South to the Ice

Traveling in the smaller group made things much easier. We only had 47 people manifested for the flight.

4 A.M. came early in this morning. There were a half dozen of us at the YMCA scheduled for the morning flight, so we pretty much filled up a van. We got to the CDC with a little time to spare.

The first surprise was the hair cut one our group got while he was in Christchurch. Ethen was headed to pole, and decided to something a little crazy before he headed down. (As if working the season at the pole wasn't a bit crazy). He had managed to get a little sun burned along the way.

After dressing, packing, checking in our 'hold baggage', and weighing in, we went over to the cafeteria for breakfast. They had us show back up at the terminal at 6:15 for our safety briefing. Standard operating practice, lots of waiting. We were scheduled for a 8 a.m. departure.

The safety briefing was the same as last year, the crew chief goes over all the safety features of our C141, just a like a commercial flight. (Except that they have to do it before we get on so we can hear them!).

The same safety film on Antarctic conditions followed the briefing, and then we had a little more time to kill.

This year the dog came through and sniff all of our carry on bags as we were waiting for the metal detectors to be set up. There was the usual jockeying for position. The experienced people try to be the very first ones on so they get the end of the row of seats. In that position you usually get a little more leg room. We did the short bus ride out to the ramp, and waited some more. They signaled us get on so we started for the plane. The same segregation rules applied, men in the back, women in the front. I got really lucky and being the sixth person on board got the end seat in the middle. Then my luck went down hill, the two guys next to me were both from Idaho, and qualified as rather large fellows. There certainly wasn't any shoulder room left. They were able to spread the women out slightly in the front. We had started boarding the buses about 7:15, and with our small group, we managed to get airborne about 15 minutes ahead of schedule. We were on our way.

The Crew Chief shuffled things around a little bit, and I got a seat to myself behind the blue curtain. He put up several other seats and managed to spread us out a little.

Of course being behind the curtain meant I had a nice view of the urinal.

The other direction wasn't anything to write home about, with a small crew of people we had some room for cargo, which worked out very well for me. It turned out that several of my boxes I mailed from home were on the same flight.

I was a little better prepared this year. I had purchased a CD player, and some small ear bugs, and brought along my ear muff style hearing protection. This allowed to at least have some music on the way down. Having space around me, made all the difference in the world. This was actually a better ride than the 12 hours on the 747. The usual shout went up when they announced we had passed our Point of Safe Return, and would be landing in McMurdo in a half an hour or so.

It's interesting to fly facing sideways and not have any windows, you never really know where the ice is, and the corrections the pilot make are all the more noticeable.

We arrived shortly after 1 p.m. and were shuttled back to the galley for the in-briefing. Pretty much the same lecture as last year, play nice with others and they won't send you home. After that it was off to pick up my room keys and find out where I'd be living for the next 4 months.

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