Thursday, December 4, 2014

Back at the South Pole

I finally reached the South Pole.  I stamped my passport, so it's official:

I left Thursday evening, just after Thanksgiving dinner, and arrived Thursday evening of the following week.  Technically, this trip took six days because we passed over the international date line heading west to get here.

We first flew to from Los Angeles to Sydney, Australia (~15 hours), and then doubled back on a 3 hour flight to Christchurch on New Zealand’s south island.  The National Science Foundation’s Office of Polar Programs runs a staging center next to the airport where we spend a couple days gearing up and watching training videos. 

We then flew south on a military LC-130 (a “Herc”) to McMurdo, the largest base on the Antarctic continent (click here for pictures).  You can see a pics of the plane in my post from 2 years ago.  Our 12 hour layover grew to 3 days on account of weather issues.  You can see what the "ceremonial" south pole looked like when I arrived, and it had been like that most of the week.

I took this photo from the comfort of the Galley.  When I walked off the plane earlier, it was -13F, but substantially lower (around -30F) from wind chill.  Shortly after we landed, visibility fell to a quarter mile, which may be evident from the above pic.

Finally, nearly a week after we left California, we few over the Trans-Antarctic Mountains and into the South Pole station.

During my three days in McMurdo (aka “Mac-town”), I killed time by doing tourist things.  This included visiting the Long Duration Ballooning facility, climbing up a glacier, walking along the pressure ridges on the frozen sea, and even climbing into an observation pod under the sea ice.  Since the South Pole can get boring after a while, I’ll save these stories for some later posts over the next few weeks.

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