30 September, 1998
Today started out better than yesterday. We all arrived at the CDC and began preparations for the flight to Antarctica. Flying on a military flight is different than a normal civilian flight. Each person has to be weighed with their carry-on items. Military flights are very cautious about their cargo weight because than affects how much fuel they can carry.
As we loaded the aircraft we were given earplugs. Civilian aircraft are designed for passenger comfort, not so military aircraft. A C-141 jet is designed to carry cargo primarily so passenger comfort is not a high priority. We were strapped into cargo net seats very close to each other. There were four rows of seats. We were so close to the people across from us that our knees were right up against the knees of the those across from us. To stretch we had to stand up on our seats. The flight to McMurdo was supposed to last 5 hours.
About 30 minutes from McMurdo we had to turn around and return to Christchurch, New Zealand, our original starting point. The weather at McMurdo was unsafe for landing. I climbed overtop of several people to look out one of only two porthole windows in the plane to get a look at Antarctica. The view was incredible. The mountains were barely sticking out of the ice that covered them. We were flying at about 32,000 feet and even from there the continent was breathtaking. At the edge of the continent the glaciers ended where the sea-ice met the glacier. I knew more than ever I wanted to get down on that ice. One of the early explorers of the continent, upon seeing Antarctica for the first time said "Great God! this is an awful place." He obviously did not have my view. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I was awestruck by the beauty of the continent.
I was really disappointed that we were returning to Christchurch but it did give me an opportunity to get to know the other people headed for the ice. They are real adventurers and rugged individuals. They come to the ice hoping for adventure but also to do a job that is made twice as hard because of where it is. It takes all types of jobs to make a scientific community successful in such a harsh environment and these were the people that make it work. On this flight I met firefighters, scuba divers, cooks, helicopter pilots, general laborers and many different scientists. Each person has an important job to do to make the community of McMurdo work.
By the time we returned to Christchurch there was not much else to do than get a good nights sleep. It was an exciting day.
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