31 December, 1996
12/31 11:55 AM --- We are waiting at the U.S. Antarctica Program airport terminal for a delayed departure for Antarctica. I got up at 5:30 this morning, too excited to sleep anymore. Too many dreams of Antarctica and friends I left behind... I went down to the guest house lobby and read Frank Norris' Octopus while waiting for the 7 AM breakfast. The shuttle picked us up at 7:30 and brought us here. We then suited up in extreme cold weather gear, good enough to withstand temperatures of 40 below, and proceeded to the waiting room where the temperature was summertime tropical. Of course we removed some of our clothing, but we could do nothing about our very warm bunny boots. Bunny boots are perfect if you are dangling your feet in a deep fr eeze, but not during a humid New Zealand summer day. Now I am sitting comfortably in the waiting room in my long john underwear. Two and one half hours ago we were told that we would have a four hour delay. The plane has a mechanical problem that must be repaired. To pass the time Mike, Jon, and I went to the Antarctica Visitors Center and the nearby international airport. Zac has a bad cold and stayed here to sleep it off. Since our arrival three days ago we have had a chance to get to know each other reasonably well. One important thing we all have in common is a sense of humor. And of course we all have a keen interest in science. Some popular images of scientists give the impression that scientists are cold and aloof, lacking in any appreciation for the arts. I've never found that stereotype to be remotely true. Most of the scientist I have known have a variety of outside interests and a curiosity about a number of topics. This is borne out within our own group. For example, Mike Zieg, a die hard southern, Rush Limbaugh, Republican entertains himself by reading Dostoevsky and politically bating everyone around him. In turn, Jon Philipp,with a more liberal leaning and a keen interest in history, takes the bate and then sets about bating his own own traps which Mike immediately leaps into. On the other hand, Zac Stadel usually stays clear of our more absurd political debates but is always prepared with a quick comeback when things get personal. It was Zac who introduced me to some very interesting Magritte-like photography 3:58 PM ON BOARD THE C-130, BOUND FOR ANTARCTICA. Just as I was writing the last sentence we were told to board the plane (an hour earlier than expected). Everyone had to rush to put away equipment and put their clothes back on. We were then lined up and a very beautiful and playful lab retriever came through to sniff our bags for drugs. To no ones surprise the dog found nothing. Before boarding the plane we were told not to walk into any of the four propellers that drive the C-130. Although few of us welcome unsolicited advice, the group generally agreed that this was better than most advice. The C-130 is not a passenger plane, it is a cargo plane. As I sit here (almost half way to Antarctica) I can see that the plane was designed to carry a maximum amount of cargo in a minimum amount of space. Human cargo (such as myself and my companions) is stuffed into the areas not occupied by non-human cargo. On a normal flight each person is wedge into a narrow webbed seat that forces everyone into contact with one another. This results in physical intimacies which are generally discouraged upon first meetings between two people. Fortunately, our flight has only 13 humans instead of the more common shipments of 40. This allows us a great deal of space to stretch out. Mike and I are seated while Zac and Jon are sleeping across several seats (poor Zac is still fighting a ferocious cold). Others are strewn about the plane, laying on or against cargo. The crewmen who work in the cargo hold climb up the cargo netting and lay down on top of the main cargo (the humans are not the main cargo). And watch out if you leave your seat. Since no position is comfortable each of us is eying the seats of the others, wondering if they are as comfortable a they look. It is best not to look comfortable, if you should appear that way someone will snatch your seat as soon as you rise to stretch. That is why I had to start typing this journal while standing over a cargo box---one of the cargo (a human) mistook my look of stupidity for one of carefree comfort. He immediately took my spot when I leaned forward to get ! the lap top. However, he soon The plane vibrates horribly and makes so much noise that no conversation is possible. Which is good, otherwise we would be complaining to each other about the noise and the vibrations. The heat is another problem, it is either the heat associated with a parched tongue or the cold associated with a tongue stuck to metal. This alternating condition allows us to frequently test our three layered Antarctic weather clothing system. Despite the inconveniences, this flight is not at all bad. Most of us are thrilled to go to Antarctica and would gladly accept worse accommodations to get there. The transport is also far superior to the means used by early explorers to the Continent.Return to Bill Philips' Page
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