Saturday, December 26, 2009

Falling into Place...

Things are getting more solid and real by the day.  As well as having flights booked next month for the Denver training and then on to New Zealand, I now have been assigned a hotel in Christchurch starting on the 24th of January - the Windsor B&B.  The Windsor is a large old house near the city center that has been converted into a hotel.  I'm sure it was chosen by my employers for its economy, but it is exactly the kind of place I would chose no matter what my housing budget. I'll be there at least two days.

The NZ office of the USAP has sent me a schedule for my two days in Christchurch - how to get around, where and when to be fitted for my cold weather gear, where to meet shuttles, and the date for my ICE flight.  If the weather cooperates I will be on the ice exactly one month from today, January 26.  Unfortunately being "on the ice" isn't the same as being at the Pole.  Several days will have to be spent in the mud pit that is McMurdo Station where they will give me survival training (and yet another dental exam). Then onward to the clean ice of the Amundsen-Scott Station.

I've started preliminary packing.  Baggage weight for flights into McMurdo and to the Pole is limited to 150 lbs of personal gear.  This includes the ten pounds of extreme cold weather gear issued at the USAP Clothing Distribution Center in Christchurch.  My ECW will be closer to 20 lbs because South Pole winterovers are issued two complete sets so that one can be stored in a remote building in case of a main-station fire. I don't think I will have any real problem with the weight limit even with the 20 lbs of gear but we will see. I'm an experienced traveler so I probably could get all my clothes for the winter in a carry-on bag.  I'm not sure how I will even fill up two huge duffels. Food, alcohol, chocolate and an Xbox maybe.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Getting close

It isn't long now - just over 30 days.  My flights are booked and my tickets cut.  I leave for Denver orientation on January 17th and then on to the Pole.  My ICE flight (where I actually reach Antarctica) is scheduled for the 26th into McMurdo Station from Christchurch, New Zealand. That flight will be on a C-17 military transport. The flight to the Pole a few days later will be on a ski-equipped C-130.

In the meantime I have been busy cleaning up around the house for a year's absence, installing security lights, shopping for cameras and other personal things, building a carport, and arranging for lawn-mowing and mail-forwarding services.

There is only one more training session after the fire-fighting and emergency responder training - Survival School. That is done in Antarctica under real conditions. After some classroom instruction they will drive us out onto the ice sheet and teach us how to build ice shelters (igloos!) and dig survival trenches... and then they make us sleep in them overnight!  Luckily I will be there at the end of January, which is the warmest month.  Temperatures for my night out should stay above zero.

Although I have known I am going to the South Pole for months, it adds quite a dose of reality to have flights scheduled.