Friday, November 09, 2012

Touch and Go

It's been an exciting couple of days!

The flight from Christchurch to Antarctica was totally unremarkable. The excitement began once we reached McMurdo (the base on the coast of Antarctica, gateway to the South Pole).

When we landed, we were informed that we needed to "bag drag" (check in our bags and get weighed with all our carry-on luggage) that evening. At check-in, they said we were a backup flight, so we'd only fly if weather was bad at the main location. That meant that even though we were unlikely to go, we still had to walk up the hill to the departure building at 6:45AM.

McMurdo isn't a BAD place to be. There are hikes, wildlife (seals, skua, and occasional penguins), 24-hour internet (the South Pole only has Internet a few hours each day). The downside is that it's a transition point so it's difficult to settle down, and there are a lot of people there so rooms are shared. Since I got to my room last, I was left with the top bunk.

This morning, we showed up and as predicted, the main flight went instead of ours. However, there was another flight at 8:45AM, so we still had another chance to go -- but again it was unlikely.

At 8:45AM, all the Pole-bound people were heckling the other flight's passengers in a friendly way as we waited for news of the flight's destination. When the coordinator finally came out and told the main flight's passengers to get ready to go, all the Pole people moaned and groaned our way out of the building, resigned to spend another weekend in McMurdo.

Jacob (another IceCuber making his first trip to the Pole) and I dropped our gear off in our rooms and headed over to Crary. This building has wireless internet access, but is only open during business hours so we needed to get keycards. While they were getting our cards ready we went downstairs to the "touch tank" where there are a bunch of native marine animals in a tank which (duh!) you can touch! (Here's a blog post from someone who visited the touch tank just last month.)

Jacob and I were just getting ready to take some pictures when the keycard guy found us and told us that the main flight was cancelled after all and that we needed to get back to the departure building as quickly as possible because the plane was now headed to the South Pole!

After a mad dash, we all assembled at the plane and, wonder of wonders, the plane took off!

At this point I started to get a LITTLE optimistic. However, in the last week at least two planes flying to the South Pole were forced to turn back due to weather or mechanical issues, so it wasn't a sure thing that we'd make it. This time, however, things worked out perfectly, and I'm typing this a hundred feet or so from the South Pole!

(It's been a big day so I didn't have a chance to unload my camera. I'll have pictures tomorrow!)

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