Category Archives: Travel

Nov 04 – 05: Christchurch to McMurdo…

Greetings!

I am writing to you from McMurdo Field Station, Antarctica! After a long couple of days, I have arrived safely at the bottom of the Earth. Let me tell you about it.

Sunday, November 4

On Sunday, myself and other Antarctic bound travelers were taken to the Antarctic Clothing Distribution Center (CDC) in Christchurch, NZ. Here, we were greeted by enthusiastic Kiwi USAP staff, who got us all geared up with our Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) gear. My ECW includes…

 

  • 2 pars of light long underwear & 2 pairs of heavy long underwear
  • 2 light base layer tops & 2 heavy base layer tops
  • insulated Carhartt bibs
  • Bunny boots” & two pairs of socks
  • 2 paris of mittens and 1 pair of insulated leather work gloves
  • balaclava, fleece hat, fleece scarf, & ski goggles
  • “Little red” – a light parka
  • “Big red” – a big red goose down parka… very warm

Lots of gear, eh? I feel especially loaded down considering I’ve also packed plenty of personal cold weather gear, including additional boots, base layers, hats, gloves, pants, jackets, etc.

We departed the CDC, after making sure that all of our gear was well fit and comfortable. Our check in for the next days flight to the Ice was scheduled for 6:30 am. I headed back to my hotel for a good night of sleep.

Monday, November 05

This morning we were taken back to the CDC, where we compiled our gear and caught the next flight to Antarctica. Flying to Antarctica is no ordinary flight. Around 8:10, myself and approximately 52 other southbound scientists and support contractors boarded a C17 operated by a crew from McChord AFB, Washington.

Along with scientists and other southbound travelers, the C17 was well packed with southbound cargo, essential to operations at McMurdo Station. Our flight contained a Kiwi R44 helo, which sat directly in the middle of the cargo bay. Southbound human cargo was situated in seats on the side walls of the jet. I was lucky enough to be one of the last people to board. Turns out, all the seats on the side of the plane were taken, so I snagged a sweet first-class-esque seat in the front of the aircraft, sitting besides some important looking US Air Force gents.

We were in the air by 8:45, beginning our 5.5 hr haul south. Unlike typical airline flights, you can do what you please during the flight. I spent much of the time milling about the cabin and catching views of sea ice. It was fascinating to observed the gradual change of scenery along the ride. First the green New Zealand country side, then the blue ocean, then sea ice, and finally our first glimpse of Antarctic mountains – all observed through one of four tiny windows located throughout the aircraft.

Around 14:22 we finally landed on the sea ice near McMurdo Station. Bundled up in our slick ECW digs, we finally stepped out of the C17…. finally made it to Antarctica!

I am currently all situated in my temporary home, here at McMurdo Station. Tomorrow I will be going to “Snow School,” where I’ll learn the basic survival techniques I’ll need for working in remote field locations (should be very fun!). Today has been fantastic. Getting to the continent has been quite the journey. However, the best part is knowing that this is only the beginning. I am very excited to get out in the Dry Valleys and do some big science! Keep tuned – much more to come!

Cheers,

Adam

 

 

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Oct 31 – Nov 03: Christchurch, NZ

Hello,

After 5 airports and 4 flights, I’ve finally arrived in Christchurch, NZ around 14:30 11/2/2012! Pretty crazy how I time-traveled a day ahead of my friends back in the States, as I crossed the International Date Line. So, while here in Christchurch, I’ll be 17 hrs ahead of ya’ll back in the eastern United States. I stepped off my flight to clear skies and warm weather (~70 F). After being cooped up in airplanes all day, where leg space is more than limited, it was nice to go for a long run to enjoy the warm weather. I enjoyed some top-notch Thai food for dinner and got to bed early for some much needed (horizontally oriented) sleep.

Contrary to yesterday’s weather, I awoke to cold, windy, and rainy weather. At first it was a bit depressing, as I had wished to spend my day trekking about the city under sunny skies. However, I realized that for the next three months, while I’m in the Dry Valleys (a polar desert…), I wont see single drop of rain. So, why not embrace the rain? I headed out from my hotel around 8:00 towards the Christchurch farmers market at Riccarton Bush.

I set out in search of some local Kiwi culture. Food and culture are intimately coupled. Often, food defines culture in one way or another. So to find some culture, I followed the food. Despite the cold and rain, Riccarton Bush was bustling with happy, enthusiastic vendors and market goers.

ImageWet and cold, I was dying for a cup of coffee. Well, lets get some terminology straight, first. You won’t find a cup of “coffee” on the menu at any café in NZ. You will however find “long blacks” and “flat whites.” A “long black” is a shot of espresso, where steam is pulled through the grounds for a longer duration than normal, resulting in a diluted shot of espresso – similar to an Americano. A “flat white” is simply a shot of espresso and poured with steamed milk, a.k.a. a late. Whatever you want to call it, the hot caffeinated beverage hit the spot. Also, turns out, apparently you need to be of age to have caffeine in NZ (see photo)… I have my doubts….?

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I’ve been warned that fresh fruits and vegetables are hard to come by in the Dry Valleys. So, I assembled a lunch composed mainly of “freshies.” I snagged some super French bread from a local baker (see photo). Some nice folks from a local farm hooked me up with an avocado, and another veggie vendor provided me with some fresh indoor-grown tomatoes. Being indecisive proved advantageous with the cheese vendor, as they allowed me to sample many NZ cheeses before settling on a beautiful sharp cheddar. Also, I was surprised to find NZ grown olives – couldn’t resist – picked up 100g. The market proved to be a good way to find fantastic healthy food at a more than reasonable fare, while enjoying lots of good conversationwith local Christchurch folk.

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With my lunch packed-up, I set out towards the city center to see the sights. Last February, Christchurch was hit by a gnarly earhquake, which decimated many old structures in the downtown area. Sadly, the downtown resembles a war-zone, where many buildings have been reduced to rubble. However, Christchurch seems proud to be moving-on and rebuilding. I fumbled around some shops located in a new shopping center, called Re:START. The shops are housed in box-car storage-unit-esque modules. The place was bustiling with shoppers and hopefully this is a nice start to the long process of rebuilding.

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By 14:00 I made it back to my hotel tired and hungry. Good thing I packed a top-notch lunch, eh? Tomorrow I get my “extreme cold weather gear” from USAP and get oriented. Should be sweet. I’ll keep ya’ll posted.

Cheers,

Adam

P.S. applogies for any typos. I’m “stickin’ it to the man” and poaching WiFi from McDonalds as my lap-top is rapidly losing power. First world problems? I think so.

Sandy Delays

I tried to ignore the constant warnings from Evan (my roommate and personal weatherman in State College) and foolishly believe that the rainy/windy wrath of Sandy wouldn’t delay me. However, my flights out of State College and Philadelphia were cancelled. The good people at ASC travel in Boulder Colorado rescheduled me to depart tomorrow morning, Oct 31 @ 10:10 am. If all goes well (knock on wood) I will be arriving in Christchurch, NZ Friday afternoon for a few days of training prior to my departure to McMurdo Station.

Cheers, Adam