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22 November, 2001

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This morning we were good to go. We hit the Raytheon Travel Office at 6:15 AM, suited up, commenced sweating, and after an hour or so boarded the bus to the airport. It's exciting to see a C130 up close anyway, but knowing that you are about to ride in one and end up in Antarctica seems to elevate the sensation. I found a good way to settle that excitement down--wang your head (I believe that's the proper term) into the sharp, low, metal doorway of the plane as you enter. Everything readjusts.

If you ever do have the opportunity to fly to Antarctica, choose the Royal New Zealand Air Force. We had a fine crew (the loadmaster even let me get pictures from the cockpit windows).

After a few hours of flying, the clouds below us began to part occasionally and we saw the first bits of floating ice. Much back slapping and forgetting about head-wanging. Gradually, the bits became larger and connected. We marvelled at the pack ice, with its dark leads and patchwork shades of different thicknesses. Then we reached the continent. Black, jagged peaks blown over with streaks of snow and ice; glaciers, crevasse fields, immense tongues of ice flowing out onto vast, flat stretches of other ice. We could only guess at their height.

Touchdown, and a long, slow deceleration. Sunglasses on and bags packed, we left the plane to a slick, blue ice field and brilliant sunshine (which is brilliant still, and it's 11:15 PM). Turning to photograph the plane I got my first sight of Mt. Erebus. The plume was blowing away from us, but we could still see occasional puffs of steam and smoke when the wind shifted. What a trip.

McMurdo is an amazing place. I feel as though I'm in a University when I'm indoors. I'm sitting in Crary Laboratory, and except for doors that look like the entrance to a meat locker and an obvious functionality to the whole place, it could be anywhere. But the view out the long window to my left is across the Ross Ice Shelf to the Transantarctic Mountains maybe 100 kilometers away. Breathtaking.

Dinner tonight had every member of the team at the table for the first time. Dr. Bill McIntosh has joined, bringing the number to eight members. At this point, everything is about logistics. Which cables did you bring? Can we test the microphones tonight? Who is going to do the food requisition? Do we have the TV we needed? Which lab do we have? And for us new-to-the-ice people; When do we go to altitude, survival, helicopter, and waste management classes? I'm looking forward to "snow school." It's an overnight in the field, setting up camp and hunkering down for the night. While the vulcanologists wrangle through all their details, I wonder if the chemicals I need for snow crystal capture made it here. They did--so I'm off to see the chemists tomorrow. I will also find out if the new weather station arrived, since that will be my responsibility. I look forward to beginning each journal entry with the weather from the last 24 hours, and the current weather as we measure it from the hut atop Mt. Erebus. First--details, details....

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Clockwise from top left: 1) Human cargo. 2) We see the ocean through breaks in the clouds. 3) First ice! 4) Emily Desmerais (studying the movement of Mt. Erebus with Global Positioning Systems) peers in awe through the porthole. _________________________________________________________________ Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at http://explorer.msn.com/intl.asp

Clockwise from top left: 1) A ribbon of sea ice seen from the cockpit. 2) Part of our crew. 3) Through the haze--the pack ice. 4) We reach the continent! _________________________________________________________________ Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at http://explorer.msn.com/intl.asp

From the bus--our plane and Mt. Erebus in the background. _________________________________________________________________ Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at http://explorer.msn.com/intl.asp

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