Deploy to McMurdo Station

Trip Start Dec 18, 2008
1
5
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Trip End Feb 17, 2009


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Flag of United States  , Ross Island
Monday, December 22, 2008

Getting to the South Pole is no quick journey.  First you deploy (yes, deploy) from Christchurch to McMurdo which is about a four or five hour flight.  Usually this is taken by a C-17 “Pegasus” military jets, though I was a very lucky passenger on one of the new commercial planes which are starting to make the flight as well.  

My companions were mostly scientists, many of whom fly in for a few weeks, complete their field work, and fly back out mid-season.  The only Raytheon employees were a replacement HR woman and Crane Operator, both bound for McMurdo.  Shuttles were waiting for us far earlier than I would choose to wake up, and we all shuffled into the CDC (Clothing Distribution Center) and put on our gear.  They make you wear your Extreme Cold Weather Gear (ECW... as you might be guessing, Antarctica is all about their acronyms) which gets a bit hot, but the second you step outside at the end of it you are glad you did.  

It is hard to express exactly how I felt when bunny boot hit Ice field.  I've been a lot of strange places, but none quite as alien as Antarctica.  Cold hits your face and snakes down into your lungs in a rather painful way, and you pull on your sunglasses to lessen the intense glare reflecting off the frozen ice sea.  All around are airfield workers in their Big Reds, motioning widely for you to hurry off the plane and into the ice shuttle or all terrain vehicle waiting to take you to McMurdo. 

 There are two airfields on the Coast, Pegasus and Williams, though Pegasus closes sometimes when the ice isn't sufficient.  Williams was named in memoriam of Richard Williams, who broke through the ice in '56 on a tractor.  Antarctica is much safer now, but death still happens... but I'll revisit that slightly morbid thereby intensely interesting subject later.

We all snap the necessary pictures and head to McMurdo, about a half hour by bus from the airfield.  Surprisingly, McMurdo is not covered in ice when I arrive, but looks like a jumble of industrial themed buildings on rock, and is best described as feeling like a mining town.  I was a bit embarrassed to see Mac-town dwellers walking about wearing sweaters and jeans while I was still wrapped in my parka, but I figured my cold-resistance skills would develop with time, and I wouldn't look like such a rookie.

While I signed HR papers and sat through employment orientation, my best friend, who had landed a job as a firehouse dispatcher and had already been in McMurdo a few months, was on a wild search for me round the base...

 

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