Monthly Archives: September 2010

Life: Headed (Way) South

Let’s catch up. For the past three and a half months, I’ve been on the move—from the U.S. to France and back again. Then from the U.S. to Christchurch, New Zealand, which is where I am now. But, I see a final destination in sight: McMurdo Station, Antarctica—the place where I’ll live and work for the next five months. If I ever arrive there, I’ll unpack my bags, put stuff in a closet, and be content to explore a big, frozen backyard.

We’ve run into some problems getting to McMurdo. We, being myself and other contract workers headed south to work with the United States Antarctic Program for the austral summer.

The weather at McMurdo—the largest U.S. base for scientific research and exploration in Antarctica—keeps crapping out, so on Friday we flew for four and a half hours to get within 150 miles of McMurdo. So close. At the last moment, some fog rolled over the ice shelf and prevented us from landing. The only option was to fly all the way back to Christchurch. Nine hours on a plane. And now we’ve been stalled in Christchurch for an additional two days because the weather hasn’t improved.

Normally, the plane we’d fly on would be some sort of burly military cargo ship such as a LC-130 or a 141 or a C-17, but somehow we scored a ride on an airbus normally used by the Australian Antarctic Program.

It’s much like a normal airplane, but any normal person (like me) can ride first class. I can’t complain about having a big, cushy seat and mind-blowing views from the window.

On the eve of the nine-hour boomerang flight, we flew over New Zealand’s Banks Peninsula and caught it in just the right kind of light.

This is one of my favorite areas of NZ, so I didn’t mind the fly-over.

We landed back in Christchurch and returned to the U.S. Antarctic Program Clothing Distribution Center to take off all of our layers. We found out there that we’re scheduled to fly again tomorrow.

When/if we arrive at McMurdo, I’ll be doing communications work, chatting to scientists doing research at remote field camps, making sure everyone is alive at the end of their long, endlessly sunny work days. This work also involves some communicating on Iridium phones, VHF/HF radios, and other outdated equipment as well. Generally, it’s a good gig that I enjoy while on and off the clock (skiing, reading, and writing). More frozen photos likely to follow…