my trip to the Antarctica and the South Pole

Wednesday, February 02, 2005


i never thought i'd have my own personal flight across the continent on my birthday, but such is luck in the united states antarctic program. it was friday around 10am, birthday eve. i was sitting in my shop/office filling time while waiting for someone to return my snomobile so i could do some real work. just yesterday, i had been told that i wouldn't be going out to new zealand today, as planned, or at all for the rest of the season. a couple hours ago, i had learned that i was actually going to be going to mcmurdo on monday to escort a tank down to pole. i went to glance out the door again at the snomobile "parking lot" when my boss walks up.
kid, you're going to mcmurdo today. i'm sorry.
what time? i asked, barely phased.
the 1:30 flight.
will i be home for my birthday?
i made them promise to put you on the first plane back tomorrow.

okay. the next three hours were a hectic mess. i had to get a ton of helium delivered to the telescopes, finish up the regular day's work, send some packages, eat lunch, and pack. around 1pm, i get through the post office line and ask my friend "hmm, so what's more important--eating, or packing?" somehow i manage to do both and be out on the flight deck in time to freeze my butt off waiting for them to offload fuel from the plane and then board us. the one other passenger and i get the luxury of sitting in the cockpit on take-off. three hours, and one spectacular landing approach later, i step onto the Ross Sea Ice Shelf.

as a special welcome, the mcmurdo housing department neglected to assign me a room because they mis-read the manifest. when i finally did get my room, i dropped my stuff and ran off to the galley before it closed. i bumped into some people from the pole doing r&r and made some plans for my one night in town. we ended up hanging out chatting and then hitting one of the two bars in town to wrap up the night.

the next day, i woke up early to make my plane, and smiled, thinking about where i was on year #26 of my life. my friend took me "out" to coffee for my birthday while we waited for the air field shuttle. luckily, when i got to Williams Field, i had plenty of time to spare and noticed a phone in the galley where i was waiting. yay for not having to wait for a satellite to be up to call home! i talked to my dad for a while, which turned out to be the only person i talked to off the continent on my birthday. soon they were calling for the cryo tech on the radio and i was on the plane hooking up my 3000 gallons of liquid helium to the aircraft vent. my own private plane on my birthday, taking me across 800 miles of trans-antarctic mountains and vast plateau to my home, the south pole. that sort of thing eases the sting of being a year older and all out of milestone birthdays to look forward to. plus, it reinforces my theory that if i do something new and exciting every year, i'll never have a reason to not be happy about another birthday.

the hours following my landing turned out to be every bit as hectic as the hours before my take-off the day before. it was only better because everyone kept welcoming me back and wishing me a happy birthday. i worked the rest of the day, unpacked just enough to get ready for my party, and headed out. the galley had made brownies for the occasion, and people brought funny little gifts wrapped in whatever they could fine. we made ice cream and hung out for a while. the "end of season" party was also happening that night back in the new station building, so we all headed out to that. i danced away to the 3 live bands that played and had an absolutely wonderful, fun, happy time. this birthday will definitely go down in christina history.

thanks to everyone for your calls, cards, emails, and gifts!


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