Saturday, January 03, 2009

In McMurdo

After some confusion yesterday, I made it to McMurdo station, on the coast of Antarctica!

We were scheduled to be on an 8AM flight, which meant I needed to be outside my hotel at 5:45AM in order to get to the departure area, don my extreme weather gear for the trip, weigh in my luggage (and myself) and then watch a couple of orientation films (one on emergency procedures for the military plane, another on rules and regulations in Antarctica).

At around 8AM they loaded us onto the bus, drove us over to the airfield, drove up to the plane ... and then turned around and headed back to the waiting area.

While frustrating, this was much better than one possible alternative. It's possible to get onto the plane, take off, get halfway through the 8 hour flight and THEN have to turn around and head back to the terminal. This is called a boomerang, and the record is held by some poor guy who did this 7 times before finally making it to McMurdo!

When we got back to the terminal, the National Guard woman said the weather at McMurdo was bad, but that they were going to wait until 10AM to decide whether or not to scrap the flight.

Being a computer geek, I headed over to the computer room where I was able to get a network connection for my laptop. While I was there, one of the other passengers said he heard from someone at McMurdo that all hikers were being called back because a serious storm was rolling in.

I finished up my computer stuff, then packed up and headed back to the waiting area. I passed on the "reliable" news about the weather to my group and all agreed that we were probably not going. When 10:10 rolled around, we concluded that we were obviously staying in Christchurch for another day. A minute or two later, we were told to pack up and get on the plane!

Eight hours later we were on the ground in Antarctica and, after waiting around for a plane from the Pole to land and disgorge its two passengers, we headed over to McMurdo Station. After a half-hour briefing, we finally got to eat dinner, then pick up our luggage and go to our dorm rooms. This year I'm sharing a room with 3 other guys and one empty bed.

We're scheduled to fly out tomorrow, so I'll have to pack my bags and take them to be weighed in at 7PM. This is known as the Bag Drag. I'll keep a single carry-on for the night, everything else will be strapped onto a pallet and taken out to the airfield, ready to load onto the plane tomorrow.

Hopefully, my next entry will be made from the Pole!

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