29 October, 1998
I am officially in Antarctica now! We woke up at 3:45 am to catch a shuttle at 4:15 am to report to the CDC at 4:45 am. We changed into our ECW (extreme cold weather) gear and packed our "hold" baggage (the baggage checked onto the plane and also the baggage that we would not be able to retrieve until we got to Antarctica) and the "hand-carry" baggage (containing at least one set of clothes in case the flight boomeranged or was cancelled). We checked in with our baggage (which consisted of weighing in with our baggage to make sure that we met weight restrictions) and received our boarding passes (tags worn around our neck). We then were free to go to the 60 Degrees Cafe in the International Antarctic Centre for breakfast. I ate a small breakfast but didn't drink anything so that I wouldn't have to use the "facilities" during the flight. I had been prewarned. It turns out that I didn't have to worry so much, and not drinking just dehydrated me even more. They actually put the women at the front of the plane so that they can use the crew toilet, whereas the men use the curtained latrine at the back of the plane.
At 6:10 am we had a briefing and video on safety in Antarctica. Peter Hillary and his team were on our flight, so there were a lot of media people around for our flight. He and his team are Kiwis (New Zealanders) who are attempting to walk from Scott Base (the Kiwi's base) to the South Pole and back with Quadrofoils (sort of like skiing but powered by sails that they hold onto). They are taking sleds of food and having some food dropped along the way. Amazing! I asked him if I could take a picture of he and his team and me for the web site...so you can have documented proof that I met him!
At 6:30 we were given a speech on airplane rules and what to expect-- after all, it was a military jet that we were flying on-- a different experience for the everyday civilian. At 7:00 am we boarded the shuttles for the C-141, grabbing ear plugs on the way out. At 7:45 am we boarded the C-141, men first since they were at the rear of the plane and women last since we were to use the bathroom at the front of the plane. Out of 48 passengers, 7 of us were female!
The plane was divided into two lengthwise sections-- where there were sling-like seats facing each other on both sides. Someone was there to help us buckle in and hand us an enormous paper bag full of lunch goodies. There wasn't much leg room, and the person across from me agreed to fit our legs in between each other so that we could stretch out. I couldn't figure out why the flight crew (all dressed in camouflage) was taking pictures like we were. Hadn't they been through this a million times? It turns out that this plane normally makes runs between a few other countries, and since the other C-141 was being fixed (see Monday's journal), they grabbed this plane on its way through and asked them to make a run to Antarctica. So they were just as excited as we were.
There was a 2-hour ground delay, once we were on the plane. We took off at 9:45 am and landed in Antarctica at 2:45 in the afternoon. The plane was very noisy, so we all wore earplugs and attempted to get some sleep. The plane was chilly, so that's why we had to wear our ECW gear. I thought it became even colder as we neared Antarctica.
It was amazing to walk off of the plane and know that I was in Antarctica. It was about 4 - 6 degrees Fahrenheit and the sun was shining when we arrived. Beautiful white everywhere. Vast white seas of ice ending in mountains of white...
We were taken by Ivan the Terra Bus to the Galley where we had a short briefing on where we were staying at McMurdo and the rules of McMurdo. We found our rooms, unloaded our things, visited the Crary Lab (the science lab building here at McMurdo), met others of our team (Mark Sappington and Jim Raymond), picked up our "hold" baggage at another building, and had dinner at the Galley at around 6:30 pm. Nina and I returned to our rooms to get ready for Happy Camper School (Winter Survival Camp) the next day. We were to bring our ECW gear and anything else we thought we would need for an overnight camping adventure in Antarctica.
We went to bed, tired but happy that we had made it to Antarctica.
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