5 November, 2004
The Good Plane!
Location: Christchurch, NZ
The cheer from the crowd was impressive! The news... we would be transported to Antarctica in the comparitive comforts of a C-17 aircraft! This means a flight time of about five hours instead of seven to ten hours, leg room, and a functional bathroom!
The plane was spectacular. It exuded strength and sturdiness. Once we were all dressed in our extreme cold weather clothing and had been "briefed" by the flight crew, we boarded the plane. I was pleasantly surprised by how much room was in the plane, even with the enormous load of cargo we were carrying. We all got settled and waited. And we waited, and waited, and waited some more. The flight crew then anounced that we were being delayed for three hours and that they would let us off the plane for that time.
So, we took all our things back off the plane and went to have a snack. We were able to chat with the commander of the aircraft. He told us that weather in McMurdo was questionable and he didn't want to have us get down there and have to turn around. Many planes have a "turn around" point of about half way towards the destination. The turn around point of the C-17 could be McMurdo station itself. What that means is that the plane could actually get all the way to McMurdo and have to turn around and go back to Christchurch. Nobody wanted that to happen. He also explained that it costs $20,000 an hour to fly the C-17. Not only would it be a "headache" to have to turn around, it would be an expensive headache!
We waited a while longer and finally were able to board again. This time we took off! Although it was incredibly loud, it was quite a smooth lift off and ride over to the ice. The commander let us go up onto the flight deck when we reached the ice edge of Antarctica.
What a spectacular sight! The indigo blue of the ocean stopped abruptly against the scaling white cliffs of the ice edge. Antarctica lay before us in all its splendor. The magnificence of this continent is overwhelming.
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