I’ve made it! After many long days of traveling and preparation, I’m finally in MacTown once more. Although a lot has happened since last year, it almost feels as though I’ve never left. Familiar faces in the Galley, familiar sights, familiar routines.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Last time, I promised to describe how we get from Christchurch to Antarctica. Upon arriving in Christchurch, our first order of business is getting our Extreme Cold Weather gear (ECW): lots of fleece layers, hats, mittens, huge white boots, and – most importantly – a huge red parka (Big Red).
Equipped with all these warm layers, we’re ready to make the 8-hour flight from Christchurch to McMurdo (also known as MacTown), the main US base in Antarctica.
This flight, on an LC-130 (for those of you who know something about military planes), is unlike any commercial flight. First of all, we’re required to wear our Big Red, boots, and wind pants. Pictures are the best way to describe the interior of the plane.
Other things that make the trip unique include the noise (earplugs are an absolute necessity) and the incredible views.
After landing on the ice (the LC-130 has skis!), we then have an hour drive to McMurdo, which is located on solid rock on Ross Island (check out a map of Antarctica to see where that is).
Now that we’re here, our first order of business is to set up our lab space. Although we get the same lab each year, at the end of every season we have to pack everything away. So now, we’re faced with the daunting task of unpacking, organizing, cleaning, and getting ready for our first samples.
The other main task is to complete all of the safety trainings that the United States Antarctic Program requires before we head out to do our science. This includes information about cold injuries, basic camping, risk assessment, and helicopter safety. All this training has me thinking about the risks involved in doing Antarctic field science: the cold, the rapidly changing weather, the distance from help. And yet, the accidents that happen here are the same accidents that happen anywhere: trips, falls, and scrapes.
So here’s my question to you: if you were to come to Antarctica to do field science, what would you be the most nervous about? What would you want training in? And so I don’t end on that note, what would you be the most excited about?