Monday, November 22, 2010

McMurdo

Landon has landed in Antarctica! I'm relieved and really excited for him. It's been about 6 days since he left, and his adventure is finally properly getting started. Since I've never been there, I'll let him tell you about it:

Its been a crazy day and I'm pretty bushed. Clement and I both woke up around ten to six this morning . The shuttle to take us to the airport got there at six-thirty, and about eight of us from the Devon Bed and Breakfast all piled in and headed to the airport. Once we got into the CDC (that's the acronym for the USAP travel offices) we had to arrange our bags quick (I had two checked bags, one carry-on bag and one "boomerang bag" in case we had to turn back to Christchurch).
I pulled on my gigantic FDX boots and my sweet Carrhart snow pants, and then got in line to be checked in for the flight. After the New Zealand folks had cleared us, we wandered over to the Antarctic Centre for a bit of breakfast, and then went back to the CDC briefing room for a quick safety meeting before we took off.


The plane was AWESOME. It was a huge C-17, which is, I believe, the second largest cargo transport the U.S. Air Force has. 

Two thirds of the plane were filled with palettes of cargo bound for Antarctica, and the other third of it was filled with people. I think there were about fifty of us total. There were fold down seats along the side of the aircraft, and then they had two . . . basically large metal palettes clamped onto the floor, with twenty airliner seats on each palette.
 It was really cool to hear the huge engines thrum to life . . . they were incredibly loud, and I was grateful for the ear plugs they'd handed out when we were checked through. There were only two tiny windows in the whole plane, which made for an interesting flight. I read and slept the whole time, and the flight went really quick. It was interesting because without any windows, it was impossible to judge from my seat how high we were, so the actual landing process seemed to take forever. 

Roughly an hour before we landed I got up and peeked through one of the windows and saw nothing but flat sea ice in all directions. Then, about a half hour later, I looked again, and there were huge mountains covered in ice and snow, surrounded by flat, ice-covered sea. Very impressive and very desolate.

 Right after that they let anyone who wanted to climb up into the flight cabin. So of course I did. And that was really, really cool. The Air National Guard guys were all really cool, and they answered a bunch of my nerdy questions. The cockpit had quite a few windows and it gave this amazing view of Antarctica on all sides.
We landed around 3 or 4, I think (I didn't have my watch out), out on the sea ice. I guess the ice is getting pretty thin and in a few weeks they'll close down the sea runway and have an icebreaker come through and smash a path into the docks, so I felt pretty lucky that we got the whole sea-landing experience. Coming straight off the plane we could see Mt. Erebus in the distance, its top letting off a trail of smoke and steam, and to our right we could see McMurdo station. 
They had a big bus called "Ivan the Terra-bus" with huge tires almost taller than I am waiting for us, so we all squeezed into it and drove up to McMurdo Station, which is built on a long slope that runs down from some basalt hills to the sea. I was surprised at how large the station is . . . easily as big looking as St. Anthony, it seems like. Maybe not, but anyways, it caught me off guard how large it is.
The central building in McMurdo is a big blue metal building called the MCC or something like that. Its a cafeteria, library, computer lab (I'm sitting there right now), laundry-mat, convenience store and post office all rolled into one. Dinner was delicious.
But I digress. The first thing we did was have another briefing. This time by the NSF. Then we were all handed our room keys and sent to get our bags and our clean sheets and blankets and stuff. I was kind of bummed cause I'm in a separate dorm building from everyone else, but my room is nice, so I was mollified. I have a roommate, but I haven't met him yet, so hopefully we'll get along. We all met back here in the MCC for dinner at 6:30. The food is great . . . I had pork and some kind of soup and lots of steamed vegetables.
After dinner Clement and I hiked down to Hut Point, where the hut built by R.F. Scott back in 1902 for his expedition still stands. Apparently its been freeze dried by the cold or something, cause its in perfect condition. Its locked, but apparently you can go on a tour to see inside it, so hopefully I'll get to do that later.
As for wildlife, no penguins yet, but I did see some huge seals lazing about on the ice.
And as for temperature . . . it varies. Its a beautiful day (and yeah, its 9 pm but still full day outside) with no clouds in the sky. Its about 21 degrees F, and doesn't feel all that cold, until the wind picks up, and then it feels about as cold as I've ever felt in Rexburg. They've given us so much gear though, I don't think it'll matter...

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It's super exciting to see where he is. Only about 5,000 people are on the continent of Antarctica in the summertime, and Landon said that about 80% of those people have been there multiple times, so the actual number of people who have been to Antarctica in the world is much less than that. It really is a rare and awesome opportunity for him to study there. This is the 5th continent Landon has set foot on. He'll spend the next couple of weeks preparing for the field work they will be doing -- luckily, he'll have constant internet access during that time. We're hoping that soon Landon will be able to get a calling card that works from Antarctica, but in the meantime the emails he sends go far in saving my sanity. It's amazing the effect that simply knowing he's safe has on my day. 
35 days.

5 comments:

Catherine said...

HOLY COW! Your husband is in Antarctica!!!!!! The crazy cargo plane they flew in is AWESOME and looks like it's totally out of a movie. The "debriefing" does too :D so good that he's safe and that the days are ticking quickly by for you!

Charles and Nancy said...

Wow! That is such an amazing experience he is getting! I cant believe it! I'm excited to her about all the things he gets to do and see. As for you, Kylie, I'm glad that you are surviving without him. Good luck, for the next 35 days!

Jessica or Nate said...

Ky! WOW what an amazing adventure you both are having. You are such an amazing person! I have a hard enough time with Nate working night shifts because I hate being home alone. lol but I think it is such a cool experience he is getting to have and what a relationship builder. If you ever come home to the burg call me! It would be good to catch up!

Natalie Ormond said...

It sounds like Landon is having quite the adventure! I really like reading about it. Oh and Josh has a favor for Landon. Josh wants a rock from Antarctica. I'm not sure why? It must be a Josh thing! If you need company Kylie let us know!

abby said...

These are super cool, but I was trying to steal thanksgiving photos from you to put in my christmas letter. Why aren't you one step ahead of me like usual?