I just arrived in Antarctica yesterday! I am very fortunate to have been hired as the Beverage Supervisor, feeding our dedicated researchers and their large support staff a healthy amount of booze, for the summer research season (hopefully we’ll actually last the season with this crazy budget crisis!) and I am SO thrilled to be here! My trip to The Ice started on October 1st in Anchorage, Alaska and finally culminated in our 757 landing in an emergency whiteout landing yesterday, the 7th, just before 5 PM. Due to poor weather conditions we were “stranded” in Christchurch for 4 nights. It was okay…
Bike ride up Dyers Pass – a very unexpected 8 or 9km CLIMB after a huge lunch of lamb korma. Awesome ride and views – sheep, mountains, ocean – New Zealand!!!
I brought my bicycle from home and left it at the United States Anarctic Program (USAP) headquarters in Christchurch for the summer. When I get off The Ice I plan to go for a bicycle tour in New Zealand and beyond, and it was amazing to have with me and explore the area around Christchurch in the days I was there. I rode out a different road every day and each day was a totally different type of ride. Beach, hills, farmland – so beautiful and fun.
Yesterday I left my hotel at 6 AM on my bicycle and rode to USAP headquarters to hopefully finally fly out. After an hour delay our plane took off at 9:52 AM.
Extreme cold weather gear boarding the plane – varying degrees of big-ass boots, insulated Carhartts and Big Red – our unifying piece – we are one.
Boarding the long awaited flight, flown by the Royal New Zealand Air Force.
It was a beautiful 5 hour flight.
First views of The Ice Continent from the plane
Our first landing approach into Antarctica was a no go – we almost touched down then pulled back up in the very low-lying heavy fog. From our sunny viewpoint way up above the dense fog covering the continent, this intense fog was a surprise. We circled, attempted again and once again aborted the landing due to low visibility. The captain came on the intercom and we were told that we were going to circle and wait for the fog to hopefully lift. At some point were told that we had a 1/2 hour of fuel left as we had been in a holding pattern for over an hour – I later found out that we were burning fuel in case of a crash landing. Our captain came on again and announced that we would attempt once again to land, and if the fog hadn’t broken up at all, we had one more chance – it would be an emergency whiteout landing – he assured us that they had done whiteout landings in simulators and had landed on this airfield many times, so they were confident it would be successful (this simulator bit has become a consistent joke amongst us passengers – not too reassuring). We were instructed to look at the crash position on the cards in the pocket of the seatback in front of us, and to take this position if we heard the announcement “Brace, Brace Brace.” We moved all of our carry-ons to the overhead bins and were instructed to remove our glasses so they didn’t cut our faces if we crashed. We were once again shown the emergency exits and we counted how many rows to the nearest one. I laced up my bunny boots tight, zipped up my big red coat and put my hood up, thinking that might give me a little cushion in crash position. I took inventory to make sure I had my gloves and a hat if we were stranded outside. A friend of mine filled her pockets with oranges so she would have something to eat. I cinched my seatbelt as much as I could and halfway jokingly practiced my crash position to my seat mate’s approval. We had about 45 minutes from the time this announcement was made to the time we attempted our second to last landing, and then our last. After a brief hustle to prepare for landing, amidst much discussion and speculation, the plane was quiet for a long time. We had a lot of time to reflect. We hoped for the best, each of us thinking, feeling, praying in our own ways. Some were calm, some napped, some quietly wept, some clenched the armrests in extreme anxiety. Meanwhile here on the ground they were mobilizing for a mass casualty and belly landing.
In the end we landed perfectly in almost no visibility to a huge round of applause, laughter, huge sighs of relief and hugs.
Susie and I hug and get a quick happy pic after our successful landing
More happy people glad to be safe and on The Ice
Susie and Chad and “Ivan” (that big red vehicle) and the new people mover that we’ll take the 18 miles from the Pegasus Airfield, where we landed, to McMurdo – my new home
Me with Todd and Chad getting transported with a bunch of other people in big red coats
I loved the cattle-like experience of this whole affair. All of us wearing red coats, being herded about… here we enter building 155 where we’ll feast in The Galley before orientation and receiving our room assignments and bags
I took a beautiful walk after dinner. This is Ob Hill in the background.
Tire tracks in the crispy cold snow
Junk and a very slowly setting sun around 9:00 PM
Old tires and Ob Hill
So great to be here. Today I spent much of my day in safety training, getting settled into my dorm room with my new roomie, Susie, and training for my new job. What a crazy world down here. Amazing people and a funny way of doing almost everything. It’s great.