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Published: February 10th 2009
The Flight In
Personnel riding in the C-17 from Christchurch.
November 5, we were bussed to the Christchurch airport and the Antarctic Departure Terminal. There we were made to suit up in all of our cold weather gear (including boots, parka, goggles, hats, gloves and everything) and greeted by Kiwi military and customs officers and dogs who thoroughly checked our kit. We were then shuttled onboard a C-17 military cargo aircraft operated by the New York National Guard. Seating consisted of fold down webbing seats along the inner sides of the aircraft and rows of traditional airline seating mounted in the cargo area. Behind the seats were large pallets of cargo netted and secured in place. I took one of the seats along the side because I’d been briefed by an insider that - though they looked less comfortable - the netting seats offered a lot more room to stretch out. Indeed, all the newbies rushed into the airline seats and soon found themselves overheated and packed in like red parka’d marshmallows in their ECW gear.
The flight was a bumpy 5 hours, and after a short diversion on final approach (that I later learned was a NSF helicopter flying where it wasn’t supposed to be) we slid
Me, riding in my jumpseat.
to a stop on the ice at Pegasus Field near McMurdo Station, Antarctica. Weather outside was about 8 degrees below zero, and a bright an sunny day by all accounts.
We were ushered onto a large transport labelled in bright letters near the door as “Ivan the terra bus” and driven about a half hour to McMurdo Station proper. We were briefed on a number of things in the main dining hall and given our room assignments. I was bunking in a lodge near the edge of the camp called “Mammoth Mountain Inn” along with another person who was waiting for a flight out to the pole.
I also met my manager who promised to meet me in the morning after breakfast in order to find something to do in the mean time. At about midnight the phone in our room received a phone call for my roommate, instructing him to have his bags ready in 20 minutes. The next morning, I’d found that both he and my manager had actually gotten a flight out on a C-130, and so I was left alone to wait for the next flight. I took the opportunity to use my off
Disembarking the C-17
Scientists and support staff disembark the C-17 Globemaster III at McMurdo's Pegasus Field.
time to launder my clothes and take what would probably be the longest and most complete shower I’d have for the next four months. McMurdo rations water and energy pretty closely, but nearly so much as the Pole. I also made my way down to the COMMS shop to speak to the satellite and High Frequency radio guys. They gave me a little walk around of their shop and in passing mentioned being nearly creamed by the C-17 I was in the day before while they were flying back from a remote site in their UH1 (Huey) helicopter. Most of their guys were out working on equipment and they had nothing for me to do, so I returned to the internet connection in the dorm to finish some business I had - signing up for benefits, paying off some bills, etc.
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