South Pole Diaries 1995    


23rd January 1995

From Michael Ashley.....

At 9am we attend a 20 minute video briefing on Antarctic safety, followed by being fitted with protective clothing. We receive about 20 kg of gear, including ``bunny boots'' - special air-insulated boots that have valves on them so that they can be de-pressurised when flying in aircraft. John and I videotape ourselves getting dressed, from almost nothing up to the complete kit, in simultaneous increments. This sequence looks quite amusing when viewed in fast-forward mode.

We learn that we are scheduled to depart at 4am the next morning, which is good news since it promises to maximise our time on the ice. Of course, these schedules often slip, sometimes due to mechanical problems with the aircraft, other times due to bad weather at McMurdo. It is even possible to fly half-way to McMurdo, only to have to turn back to Christchurch due to sudden changes in weather. There are horror stories of this happening 3 or even 5 times in a row. With luck this won't happen to us.

After viewing the excellent Antarctica exhibition at the Visitor's Centre, we make a bulk purchase of stuffed penguins for our respective families and headed back to Christchurch city to sample more of the local cuisine at the Dux de Luxe vegetarian restaurant. It appears that we are following a well-worn trail of previous Antarctic adventurers, as over half of the restaurant's clientele that night had either just come back from the ice, or were just about to go down.

Retiring to bed at 10pm we were alarmed to discover that the occupant of Room 16 (I was in 15, John in 17) had decided to spend the evening packaging his bicycle into a cardboard shipping container, using vast quantities of 120 decibel duct tape, while in Room 14 a person was experimenting with making repetitive mono-tonal sounds on a synthesiser. Sleep was therefore elusive, and at 12.15am we set off for the airport. Would we spend our next night in McMurdo? Only the new day would tell...