Monday, October 29, 2012

Day 5, October 29, 2012 -- Ice, Ice, Baby.

I awoke at 4:30 AM in order to get ready for our 5:30AM pickup to go back to the CDC for our flight to the ice. I decided to redistribute some of my clothing in more usable manner for flight. Basically the way it works is you get one carry-on bag and as many checked bags as you want as long as the total weight is under 150 lbs. You designate one of your checked bags as a "boomerang" bag -- if the plane has to turn back to New Zealand due to weather conditions at McMurdo, you're given back your boomerang bag but your other luggage is left palletized for easy loading. And you have to carry on or wear on your person a fair amount of your ECW gear. Anyway, it requires a bit of thinking to figure out how best to distribute all of your stuff.

At around 8AM, after a video briefing, we boarded a shuttle bus that took us across the street to the plane, a C-17 Globemaster III cargo plane. The plane itself was outfitted with a section of airline style seats along with a row of jump seats along each side of the plane. Besides the roughly 100 passengers on their way to Antarctica, we were joined by a large cryogenic tank of liquid oxygen in the cargo hold as well as a bunch of other, less dangerous, cargo in the rear of the plane.

The flight takes about 5 hours, and was completely uneventful. If not for the exposed ducting and wiring, it feels a lot like being on a regular airliner. It's not even much louder.

Stepping off the plane is a sight to behold. We land on the Ross Ice Shelf, and walking out we see Ross Island in the near distance (which is where McMurdo is located) as well as the majestic Mount Erebus, an active nearly-13,000-foot-tall volcano that is something like 30 miles away but looks like it's just behind Ross Island. And we were lucky enough to have absolutely stunning weather, with clear blue skies and relatively warm weather (I'd estimate it was about 15 or 20 degrees F). I met up with the CSBF LDB program coordinator in Antarctica, Dave, after our post-flight debriefing/orientation and we headed out to Williams Field, where the LDB program is located. I was able to meet up with the rest of the crew that had already arrived and found a high bay already organized and set up for efficient working. The gondola outer frame is sitting in the high bay while the inner frame is still in the shipping container. The cryostat is open and Kyle and Jeff have been working on assembling the instrument.

We left the LDB camp at 5:30PM, taking a ride on one of the older people transports (called "the Delta") and headed back to McMurdo for dinner, etc. Kyle helped me reset the bed height in my room  -- apparently McMurdo is very crowded this year, and I am the third person in what is supposed to be a two-person dorm room, which means I have a top bunk and no place to store my belongings. One my roommates is a CSBF rigger, but the other is a scientist who is scheduled to leave for a field camp in early November, so hopefully we'll have some more breathing room after that.

Word to your mother.


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