Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Men wanted...

Men Wanted: For hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.
Well, that quote kind sums it up. Thankfully this was not my description, however it was that of one Ernest Shackleton in the The London Times, on December 29th, 1913 looking for volunteers to venture Southward on his ill fated expedition.

Granted, this journey has been planned somewhat better, with somewhat modern amenities and means of transportation much more favorable than that of a century ago. So began my day in Christchurch on one of these fancy new rides. The process is to show up 2 hours or so prior to the scheduled flight, check in, dress up and then sit around with your gear waiting anxiously to board and head out. About 50 of us showed up for the event, went through the screening, briefing and boarding and we were off for our adventure.

USAP Passenger Terminal, CHC

NSF Logo
 Not only are C-17's massive and amazing machines on the outside, but they are equally as impressive on the inside. Last season I flew down and had a tracked vehicle about the size of a semi-truck as a foot rest in front of me. Today, I had a Eurocopter, yes a helicopter. Impressive to say the least. Not only a helicopter, but about an additional 60,000 pounds of cargo as well as passengers. All of that plus the ability to fly down to Antarctica, get to our sight, hold for weather and still be able to return with reserve fuel in New Zealand without a tanker.

Thankfully an excessive amount of training, wartime experience and lots of tie-downs kept the helicopter in place as we hurdled down the runway, through turbulent air en route and ultimately on landing.

My view...yup a helicopter IN a plane.

Catching some Zzzzzzz.....note Santa in the 3rd row.

I was not kidding that's a Eurocopter in my seat.
 Even though I've flown the route 3 times already, the flight south is always exciting. People watching is always fun, especially as the non-military passengers all experience the flight of a lifetime. It's about a 5hr 15 min flight down barring no delays, holds, returns, etc. We took off at 10am from Christchurch (CHC) and began to see the outer extent of the previous winter's sea ice about 2 ½ to 3 hrs into the flight. You see the pack ice for a good hour (over 500 nautical miles worth) before you hit landfall. Then the awesomeness that is Antarctica comes into view. Hundreds of miles of snow covered peaks, glaciers and snow fields as far as you can see in a state so pristine and untouched. Breath taking is an understatement. It's a sight I know only a micro-fraction of a percent of the world will ever see and for that I am humble and grateful each time I see it.
The Outer Sea Ice edge
Another view on the ice edge

Air cargo handling is a critical part in Antarctica.  Some stuff can't get warm, some stuff can't get cold.

Up in the BRIGHT cockpit of the C-17
Tabular icebergs (calved off shelf ice) embedded in the seasonal ice.

At last, land! 
A first view of Mcmurdo and Ross Island from the Sea Ice Runway
A pair of LC-130 Hercules Aircraft, or "ski-130's" flown by the NY ANG
One sweet ride...

....Into another!  This is "Ivan" our passenger mover 

A clear, brisk and sunny day!  About 15 degrees F and 40 knots of wind.

A pair of Basler DC-3T aircraft owned by a Canadian operator I work and fly with here 
So since the flight, I have checked in. Got my keys to my room, went through survival refresher training most of the day. I may go fly tomorrow, I am unsure as of now. Depends what the missions are. Settling in to my other life now. So far so good. Worked out for 90 minutes "spinning" on a killer new podcast I downloaded so these should keep me busy after hours. I need to mix up cycling with some other stuff so I am looking to pick up cross country skiing too. Free gear here and let's say the conditions are ideal—flat and white for 2000 miles.

Until next time, Take care!

1 comment:

mattb said...

hi how are you doing? i love you uncle andy, megan!!!!!