Well, we finally made it. Sorry to keep some of you in suspense (namely family members) but they put us straight to work and our free time has been taken up by trying to organize our room, enter the TV lottery, and getting to know the layout of the base. By the time we get out of work it is already too late to call back to the US.
As I left off last time, we barley made it back from Mount Hutt in a snowstorm in a rental car. We had two days of pouring rain in Christchurch but were able to see a good part of the town between meetings and training on our Extreme Cold Weather clothing. We left for the terminal at 6:30am the next morning where we donned our gear and had another briefing while sweating profusely. We finally boarded our C-141 and took off at about 10:30. There was, of course, the risk of Boomerang, which is when the airplane gets to within a ? hr of McMurdo, and they decide the weather is too bad to land and they turn around and go back to Christchurch. It was really the last thing we wanted after the equivalent of circumnavigating the globe in the past two weeks. The plane was pretty close to the most uncomfortable form of transport I have ever been on (Guatemalan busses take the cake). The cabin is a single large hold with a few thousand tons of luggage and cargo in the tail and two pairs of facing rows of seats. The men were loaded first and the women after. There are only a couple of very small windows and Luci was lucky enough to be facing one. We were really packed in but once the plane got in the air you could stand up on your seat which was a nice change from the commercial airlines. There was a big barrel with a urinal type cup sticking out of it for a toilet. Towards the front of the plane there was some other arrangement for the women, or so I was told. We heard that last year, upon landing, the barrel tipped over and sent a wave of ?well, you get the idea.
After about 5 ? hrs we landed on the first approach. Luci got a great view of Mt. Erebus, the southern most active volcano in the world. McMurdo is on an Island formed by this volcano. You can see it behind the plane in this picture. We landed on sea-ice about 14ft thick. They have developed a new grooming technique which allows planes to land on ice with wheels rather than using the skis but, I don?t know any of the technical details (I?m just a cook after all). By December or January all that ice will have broken up and the planes land on a more solid continental sheet.
The high temp since we have been here has been about ?20F. The sun has risen and gets higher in the sky every day. Last night at 9:30pm it was still dusk when we were walking back to our room and this morning at 4:30am it was already light on my way to work. I think it stays light most of the night but we are still jet lagged and have really stayed up long enough to find out. Sunset yesterday lasted about 4 hrs. They say there won?t be one anymore in about a week. The sun just spins around the horizon all day.
Our housing situation is actually OK. The buildings kind of remindme of th dorms at Fryeburg. They did manage to get us in the same on the first try. We don?t have a TV yet but we are working on it. They only have a couple channels of armed forces radio TV anyway but a decent selection of movies. In the piture on the left is the housing block with Observation Hill in the background.
Ours is the last on the left. On the right is the view from our window. Nothing special but at least we have got a view of something and not just the wall of another building.
More and more people arrive everyday. We were on the first flight of Main Body. During the winter (summer in the N Hem.) there are no flights; only 1 in August (WinFly). The ?town? is currently at a population of about 650. Those numbers will slowly rise as more flights come in and will ultimately reach 1200 at its peak. Luci and I found out today that there is a chance that we will be working out at the airfield feeding the Air crews. There will be more manageable numbers (40max) and should be more like work up at the hut. We are keeping our fingers crossed.
I took a short walk yesterday out to the point at the north end of town on the wind-packed snow and volcanic soil. I watched a cargo plane arrive, and saw about a half hour of the sunset. I also saw the fattest seal I have ever seen in my life. He was basking in the late afternoon sun; warming up after a long, cold winter. I think I am going to like it here. We?ll keep you posted. Luke and Luci.
P.S. I am still trying to figure out the software for posting entries. You should be able to see some pictures if you click the “Download File” link at the bottom of the page. If not, just post a comment and I’ll try to get some up later. -Luke