Everything in Antarctica operates as organized chaos. I didn’t learn that I had been put on a flight to the South Pole until someone told me in passing roughly two hours before our scheduled “bag drag” time, and I was almost on my way over to Scott Base already! No emails, no messages or anything, and somehow I was supposed to know that I was on that flight?! Well it all worked out. After some hurried packing and the lovely assistance from my friend Heather, I managed to get my heavy duffel bags up the snowy hill to be weighed and packed for our tentative flight the next day. (And THEN I got to go over to the Kiwi base and have a beer!) So the next morning, on November 7th, we were anxiously waiting for our flight status. Our flight was listed as an alternate—we would only fly if they weren’t flying to the Australian Casey Station, which was (and still is, I think) experiencing heaps of bad weather. Around 10am our flight was activated, so we got to fly out but all the poor Aussies were (and are still) stuck at McMurdo.
Flying in an LC-130 was pretty interesting; it’s definitely not a cozy flight. They pack us in onto mesh seats that barely seat six of us together with our gigantic poofy parkas. Somehow we manage to squeeze, using the parkas as a barrier so that it’s not entirely a cuddlefest with your neighbors.
Once we were up in the air I walked around to have a look outside. (Ice…ice…ice…more ice…) About half way through the flight we passed over the Antarctic transcontinental mountains—a glaciology nerd’s heaven! 🙂 And three hours later we were at the pole! The last 15 minutes of the flight are a scramble to get all of your ECW gear on and prepare for the impact of the -60˚ wind chill in your face, which for many of us was a first-time experience. Getting off the plane, we headed straight to the station, about a hundred-yard march over the packed snow. And now I’m in this desolate, barren, white, cold, psycho place—my home for the next three months! The first 48 hours were rough, combating altitude sickness, this stupid sinus infection thing I’ve had since Christchurch, and the negative side effects of Diamox, which they prescribed to help us acclimate to the altitude. I think all of the negative side effects of Diamox are so bad that you just temporarily forget that your body is freaking out because of the altitude. It’s also quite a shock to look outside the windows and all you see is flat white snowy land for miles. I keep staring out the window expecting to see something… but there’s just nothing here to look at really! What a strange place this is. It’s my fourth day here and things are much better. I’m all trained up on job stuff, and my sleep schedule is more or less swapped to work the mid-shift (11pm to 7am). So much more to come still!