Thursday, January 20, 2005
Source: SpaceRef Interactive, Inc.
Kevin Hand's Antarctic Journal 20 January 2005
January 17th, 2005
Comparisons of New Zealand to Purgatory are probably not that common.
Nevertheless, for the past two weeks, this is exactly how it has felt.
Christchurch, New Zealand has become my Polar Purgatory. We arrived on
the 5th of January and we were anticipating departure to McMurdo
station in Antarctica on the 7th. Bad weather and then malfunctions
with the plane have repeatedly postponed that date. Day after day we
were told that our flight out might be the following day. As a result,
we were not allowed to go far from Christchurch. Each day we would
wander the city, get some work done and return to our hotel rooms
hoping that beneath our doors would be the magic fax saying 'Departure
tomorrow - report at 5 AM'. But alas, I now have a pile of faxes saying
Tonight, however, was different. The magic fax came.
Like Santa down the chimney, the bell hop came and delivered the
present I had been eagerly anticipating. For nearly half my life I've
been dreaming of reaching the polar environments, and now a plane had a
seat for me. Finally we got confirmation that - if the weather holds -
we'll fly out early tomorrow morning.
January 18th, 2005
It's an impressive bird, that C-141. The wings are
mounted high on its massive green fuselage, somehow giving me the
impression that this plane actually enjoys flying as much as we do. The
inside is sparse. Four rows of benches down the length of the plane are
packed full of scientists, engineers, and many other people who are
heading south to get work done at one of the stations. The plane lifts
of and the noise drones out everything. There's no conversation, only
the periodic shifting as legs become cramped and bladders signal the
brain. Ear plugs are useful, but I go for the iPod. Five hours and many
songs later we are told that our windowless cylinder is now descending
toward the McMurdo ice shelf. Smiles and excited glances bounce around
the plane. Even the hardened Antarctic regulars are excited about
finally getting back on the ice. No one had expected such a long delay
in Christchurch everyone was a bit stir crazy waiting for the
southbound flight. When the wheels touchdown and the door opened to the
sharp white of the ice and snow, I could still hardly believe I had
After the initial briefings, orientation, dorm room
assignment, and coordination of our lab equipment, etc., I was finally
able to escape for a little quality time with Self. It was about 11:30
PM, but due to our southern latitude, the sun was still high above the
horizon. The small 'town' of McMurdo station resembles the blend of a
large lumber yard mixed with a web of metal trailers of various sizes.
Rising above the town is Observation Hill. It was from the top of this
hill that many of the early explorers, such as Scott and Shackleton,
gained their initial views of the surrounding landscape. I was eager to
see the view from the top of this small peak and as I was hiking up I
came across a young man from the Coast Guard who had been working on
the ice-breaker ship that was at port in McMurdo. Out of his pocket, he
pulled a beer for me and we traded stories for a little while before I
continued onward. He had spent the day diving down into the cold waters
of the Bay, using hydraulic equipment to repair damage on the bottom of
the ship. Wow. All in a days work, I guess!
More soon... heading to the Dry Valleys in 30 minutes! Here are some pics with short captions, more details in a few weeks.