November 15th, 2009

South Pole Station, Antarctica
Austral Summer 2009-2010

New Zealand, McMurdo and South Pole - Current Time

Travel Part 3 - Christchurch to McMurdo

The Shuttle was scheduled to pick us up at 5:15 AM. It was an early morning, still dark outside. Even though our reporting time was 6 AM, with the little traffic out that time of the morning, we were early.

Here's some assorted shots of the Clothing Distribution Center (CDC)

At the CDC, we dress in our extreme cold weather gear, and then check our bags.

After our bags are checked, we’re given a time to return for our safety briefing, everyone drops their carry on bag, and coat, and head over to the visitors center café for breakfast.

After sitting through a safety briefing, we all line up for a security check, and load onto buses to take us out to the plane.

All of the travel is now down on C-17s, or during a portion of the season, LC-130s, and the New Zealand C-130. My flight was a C-17.

Once on board, and we get off the ground we can look forward to about a 5 hour flight to get to McMurdo Station, Antarctica. The C-17 is so much more luxurious than the days of the 141’s and sitting knee to knee with the person across from you. For our flight there were several rows of standard airline type seats, an seating along the sides of the aircraft. I was sitting along the side, and had more leg room than I had on any of the commercial flights, though the seat wasn’t quite as comfortable.

Of course one of my cynical thoughts once I was seated and happened to look up – “Gee, now they even use cargo straps to hold the wings on”. In reality, they are the straps so they can secure stuff against the roof and wings.

Everything went really smoothly, and right on schedule we were on the ice – literally. In November they are still operating from the runway plowed out on the sea ice in front of the station. By January, the ice breaker will be passing near that same area, moving out the ice we were using to land on.

We got a briefing on our arrival, got a room assignment, and once I checked, I was on the manifest for the next morning (Friday 6th of November). Not much time in McMurdo. I picked up my sheets, made my bed. I ran down to my old work center in Building 159 where the communications shop was, and dropped in to say Hi. I managed to catch up with a few friends at dinner, and had a 10 minute conversation with the technician that had just wintered at the Pole who was on his way north.

I had to ‘bag drag’ and get everything except my carry-on to the Movement Control Center (MCC) at 7 PM. They make sure everything is marked with your flight number (P-006), and weigh your checked bags, and you with your cold weather gear, and carry-on. That done, I ran into some other friends, and then it was an early evening.

My transport time in the morning was 7:45. Onward to the pole.

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