12 December, 1998
Greetings from Antarctica!
Today I left Christchurch, New Zealand at noon on an LC131 Hercules. This plane is equipped with propellers and skis.
Before we deployed we had to suit up in or cold weather gear - the ECW. We had to weigh in, get our luggage xrayed and gone over by dogs befoe we boarded.
Each person can take one orange bag as hand carry and one as hold baggage. When we got on the plane all the hold baggage was bundled up in a huge cube the size of a classroom at the rear of the plane.
Since there were only 14 of us we had rather luxiourious accomodations - we had room to stretch out our legs! The seats are webbed benches, so they are not very soft. It is noisy on the herc, so we had wear ear plugs. Throughout the 8 hour flight, the temperature on the plane fluctuated wildly from very chilly to tropical.
We had a bag lunch and time to snooze on the plane. Around 3:30 we began to see evidence of sea ice and we were all crowding around the portholes - looking out at the first evidence of Terra Incognita. Everyone got excited and was cheering.
Around 6 o'clock I went up on the flight deck to get the pilot's eye view. It was absolutely the most breathtaking site - ice, glaciers, snow and peeking out every so often mountains - big mountains emerge from the white. Horizon to horizon of this awesome landscape - it was a little startling since I had just been dozing. There is a children's book author here, Sandara Markle, and she had come over to give my foot a shake and tell me to get up there on the flight deck. The crew was incredibly kind. Ardrey, the flight engineer has been working on LC131's for about 10 years. He pointed out that they call it a 911 because it never lets them down. This was reassuring.
The navigator, Ron, showed me our location on the maps, and let me take a sighting on the sextant. From up there I could see where some ice streams flow and huge deep crevasses. I got to sit in the engineer seat. After some more time, Ardrey told me to look out at about 11 o'clock and wait. I knew that Mt. Erebus would soon be popping into view. And indeed it did! there was the most awesome plume of smoke winding up into the air from the summit. It is a huge mountain, about 400 meters. Just beyond Erebus Mt. Terror appeared. Erebus and Terror are named after James Ross's ships that visited here in the 1840's. Ross also gave his name to the Ross Ice Shelf. The Erebus and Terror later saw action in the Arctic during the doomed Franklin expedition.
Then, a little to my right I could see Mt. Discovery and to my hard right the valleys where i will be working with Dr. Dave Marchant and Dr. George Denton. Next two islands, Black Island and White Island appeared. These Islands are next to each other, but one is covered with the white stuff, and the other is not. It is said that when those islands disappear that bad weather is on it's way. Specifically they call this bad weather that comes in from the south a Herbie.
We flew out over these islands, and made a a big approach because we were the first flight to land at Willy field. Every year they move the runways around. Early in the season they use the Ice runway which is on the sea ice. When the weather warms, well the sea ice begins to disappear so they move to Williams field (Willy field) which is built on the ice shelf itself. Later, usually around the end of January they move to another field called Pegasus.
Finally the crew had me sit on one of the bunks on the flight deck and strap in. and we begn our approach to Willy field. It was amazing to think that they had moved an entire airfield in a day. When we landed it was absolutely just like butter - that smooth.
We dragged our gear out to our red transport vehicle. The predominant colors here are white and if it not white well then it's red. We went to the NSF headquarters here the chalet to be briefed and get our room keys.
I am staying in the Hotel California. My roomates are two women who are working on geophysical mapping at the South Pole (Vicky) and at Siple Dome (Effie). I met the two graduate students that are already here that I will be working with, Adam Lewis and Drew Lorrie. Both are students of Dr. Denton and they have projects in Beacon Valley for their theses.
I ended up going to mid rats (midnight rations) for dinner. It is so amazing to walk around at midnight or fouram and see daylight like at noon. It makes me want to stay up all night (day?)
I went to bed around 2, but was up again at 4. I will tell you more about the next day in a moment.
Cheers and penguins
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