20 November, 2001
Following the rountine I have taken so many days previously, I arrived at the International Antarctic Center just before sunrise. As the sun's light began filling the sky with its lights, I bid farwell to the night. Feeling that today's flight would be successful, I gazed upon the night stars for possibly the last time this year. For once I arrive in Antarctica, the sun will be visible every hour of every day.
Due to the mechanical problems that prevented my arrival in Antarctica so many days before, our flight had twice as many people people on it. When the Kiwi pilot announced that we had reached cruising altitude, I climbed on top of some cargo to allow myself a little space to stretch out. My intention was to read more of the book I had begun on my previous attempt to reach the ice, A Peoples History of the United States. However, sleeping only four hours before departing, I quickly slipped into a deep sleep.
When I awoke, I quickly climbing down from my private perch and gazed out of one of the few windows to the sea below. Instead of the green waters I saw an hour or two after our take off, I saw a different kind of ocean. The beautful green waters of New Zealand were replaced with the turbulant steel colored waters of the Antarctic Ocean, filled with rageful white caps caused by the intense winds so common to this region. We had passed the point of no return.
I was curious to see the point in which the liquid ocean turned solid. Unfortunately, the clouds became thick, obscuring my view. Six hours after departing the warm climate of New Zealand, the clouds cleared revealing a harsh frozen ocean. I now knew that the elusive Antarctica would let me touch foot on her within a few short hours.
After flying for 7 hours 16 minutes and 8 seconds, the cramped C-130 touched down on the 18 foot thick frozen ocean that is currently used as a runway for McMurdo Station. While the plane was still in motion, the Kiwi loadmaster opened the cargo doors, revealing the cool, brightly light continent of Antarctica. Finally, after such a long journey and two years of preparation, I saw first hand what I had only imaged from previous explorers' words.
I had only a moment to absorb the visual splendors of McMurdo Sound, with its blue hued mountains rising from the ice I stood upon. Due to the danger of being on the exposed frozen ocean, we were quickly boarded upon Ivan the TerraBus for our transport to the base.
Within moments of placing foot on the wind swept ice, I found myself sitting in the warm confines of a building in McMurdo for an orientation briefing. After listening to various personal give talks about safely, the role call for flights to the South Pole were sounded off. I was suprised to hear my name mentioned.
Due to the days lost delayed in New Zealand, I was given first priority on a flight to the South Pole. There was a terrible amount of work that had to completed at the pole, which allowed no time for me to unwind on McMurdo. After the orientation, I was weighed-in for my 7 am flight to the pole.
Currently, it is well past midnight, and the sun is still shining brightly over the frigid landscape. Looking out at the distant ice runway, I can see Scott's discovery hut frozen in time on the outskirts of McMurdo. Maybe on my return from the pole, I will have the opportunity to visit this historic place.
The few short hours that I have been in McMurdo, I managed to meet up with my friend Jennifer, another TEA. It was great to see her and learn of her experiences on the ice. However, as time was abundant in New Zealand, things move at a rapid pace on the ice. Our reunion was short, and I must return to my dorm and begin preparing for my flight to the South Pole in a few hours.
I am not tired, so after I repack my bags, I plan on wondering around the base alone. The goal is to take a quiet moment to observe the sights and silence of the most isolated and severe continent on Earth.
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