8 November, 1999
McMurdo Station, Antarctica Tuesday
We made it! Yesterday, at noon, we took off in a C-141 cargo plane operated by the U.S. Air Force from McChord AFB in Tacoma, WA (see journal entry for 11/03/99). Though we were crammed into our seats like sardines in a can, I was not uncomfortable. I was so excited to be on our way that discomfort was the last thing on my mind! Some southern travelers were able to sleep. Others read and ate the lunches that had been packed for us. I just kept looking around, I was so curious about the plane and the group of over 100 people with whom I was traveling.
About 3 hours into our 5 hour flight, Master Sergeant Paul Zukoski, the load master, motioned for me to come forward. The plane is so noisy that motioning is the only way to get anyone's attention. I climbed over 5 people to see what it was that he wanted. When I reached him, he opened the door to the cockpit and told me to sit in the seat between the two pilots! I couldn't believe that he was letting me do this! I climbed the steps and squeezed into the cockpit which was manned by two pilots, a flight engineer, and 4 or 5 others. I was too excited to notice much other than the array of buttons, levers, and dials! How do they manage to know what they all do? And then I looked out the window! What a sight! The skies were clear and so I could see that we were flying over pack ice! Pack ice forms when the surface of the ocean freezes into large chunks. It looked like a white mosaic on a blue background. Off in the distance was a small, snow-covered island! Antarctica was just two hours away!
Landing was an adventure in itself! It took a very long time for the plane to come to a standstill! Imagine a car coming to a stop on ice and then think of this plane with thousands of pounds of cargo stopping in a similar way! The pilot continually alternated between braking and using the reverse thrusters. Eventually, the plane came to a stop and we climbed down the stairs into a white wilderness!
I was so happy to finally arrive! I felt like doing the dance of joy! Tears came to my eyes, it was such an emotional experience! The sky was so blue! Everywhere you looked it was white! The temperature was -8 degrees Celsius and the air was so crisp! We were told to wear our sunglasses and I immediately knew why. The sun was brighter than I have ever seen! We were quickly ushered into Ivan the Terra Bus and were driven to McMurdo Station for orientation. After getting our dorm rooms, unloading our gear, and eating supper, I just had to go for a walk! I met up with a friend from Christchurch, Robert, at a lecture that we decided we didn't want to hear and we walked around McMurdo. We first walked to Hut Point, an area of historic interest (I will talk about this in a later journal) and then to Vince's Cross. By this time the wind had picked up. We had been warned about the ability of the weather to change dramatically in a very short period of time so we turned around to walk back to town. The wind was so strong! I felt like I had to battle for every step and yet I knew that what I was experiencing was nowhere near how bad the winds can get!
Our next stop was Our Lady of the Snows Chapel. On the seaward side, away from the raging wind, we found Father Bede Haughey, the Catholic priest-in-residence. The view from this vantage point was spectacular. Across the sea was Mount Discovery, Black Island, White Island, and the remains of a plane that had crashed years earlier. All that remained was the tail sticking out of the ice! Father Bede regailed us with stories until I hinted that I was cold and in need of a warm beverage! Robert and I got a cup of coffee and talked until after 11 p.m. Outside, the sun still shone!
I could go on and on! I promise to address the question of dirt in my next journal!
JUST FOR KIDS!!!!! Today we arrived at McMurdo Station in Antarctica! The plane ride was so much fun! I was allowed to join the pilots in the cockpit! The pilots showed me all of the buttons and levers and dials and let me take pictures from the window! Below us was the Pacific Ocean but instead of being a beautiful blue, it was covered with white patches! This was ice! I knew that we must be getting close to Antarctica!
When we arrived, it took the plane a very long time to slow down. Have you ever slid on ice? Imagine a big plane sliding on ice! It was very scary but, I was so excited that I hardly noticed! The sun was so bright! If we didn't wear sunglasses, our eyes would hurt! The temperature was -8 degress Celsius and the wind was blowing. It was very cold!
After putting our things into our rooms and eating supper, I went for a walk with my friend Robert. We walked to Hut Point, climbed a hill, and visited Our Lady of the Snows Chapel. Father Bede Haughey was outside enjoying the view. We talked to Father Bede for awhile and then warmed ourselves with cups of coffe. At 11:00 p.m., long after you were in bed and asleep, the sun was still shining!
I promise to answer the dirt question in tomorrow's journal!
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