I know this journey will likely make most of my fellow bloggers jealous – especially my buddy Stefan K. I am always envious of some of the spots he goes, like Iwo Jima, so turnabout is fair play.
You can catch up on the first post for this trip here.
Most people think of getting to Antarctica the way commercial cruises get there. Travel down the coast of South America and then jump over to the Antarctic Peninsula and possible visit the U.S. Palmer Station. However, that is a station of about 12 personnel. The main U.S. site is McMurdo Station on the Ross Ice shelf whose population can swell to 1000 during the Antarctic Summer. Here is a map to orient you.
If you fly due north from the Ross Ice Shelf you conveniently run into New Zealand. So I just had to get from Washington, D.C. to Christchurch, New Zealand. Sounds like a real frequent flyer adventure!
Fortunately, the best way to get there is a combination of United and New Zealand Air. This suited me as a United Million Miler just fine. Not that I got an upgrade, and I flew the whole thing in coach, so I don’t want to hear from you sissy bloggers that say they would never fly that far in anything but business. Suck it up, Buttercup!
The flight down on United was pretty much what you would expect. Got to go to the NZ lounge in Auckland which was nice. Then a short hop NZ flight to Christchurch. I was very impressed with Christchurch, but will leave that for another post.
Now you may ask -Can you get to McMurdo commercially? And the answer is of course not. Once we arrived in Christchurch, we RON and then were supposed to take a C-17 to the Ross Ice Shelf airstrip. How unfortunate that the C-17 was broken down – and how unusual, I always thought they only broke down only in Thailand, Honolulu and Alaska during the fishing season. That left us to take the Royal New Zealand AF 757!
First we were issued all our arctic gear (weird that they don’t call it Antarctic gear) which is a lot of stuff! We had to carry it all onto the flight and suit up prior to landing just in case we crashed on the ice. The rest our personal gear went into two orange duffle bags. It was a ton of stuff to carry on – I hadn’t worn Mickey Mouse boots since I was stationed in Korea. I’m sure I would have valued every piece of gear if we had actually gotten into trouble.
Time to board the plane!
Yes, the seats were very 1990’2, but still a lot better than what we would get on a C-17.
The head covering with the royal symbol was a cool touch.
Tomorrow’s episode: Landing on the ice!