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13 July, 2000

The Herk 7/13/00

For most of you, the privilege of flying on a C130 Herk will be something you read about in books unless, of course, you are a member of the military or a scientist being flown to or from either Greenland or Antarctica. There are two ways to get back from Greenland, either flying a commercial airline (Air One or SAS which is how I got there in the first place) or by flying on a C130 Herk. My voyage back to the United States was on a Herk.

Imagine a large cargo airplane with propellers on the wings. Written on the side of this monster are the words "New York Air National Guard". All members of the crew belong to this battalion. One of their missions is to transport scientists to and from remote polar regions. In Greenland, they parcticipate in maneuvers and learn rescue protocol. The crew consists of 7 military personnel. Each has a specific job in operating this aircraft.

The Herk is a large cargo aircraft so the inside is empty of seats as you might find in a commercial airline. There is no first class unless you consider sitting up with the pilot first class (they do invite you to come up to the cockpit which of course I did). Along the walls are meshed seats hung from the ceiling. There are 8 porthole windows approximately 10 inches in diameter aligning the sides. To look out these holes, you have to look through the meshing.

The floor of the Herk has anti-skid material similar to sand paper. There are also rollers running the length of the floor. These rollers are used to slide cargo pallets in the hull and move them to various locations inside. These rollers are similar to ones that you used to find in grocery stores (sorry kids for dating myself). The ceilings are approximately 20 feet high and dim lights are hung along the roof and ducts and pipes are everywhere (hey Donna, remember Brazil?). It is very dim inside the craft. Hanging from the walls are various tools such as ladders, shovels and place to hang other equipment. The back of the plane is slanted upward toward the tail. The overall ambience is military but what might you expect?

Our cargo is scientific in nature. We loaded it onto cargo pallets while at Summit. Each pallet load with equipment and the goal is to keep everything in a cubic shape of 8 feet x 8 feet x 8 feet tall. In order to secure the cargo, thick webbing holds the various boxes in place. We are carrying two pallets today; one for our gear and ice cores and the other contains Aaron's air samples. These air samples will be shipped to University of California in Irvine upon arrive in the States.

Our journey from Greenland will take us 6 hours. The Herk flies at approximately 20,000 feet above land level and approximately 325 miles per hour. A slow but steady ride. We have to wear earplugs to drown out the sound of the engine so we don't really talk to one another because we have to yell. Although the ride is steady, you can feel the hum of the engines through the seats. Many members of our team are sleeping through this flight. Some were taking pond samples until 6:00 am this morning. They needed to sleep. Oh yes, the food-there are no airline personnel to serve food so we are limited to what we brought to eat. I figured that the military was not necessarily catering to our gastric needs so at breakfast, I took a few extra rolls and some cheese to hold me over while flying. And of course there is my stash of Powerbars. It was a good idea too because after 6 hours of flying, you can get quite hungry. I actually brought enough food to feed a few members of our team but nobody wanted to eat my Powerbars (I wonder why?). Everyone was much appreciative that I brought the extra food.

So what a way to end a long strange trip. I have flown on several different kinds of planes (nice commercial ones, Twin Otters and now a Herk), met wonderful people whom I feel very much akin to and visited the most pristine place on the Earth. What's next? How about sending another teacher on the Space Shuttle?

Ciao, Cathi

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