my trip to the Antarctica and the South Pole

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Teen and B in New Zealand

Teen and B in New Zealand

my flight to christchurch was a pax flight full of 76 people, most of whom had been stuck in mactown for 8 days waiting to get out. the storm hit the very day that C-141 cargo flights were finally supposed to resume. i settled in to my seat and grabbed my book out of my ecw gear. 6 hours later i wouldn't even be needing the it, as we landed in new zealand in the dead of summer.

i didn't get to my hotel until 2am wednesday morning, but i was still up by 8. if all the sparse emails over the last few days with their constantly changing plans were true, my brother would be landing in a few hours. i had to get all my work out of the way in time to meet him. i got two really good pieces of news that morning. one was that the cargo yard people couldn't move my helium tank to the site where i was to do my work on it until monday. the other was that my partner who needed to be there before we could start our work was stranded in antarctica due to a broken plane. for once, the antarctic inefficiency and uncertainty was working to my advantage. i would have all weekend to hang out with my brother.

i had been looking up every other sentence of the book i was reading, watching for my brother to walk through the door at customs. when he finally did appear, my hands immediately clasped over my mouth and i ran up to give him a huge hug. it was the strangest clashing of worlds. this was a place where i had started my trip to the south pole...a world away from home...the sights i had always assumed i would only tell my family about through pictures. this was my world in my journey to the pole. and there was my little brother standing smack dab in the middle of it.

the next few hours were a flurry of nonstop talk about what we had both been up to in the past months. he told me all about australia and scuba diving, and i went on about life at the pole. we couldn't talk fast enough. by far the highlight of the night was shopping for shoes for bobby because he didn't have anything other than sandals and we were going skydiving the next day. the big debate was to go for the hugh heffner velvet slippers, or the pimped out white dockers. i think both bob and i know we made the right choice with the pair that came to be known as the shoes of the millenium.

skydiving the next morning more deserves a moment of silence than a blundering paragraph in my web log to describe it's infinite coolness. just go ask bobby for the dvd. it was amazing.

nothing could quite top that high-point of the trip (pun intended?), but we did our best. we did some errands, and then hit sumner beach. we didn't know we'd be discovering caves and get to do some rock climbing at a beach, but this isn't east coast north carolina either. later that night, bobby got basically kicked out (what would turn out to be not the only time) of a restaurant after eating too much at an all you can eat dinner. we went out partying that night to work off the calories dancing.

the next day we checked out another beach, only this one was a little cove of a cove, called governor's bay. it was stunning. mountains lined the opposite side of the cove, and the sun was bright--very new zealand. i was the only one to actually get in the extremely cold water, which i was only able to do by repeating to myself "i live at the south pole" with every step deeper. it was so fun to actually swim--an activity there is basically none of at the pole. We wound up the day with a hike overlooking the shore and city. the party scene got started around 1am. we had been dancing at the 3rd club of the night for a while when bobby's alcohol and sudafed must have caught up with him and he got really tired. we got kindly kicked out for bobby's apparent "signs of intoxication"--ha!...which I personally didn't even notice.

The next day i saw bobby off at the airport through tears and went back into my own antarctic adventure world...although it was now different, because someone from my former world had been there.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

R&R in Club Mac

Today is day 4 of my week-long vacation in McMurdo station, and I'm working. I'm not complaining though, because the work I'm doing here today is prep for the trip north to Christchurch, New Zealand, where I'll be for the next 10 days. Well, that's the plan anyway. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like the weather is going to cooperate. The flight I've been bumped to has been trying to leave every day since Tuesday now. A weather system the size of texas is sitting over the Ross Ice shelf, with winds too high for planes to land. All this just after the new ice runway here was finally finished, and we were looking forward to getting our long delayed Christmas packages and fresh fruits and veggies. The weather system also brought in a novelty for Antarctica: SNOW! Believe it or not, snow hardly ever falls here, and when it does, it's usually just small crystals. Yesterday was a full-on homestyle blizzard with accumulating snow. It was the first they've had here all season, and even more of a treat for us Polies who hardly *ever* see the white stuff falling.

Yesterday I got to tour the US Coast Guard Polar Star Icebreaker vessel, which is docked here awaiting repairs before it can go out to finish it's job of cutting a channel through the ice for the cargo vessel. The vessel brings all the needed supplies for winter to McMurdo, where it's then flown to Pole. A russian ice breaker is even on call to do the channel breaking if our ice breaker can't do the job, or is held up too long for repairs. There's a big challenge this year because a huge ice berg is blocking much of the channel and causing a trap for the ice.

Pics of R&R so far are at