16 January, 1998
Hello Everyone! I am writing from aboard the Research Vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer. We finally made it to Antarctica!!! We packed up in Christchurch, New Zealand on Thursday morning, so that we would be at the airport by 8:00 am. When we got to the airport, we found out the plane was delayed for a little while, so we had breakfast at the International Antarctic Center. I got to tour the Antarctic Center. They have displays about what it is like to work in Antarctica. They also have a snow room, so you can find out what it feels like to be at the South Pole. The snow room has a large fan, so you can feel how strong winds make you feel colder - this is called wind chill. We turned the fan on so high, I was blown over! Later we went back to the CDC, the Clothing Distribution Center, where we got our clothing issued. We put on all our layers of clothes.....long underwear, fuzzy polar fleece pants and jacket, wind pants, big "bunny" boots, and finally our bright red Polar Parkas! I was really warm, but I could not move very well in all those clothes! We carried our bags to the airport and checked in. We then waited...and waited...and waited! The plane was being repaired and it took several hours to fix it completely. The Navy flight team is very careful with their equipment and wanted to make sure everything was in working order before we made our long journey south. The plane finally was repaired and we boarded at 1:00 IN THE MORNING! It was a long wait! The plane is a LC-130 - it is especially prepared for working in cold weather conditions (that's why it has skis). The plane carries lots of people (and bears) and cargo to and from Antarctica. The plane ride was beautiful. Even in the early hours of the morning it was light outside. I visited the pilots on the flight deck. We flew over the Transantarctic Mountains and followed a glacier! The glacier looks like a big river of ice. As we got closer to Ross Island, you could see huge tabular glaciers floating in the water - some were several miles across! Tabular glaciers are flat topped. They break off, or calve, from the Ross Ice Shelf. You can see where Ross Island and the Ross Ice Shelf are located on a map of Antarctica. We landed on a snow and ice runway using skis! The landing was really smooth. We got off at Willie Field and rode in a big red bus to McMurdo Station. As soon as we got to McMurdo, we collected our luggage and equipment and were helicoptered to the ship! The ship was about a mile from McMurdo Station, anchored in thin sea ice. The helicopters landed on the sea ice beside the ship (the helicopter pilot watched the ice carefully for cracks) and we hopped out and tromped through the snow to the ladder to the Palmer. I just got settled into my cabin and am going to dinner and then to sleep. Tomorrow I will tell you all about what it is like to live on the ship! Thank you for so many questions - please stay in touch! E. Shackleton BearReturn to E. Shackleton Bear's Page
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