Saturday, November 3, 2012

Heading to McMurdo

The journey to get here is always a bit exhausting. I left my home in the Seattle area Thursday morning at 6am and arrived at Christchurch (CHCH) Saturday evening at 7pm. Five airports, 23 hours in the air and 37 hours from Washington to New Zealand (includes layovers and connections). 

I have a hard time sleeping on planes so I watched a lot of movies. On the 15 hour long flight across the Pacific, I watched 7 and 2 more from Sydney to Christchurch.  The double decker Airbus 380 has an amazing entertainment system and on Qantas they really do it right!  Lots of options:  music, video games, TV shows and movies.  All kinds of movies.

 Here's a list of the movies I watched:
5 Year Engagement, Savages, MIB III, What to expect when you're expecting, American Pie Reunion, The Avengers, Prometheus, Hysteria and People Like Us.  (warning: This list may say more about my choices or poor taste in movies than give a fair representation of what is available on the flights.)

In CHCH we got our ECW (extreme cold weather) gear issued and an had afternoon of safety training.  I stayed at the Sudima Hotel across the street from the Christchurch airport and International Antarctic Center (IAC).  The IAC is a great place to visit to get a feel for Antarctica, lots of nice exhibits.

We left for Antarctica Monday morning.  We flew on a USAF C-17 cargo plane leaving CHCH at 9am and arriving at the Ice Runway (IR) at McMurdo at about 2:30pm, another 5+ hours in the air.  We landed on the sea ice close to town (instead of at Pegasus on the permanent Ross Sea ice field) as it has been cold enough that the ice is 5 feet thick and strong enough to land a C-17 on.  That makes the trip to McMurdo about 12 minutes instead of 60 minutes if we land at Pegasus.  Nice!

The Qantas Airbus 380 I rode across the Pacific.
A long 15 hour flight, but I love flying Qantas.

Air New Zealand, painted in their world champion
NZ All-Black Rugby team colors and logo, cool!

The Sudima hotel at the CHCH airport where we stay.

The popular International Antarctic Center,
if you can't go to Antarctica this is the next best thing!

USAP hanger for the LC-130's at CHCH airport.

Another view of the IAC.

The terminal we depart from on our way to
Antarctica in the USAF C-17.

Briefing room prior to departure.

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