Tuesday, December 7, 2010 — From Christchurch to McMurdo Station
Tue, 12/07/2010 - 2:40pm
We met this morning at 5:30 a.m. for breakfast in the hotel and had to be packed and ready to go at 6:30 a.m. I left all of my Atlanta clothes at the hotel and have my trusty Extremely Cold Weather clothes and Emergency Survival Bag. We were driven to the plane, a military C-17 and loaded our ECW bag on the plane and hand-carried our ECW survival bag on board with us.
This is definitely not first class. The plane is really a cargo plane and is huge inside. There is no commercial equivalent, and it is much bigger than a 737 with a huge fuselage for carrying cargo. The Air Force pilot told us that he flies a KC-135, the equivalent of the 737 and it holds 120,000 pounds of cargo. The C-17 carries half again that much fuel.
A large number of military folks are on board, probably 25 or so, all going down for assignment. Many of the seats are aligned along the sides with space for cargo in the center – no windows and one bathroom. The flight attendants all appear to be young men, about 25 and in fatigues. I have never been called sir so many times in 20 minutes as I was getting on the plane. I went to take a picture and one of them came up to me and said, “That’s military aircraft and they are not real wild about pictures.” OOPS. They issue ear plugs, which are a must, a sack lunch in which everything appears to be biodegradable, and we are off, scheduled to arrive at 2:00 p.m.
They let us go up into the flight deck and look out over the coast, which just appears to be a huge cliff of ice rising up out of the ice floe. Everywhere you look it is white and very bright ... absolutely no signs of life anywhere.
One thing you notice right away — both in the training videos and here on the plane and to some degree in the culture in Christchurch — sustainability and conservation are everywhere. I think it is perhaps because of the very strong desire to preserve the pristine nature of Antarctica and that carries over to the way people think, certainly those going on the ice and also those in Christchurch. The Office of Polar Programs is very strict about what you can and cannot take when you go on the ice. For example, no aerosols are allowed. The backpacking philosophy of “pack it in, pack it out” is very much alive in Antarctica, and it is very apparent in the way they prepare us for our visit. We are cautioned about preserving the environment – no plants, animals, not even mud on your boots, and they ask you to limit the amount of plastic.
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Tue, 12/07/2010 - 4:00pm