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21 November, 2002

Travelling to Antarctica

I hope this e-mail gets through. I can't seem to get my normal e-mail to work. But I'm optimistic that I will be able to update this more frequently.

The adventure has begun. Getting to Antarctica is no easy task. The easiest was flying Denver to Los Angeles in a spacious uncrowded airplane. In LA, I met the rest of the team, except our guides who are meeting us in McMurdo. We boarded a Quantas 747 that didn't have one empty seat. The seats were tight, but that just adds to the excitement.

I sat next to Dr. Nancy Chabot, our team leader and a good friend. They showed the movie, "Signs," and I knew that I wouldn't sleep if I saw that again. Instead, Nancy and I talked well into the flight.

It's difficult to sleep under those conditions, but a 12.5 hour flight is a long time to pass, so I did my best, and felt a little sore and tired after the experience. I have a feeling this experience will be small potatoes when this is over.

We landed in Auckland early Wednesday morning, completely bypassing Nov. 19.

Question for my students: "Why didn't Mr. Caldwell encounter a Nov. 19? Ouestion number 2: "How far south was I when I first spotted the Southern Cross over the horizon about 10 degrees?"

New Zealand is beautiful! It really looks like "Lord of the Rings." Rolling green fields and sheep...lots of sheep. The air is sweet, moist, but cool. It's summer here, but it feels like a fall day in Seattle. The people couldn't be friendlier with a smile and an accent that melts your heart. Dr. Dean Eppler of the Johnson Space Center echoed a sentiment felt by most of us that this would be a great place to live, someday.

This is an impressive group. Only in a group like this do friendly arguments about what caused chondrules to form out of the solar nebula occur at dinner. Yet, they are a group of people as down to earth and warm as can be. Geologists tend to be that way.

It was humorous today as we each tried on our extreme cold weather gear. After putting on layer after layer, you couldn't really recognize individuals. I'll send pictures later. We are scheduled to leave at 6:00 AM tomorrow on a C-130, dressing in all our gear (in case we should go down and can't be rescued for a while). There's a good chance that the flight will be delayed, because we hear they are running behind at McMurdo and can't get people out for 2-3 days. Given a choice between spending more time here or in McMurdo, New Zealand wins. Not that McMurdo won't have its own charms.

I'll send images as soon as possible. Please keep checking back.

Solutions to not getting to shower for a while.

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