My trip to Antarctica started at 5am on Saturday, November 29, 2014. I woke up early at my parents' house in Minnesota, and said goodbye to them at the airport before boarding my first plane of the day before sunrise. I made it back to St. Louis without any problems, and went home to finish up packing (and re-shuffling things between suitcases). I had lunch with a few friends and then a got a ride to the St. Louis airport, where my trip officially started.
There wasn't much exciting about my flight from St. Louis to Dallas (except for the check-in agent asking me if New Zealand was part of Australia). I got to Dallas on time, and decided to head to the terminal with the best BBQ place for dinner. I got a call from Thomas more or less immediately after getting there, and he soon met up with me for some brisket. We continued on to the international terminal, charging our devices up before the flight.
The flight from Dallas to Sydney is apparently the longest non-stop commercial flight currently available. It was scheduled to take 16 hours and 50 minutes, but the flight crew assured us it would be more like 16 hours and 30 minutes. It was my first time on an Airbus A380, which seemed much bigger in person. I ended up in a window seat, but the middle seat was empty so I was able to spread out. The most noteworthy thing that happened on the flight was that I actually managed to fall asleep on a plane for several hours.
Our layover in Sydney started well enough, with Thomas and I finding our gate area to be a quiet place with a good wifi connection. That didn't last long. Soon, crowds of people on other flights crowded the wifi network, and the loud boarding interruptions were pre-empting one another constantly.
Thomas got an upgrade to business class for our flight to Christchurch, so he got a seat with a lot of leg room and a real meal. Meanwhile, I was 5 rows in front of the back of the plane. This meant that Thomas ended up waiting a long time for me to get through immigration and customs, since I waited about 35 minutes in line while he had no wait at all.
After taking a shuttle to our hotel (and briefly meeting some other McMurdo-bound scientists), we took the opportunity to freshen up before heading out in Christchurch. We walked from our hotel into the city centre and back before having dinner (well, those of us that flew economy class needed something to eat) and drinks at a bar near the hotel. It was good to see a lot of new construction and the finished products of some ongoing construction projects I had seen two years ago. The recovery from the earthquake is still very much ongoing, though, and it looks like it will be several years before everything is back close to how it was.
I'll post some photos tomorrow, but I'm too tired to do that right now. We're getting picked up at 9am tomorrow for clothing issue and orientation, so I'll also have photos of that. Tomorrow we'll also (hopefully) meet up with Sean, who's scheduled to arrive in Christchurch a little before midnight tonight local time.