of sheep through obstacles. The dog completed the competition by hording all of the sheep into a holding pen. From my perspective the dogs were not only very good at their job, but seemed to enjoy their work, their tails wagging the entire time.

After returning from the festival, I noticed that a new structure was in the city’s center square. The structure turned out to be something that the South Island of New Zealand is well known for…adrenaline producing excitement! Advertised throughout Christchurch are vendors offering an assortment of activities to get your heart racing: skydiving, hang gliding, bungee jumping, base jumping, etc. The adrenaline device I stumbled upon in the square was something called a bungee slingshot.

The bungee slingshot works by climbing into a harness attached to bungee cords. The cords are then stretched out and whoosh…you are released. Once you are about thirty or forty feet in the air, the bungee cord yanks you back to Earth. Fortunately you are suspended far enough from the ground that you do not go splat against the pavement. Instead, you are once again shot toward the sky. It is a little unnerving at first, but after a while it is easy to work in a flip or two. Playing around with the bungee slingshot was a great way to erode the disappointment of the morning’s cancellation of my flight to the ice. Hopefully, tomorrow’s flight to McMurdo will not be delayed or canceled. But the departure of the flight is out of my control, so I sit and wait for my journey southward.

Children with goat at the A & P Festival

Dog Herding Sheep Competition

Passing Time When Flights to Antarctica Are Cancelled


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