9 November, 1999
Flying Through Time
Itís always an ordeal traveling from the islands. No matter how short the flight from Seattle, just getting there without missing any connections, whether seaplane or ferry, takes some planning. By the time I left Orcas, then flew south from Los Angeles, over twelve hours had passed. Not bad for what ordinarily takes only two and a half-hoursÖ I caught up with Jean Roberts, another TEA, in the United Airlines lobby where she was meeting members of the Mt. Erebus crew. She introduced me to her team and suddenly this heading south started to seem real. We were at our first major jumping off point- flying over the Pacific. From there I had another cramped twelve and a half hour stretch to Auckland, which was made bearable only by the company of my seat mate, Gregg, one of the helicopter pilots working out of McMurdo. The more tired I grew, the smaller the seat became. I envied Gregg his ability to sleep bolt upright. We chatted about Antarctica and airplane food straight through Monday as we crossed the International Date Line. That was wild! From Monday to Tuesday and back three hours all in an instant!
When we finally got to Christchurch at 11:00 a.m., we were instructed to come back at 2:00 for our extreme cold weather clothing issue. The Clothing Distribution Center is a warehouse full of all the cold weather gear anyone traveling with the U.S. Antarctic Program needs to stay safe on the ice. Prior to my arrival, I had sent my clothing sizes for everything from hat to boot. After our brief orientation, the women went into a large dressing room where two bags full of gear were set out for each of us. Each bag contained approximately thirty items, all of which needed to fit properly. For those of you whoíve seen the gear, or maybe even tried it on, you can guess how quickly you can start to overheat. To get the parka to fit correctly, you have to be wearing all the under-layers first. As the Goldilocks story sort of goes, everything needs to fit just right, or you risk exposure to unwelcome cold. Iím not sure if I broke some CDC record, but I must have exchanged almost everything in my bag at least once. The CDC folks were unfailingly patient, though, and not quite three hours later, I was packed to go.
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