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4 November, 2003

And we're off!

Temperature: 75*F

Location: Los Angeles

Things are moving very quickly now! I met up with Peter Doran (the Principle Investigator - project leader) at Los Angeles International Airport. It was nice to see a familiar face in such a large crowd.

We left LA at about 9:15 pm on November 4th and arrived in Aukland, New Zealand on November 6th. If that seems like a long time...it was a twelve and a half hour flight, but we "lost a day" because we crossed over the International Dateline. We flew on a Quantas Airlines 747-400; quite a large plane!

Once we landed in Aukland, we claimed all our baggage and went through customs. My hiking boots were temporarily taken so they could be thoroughly cleaned before entering New Zealand. The customs agents wanted to be extra careful to stop any invasive plant material from inadvertantly entering New Zealand via the soles of my boots. It's nice to know they make such efforts to help protect the native flora and fauna.

We cleared customs and boarded another Qantas jet for the much shorter flight to Christchurch, New Zealand. The scenery from the plane was spectacular. Turquoise oceans nestled up to white sand beaches which yielded to beautiful green pastures speckled with grazing sheep, which in turn gave way to spectacular mountains with jagged snow capped peaks. It is truly some of the most beautiful country I have ever seen.

We checked into our hotel, ate lunch while watching a "sidewalk chess" match, and then headed to the Clothing Distribution Center (CDC) where we received our Extreme Cold Weather Clothing. All the "first timers", like myself, watched a short movie about the importance of having all the mandatory clothing and that it fits properly.

The people at the CDC had pre-packed all our issued clothes, so our first task was to try it all on and make any necessary exchanges. Trying on all the layers of clothing on such a hot New Zealand day was a swealtering experience to say the least! But, with visions of the blizzards from the video playing in our minds, we gladly made sure all the clothes fit properly!

Once we acquired all the proper clothing, we started the daunting task of organizing the packing! Each person is issued 2 (or 3 if going to South Pole Station) orange duffle bags. One is the "hand carry" bag which must hold all the mandatory flight clothes plus clothes which can be worn in Christchurch in the event that the flight doesn't leave or gets turned back. It would be quite uncomfortable to have to wear fleece pants, jackets, and "bunney boots" in the warm Christchurch summer! The other duffle bag holds everything else.

The distribution of clothing was tiring but exciting. It's all starting to feel very near now; the energy from everyone around is enthusiastic.

We finally were able to go have a nice relaxing dinner at a local Thai restraurant and headed back to the hotel. It has been a long and busy day, but I'm having the time of my life!

1) Peter Doran in front of the Windsor Hotel; Christchurch, New Zealand

2) Side walk chess match in Christchurch!

3) Statue of the infamous Robert Falcon Scott; Christchurch, NZ

4) Extreme Cold Weather Clothing

5) Find your bags!

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