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27 December, 2002

Off To The Ice

Today we caught a 6:30 shuttle to the airport. We hauled all our heavy bags into a waiting room. From there we headed over to the cafeteria for a quick bite to eat before our scheduled briefing. Everyone was hesitant to eat in case the flight was bumpy, but even more hesitant to drink because we had heard it was best to avoid the bathroom facilities on board if possible.

After breakfast, we were given a briefing on our flight and shown a video dealing with safety on board our plane, and on conditions in Antarctica. I think everyone had some difficulty concentrating on the movie as we were all anxious to board the plane. We finally were asked to line up with our bags to pass through security. Each bag was checked by a security officer and police dog, and each was weighed to ensure that we were within our 75 pound limit.

Finally we walked out onto the tarmac fully dressed in our ECW gear and were directed to board the C-130, a military aircraft. Our checked bags had been loaded through the giant cargo doors in the rear of the aircraft. These doors are large enough for trucks and large equipment to drive right onto the plane. Our carry-on bags were all piled up down the center of the aircraft and the loadmaster ensured that they were securely strapped down for flight.

All the passengers, of which there were perhaps 25, were lined up along the sides of the plane facing the center. We sat in red cargo seats, buckled ourselves in with the military style belts, and stuffed our ears with plugs to protect them from the loud roar of the engines.

We lifted off at 9:30am. You could hardly tell we left the ground. Our ascent was very gradual and smooth. After a few minutes, the heat was turned on and we were able to take off some of our layers of clothes. It is mandatory on these flights that you have all your ECW gear with you. In case of an accident, it would be important for you to have this survival gear available.

The flight was actually quite comfortable. We had a great deal more room to stretch out and move than we did on our commercial flights. The ceilings are high with pipes, wires, straps, and black stenciled labels everywhere. The ride was a bit more drafty and a lot more noisy, but those differences added to the excitement of doing something new.

The flight lasted about 8 hours and as we entered the Antarctic Region the views out the window were spectacular. The flight crew was terrific about letting us walk about the plane for views from all the different windows. As we approached our destination, MuMurdo, we had to circle a bit because visibility was poor. We finally arrived about 6:00pm.

As we exited the aircraft we got our first introduction to Antarctic weather. The winds were blowing quite hard and snow was swirling everywhere. We were quickly ushered onto a vehicle affectionately known as Ivan the Terra Bus, which would take us from Wiley Field to McMurdo.

Once we arrived, we received a quick briefing, were issued our room keys, and set off to find our rooms and dump off our carry-on bags. Our checked bags could not be picked up for two hours.

The U.S. part of our team met for dinner. Our three NZ team members stay at the Kiwi base known as Scott Base, a ten minute ride from McMurdo. After dinner Brenda gave us a tour of the Berg Field Center (BFC), which houses all our field equipment, and then she showed us around Crary Lab where we could access computers and obtain lab equipment if needed.

The New Zealand Team waits to board the C-130. Sarah Milicich, Jake Croall, and Chris Hendy (PI).

Aaron and Sean wait to go through security.

Amber, M.A., and Erin (part of the LTER Stream Team) on board the C-130 headed for McMurdo. No flight attendants, but lots of room, a giant bag lunch, fabulous views, and lots of fun!

Kiwi's Jake and Sarah on C-130. That's Chris Hendy on far right dozing.

Tux rides in cockpit with pilot of C-130

Our C-130 Hercules Aircraft.

McMurdo Station. Not a very pretty town, but the people are fascinating and they come from all over.

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