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17 November, 2003

Hello From Antarctica

The excitement of the day had me up before my alarm. Was it because I couldn't sleep or because I still haven't adjusted to NZ time and went to bed at 8PM? Time for a quick cup a tea, turn in my key, and sit on the steps for the shuttle taking us to the CDC.

We arrived at the CDC about 6:20AM, which gave us ten minutes to change into our ECW clothes and pack our street clothes and carry-on items in the bag's newly vacant space. We quickly headed for the terminal for weigh in. We are weighed with all our ECW gear and carry-on items to ensure that we have not gone over our weight limit. Whew! I'm clear so I am handed my boarding pass. We had just enough time to grab a quick bite to eat at the Antarctic Visitor's Center cafeteria and then it's back over to the terminal for another safety video. Finally, we waddle out the terminal carrying our bags to board the bus that will take us to the plane.

The flight down to the ice was in a military cargo plane. As we boarded the plane we were handed a huge paper sack containing: 2 sandwiches, juice, 2 bags of chips, cookies, a chocolate bar, water, 2 apples, a granola bar, and a fruit danish. Why would they send us with this much food? (Hint: what could happen...) Then a member of the Kiwi military escorted us to our assigned spot on the bench and shoved our bags under our seat. After peeking at our goodies and taking a ton of pictures, we put in our earplugs and settled in for the long 8-hour trip.

After the first two hours, the "newness" wore off. After all the majority of the trip was spent sitting against a webbed seat back, squished between orange bags, and our bunny boots entwined. Due to the noise, there isn't much to do but sleep, read, or play cards. While things were cramped, they could have been much worse. Only 25-30 people were on our flight, which left much more room as passengers began to spread out on top of the various crates of cargo.

About six hours into the flight we began to see sea ice and a little later ice covered mountains. We all took turns cramming our heads to take a peek out the plane's little window. The pilot allowed us step into the cockpit, which made for a spectacular view. Just seeing glimpses from the windows were worth the six-hour wait.

Finally, at 5:00pm, New Zealand (and McMurdo) time, we landed on McMurdo's ice runway. We anxiously waited for about an hour before receiving the signal that we were allowed to deplane. The view as we deplaned was absolutely breathtaking. No description, photograph or video can ever truly do it justice. As we staggered and boarded our shuttle I just kept saying, "It's beautiful!". After waiting for so long, I can't believe I'm actually here. I am truly in awe of this amazing place and my journey is only just beginning.

The entrance into the terminal

Waiting in the terminal to board the bus. Why do we have to wear our ECW gear as we board the plane?

Today the Kiwis are flying us down. What does that mean? This plane is smaller than the ski-equipped LC-130 Hercs owned by the U.S.

A view from inside the plane. How does the inside of this plane differ from those of commercial airlines? Why is everyone wearing earplugs?

An hour and a half into the flight.

Dr. Laurie Connell and Dr. Rusty Rodriguez playing cards on top of the pallets of cargo to pass the time. Two hours down, six more to go!

Sea Ice from the plane window

Another view from the plane

Dr. Connell and I ready for landing.

A view of our plane from the ice

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