Monday, February 1, 2010

I get to the Pole at last

I arrived in Antarctica last Wednesday (Tuesday for you) on an Air Force C-17 cargo plane from New Zealand. When I got off the plane and stepped onto the ice runway for the first time my first impression was that it sure was quiet in Antarctica – very quiet! Then I realized I still had my earplugs in from the C-17 flight! A large group of us were driven for an hour to McMurdo Station where I would stay two nights because of some training I needed. We were transported in a Terrabus which was a miserable trip at a max speed of 20 mph. Google “Ivan the Terrabus” for a picture. When I got to McMurdo station I learned that my summer counterpart at the South Pole, who was to show me the ropes for two weeks at the Pole had left before I got there! In fact he left on the same plane I flew in on.

On Friday I was told my flight to Pole had been canceled for the day but an hour later the phone rang and they wanted to know why I wasn’t in the terminal ten minutes ago for the bus to the plane. I finally ended up riding with the New York Air National Guard crew to the airport. That was great since it was just me and the crew they let me stop and get some pictures of some penguins along the way. The plane wasn’t going anywhere without them after all. During the flight to the Pole I got to go to the flight deck and get some pictures.

When we got to the Pole the weather was too bad to land but the pilots decided to circle for an hour before heading back to McMurdo. This was bad news because the flight would end up being 3 hours + 1 hour of circling + 3 hours back – a long flight since I did not have time to grab a sandwich before leaving McMurdo. Luckily the weather cleared enough for us to land after only 40 minutes of circling.

So there I was at the South Pole standing atop 2.5 miles of polar ice sheet beside an LC-130 cargo plane, its engines running and propellers spinning because it was -30 and too cold to shut them off, looking at my new home for the next 10 months. How cool, I thought - how many places are there where airplanes drop you off at your house? Luckily the station manager had taken pity on the new guy and had sent someone to meet me. After that it was easy.

To be continued…


Fern Emma said...

Congrats on actually arriving. I checked on the link to the Terrabus -- and was rewarded with a whole bunch of pictures of transportation to, from, and at the pole.
Best to you as you carry on ...

Katie Tarney said...

This is all absolutely fascinating. What exactly will your job there entail? STAY WARM!

Post a Comment