Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Arrival in McMurdo: December 3, 2014

Wednesday morning, I woke up at 5am for the flight down to the ice. I re-packed what I had used in Christchurch (and, in the process, packed my passport into a checked bag, which led to a frantic ten minutes at the CDC later), and checked out of the hotel. Thomas, Sean, and I waited around for the shuttle to the CDC while the sun came up for the last time for us for a long while.

Once we got to the CDC, we found out that the cafe at the Antarctic Centre was closed, so we would either have to walk to the McDonalds a kilometer away or go without. I was glad that I bought extra snacks the day before. We then put on all the required ECW (Extreme Cold Weather) gear for our flight down to the ice. This included our boots (because of recovery, I got the Baffin boots instead of the Bunny boots), wind pants, parka, gloves, hat, and sunglasses. Most of us ended up shuffling things around between our bags to make sure that our checked bags were under the 75 pound limit while our carry-on was under the 15 pound limit. 
All the gear I was issued at the CDC.
Then, we each grabbed a cart and wheeled our luggage around to check-in. Since we were flying on the Kiwi Herc (a C130 Hercules flown by the Royal New Zealand Airforce), this was all done by New Zealand military personnel (last time, it was the US military). They weighed all of our checked bags, and then each person with their cold weather gear and their carry-on luggage. From there, we had some downtime before we got to watch another series of videos about the US Antarctic program, environmental policies, and other important information.

Once the videos were done, we went through security and got onto the bus to the aircraft. We drove out onto the tarmac and parked near the plane. After we waited about 15 minutes, the loadmaster for our flight came on and gave us the safety briefing, before we filed out of the bus and onto the plane. Thomas, Sean, and I were the first on the plane, so we ended up near the front on the far side from the door. While I had slightly more leg room than my trip on the LC-130 back from McMurdo last time, there still was not much room on our very crowded flight.

The Kiwi Herc on the tarmac

The Kiwi Herc is generally faster than the American LC-130s, and we got down to McMurdo in just 7 hours. The flight was pretty uneventful, but boring.

The Kiwi Herc at Pegasus
We landed out at Pegasus, the furthest of the airfields at McMurdo, around 4:30pm. Waiting for us was our old friend Ivan the Terra Bus, ready to drive us into McMurdo. I’d forgotten how much Ivan bounces up and down when driving on the snow roads, and some of the people on our flight that are making their first trip down to McMurdo were not expecting it. On the way back, we passed Willy Field, where the LDB site was formerly located, and could see the new LDB site off in the distance. LDB was moved about two miles farther back onto the ice shelf, and Willy Field is now being used as an airfield for the fixed wing fleet. 
Mt. Erebus is as imposing as ever. I'd forgotten how much it dominates the landscape out on the ice shelf.

Ivan dropped us off at the NSF Chalet, where we had our orientation briefing and got our room assignments. We also met up with Ryan, our NSF point of contact, and Dave Sullivan, from CSBF. From there, we went over to housing to get our bed linens, and then on to the dorms. Sean and I are in  203a, the same dorm as two years ago, but I’m on the first floor rather than the second. Thomas is in the dorm that he stayed in his second trip down two years ago. We were kind of surprised to be put here, since we won’t be in McMurdo too long, and normally these dorms aren’t used for temporary housing.

Our old friend, Ivan
We still had about 45 minutes before our bags would be ready to be picked up at the MCC (Movement Control Center), so we went over to the galley in 155 for dinner. On our way in, we ran into Paul, our SuperTIGER engineer here for ANITA, and once inside we saw Dana, the fourth member of our recovery team. We caught up with them and had dinner. Frosty Boy was working, so it was a good day. Then it was time to go pick up our bags.

I brought my bags back to my dorm and then unpacked. After a while, I went over to the Coffee House with Sean and Thomas. Since the last time I was here, the Coffee House went from being a BYOB Wine Bar to a Wine Bar that actually sells wine. While we were here, we ran into Paul, and ended up talking with him and a couple of people from ANITA. After that, it was time to sleep, although Thomas and I made a slight detour to sample the 24-hour pizza.

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