|Geoff Sims @ UNSW|
Sunday, 23rd December, 2012
This time we made it. (John)
Out to Christchurch airport once more, this time at midnight, and this time with the promise of the Airbus A319 if we changed into our ECW very quickly. We did.
The Airbus is operated by Skytraders under contract to the Australian Antarctic Division to support the Australian bases. However, it is flown between Christchurch and McMurdo when the airstrip at Casey is unusable, which is most of the time.
Comparing the photos of the LC130 from two days ago with the photo below only goes part way towards explaining our sheer joy at being on this aircraft.
This photo was taken a couple of hours into the flight. It is hard to see the 36 passengers, who have simply been swallowed into full rows of seats, where, if not sleeping soundly, they were periodically offered tea and coffee by the ever-attentive flight assistants. There was even an in-flight moving map showing us where we were along our route.
Up on the flight deck things were going well. I chatted with the pilots (pilots are always interesting to talk to), watched the sun rise into the sky, where it will remain for the rest of visit to Antarctica, then wandered back to stretch out across three seats for a further snooze.
The flight took barely four and a half hours.
Nic and Geoff step foot on the Antarctic continent.
The Pegasus ice runway is an hour's drive from McMurdo station, in the wonderfully named "Ivan", the Terra bus. As we rumbled along, they thoughtfully played the "Ivan the Terra bus" song for us, although frankly the song could do with a bit more work.
After a welcome and briefing, we settled into our rooms, and organized the necessary clearance to use our laptops on the station network. Communication with the outside world is excellent, via standard communications satellites.
After lunch we set about orienting ourselves.
Here Sarah takes us on a "dirt tour", or walking tour of the station. It was fascinating, if a tad windy - not to mention snowing. Fortunately, at -5C it's quite mild compared to South Pole. Sarah is one of the National Science Foundation coordinators at McMurdo. Bonus points if you can recognize Nic and Geoff in the photo.
Dirt Tour was followed by a tour of the main research laboratory, the Crary Lab.
Bev is the Crary Laboratory Supervisor. It is clear that the festive season is upon us, even in McMurdo.
Bev gave us a great overview of the work (mainly biology and geology) that is done around the station, including showing us some spectacular video of Mount Erebus erupting.
Nic and Geoff play with the little creatures in the "touching tank". The main problem with this game is that the water is at -1.4C, which is decidedly too cold for (our) comfort. It doesn't freeze because it's salty.
Over the next week we'll organize everything we need for our field deployment to Ridge A.
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