A week ago, I got on a plane from Santa Barbara, California bound for Christchurch, New Zealand. My travel buddy, Emily, was a grad student in my new lab, led by Gretchen Hofmann out of UCSB. Joining that lab and getting to California is another story entirely. But, on November 3rd, Emily and I set out on a long journey to get to Antarctica, and our first stop was… LAX. Yes, an airport barely over an hour’s drive from Santa Barbara (w/out traffic) was our first destination with a brain-numbing FIVE hour layover. Sooo, I got to the airport in SB at 4pm, so that I could get to LA in time for my 11:30pm flight, when in actuality, I could have left 4 hours later, driven to LA and been fine. Thanks contractors for scheduling that little snafu.
Anywho, after a couple rounds of drinks at Chili’s Too - which reminded me of a cross between TGIF Also and Chevy’s As Well, with a hint of Applebee’s Furthermore – I did a little duty free (Whisky) and book (Dune) shopping to entertain myself during bright nights in Antarctica, then began a relatively pleasant, but achingly long, flight to Auckland – roughly 13 hours – followed by an uneventful but slow moving customs check and baggage claim and a trance inducing 3 hour layover in Auckland Domestic terminal (a terminal that lacks music, announcements, televisions, stores, or food options other than a vending machine offering 4 dollar coca-cola), followed by a soul-killing 90 minute flight to Christchurch where all I could think about was that I never wanted to be happily reminded how to use a seatbelt again in my life, until we touched down, got our bags, got a brief lecture from a US Antarctica Program Rep, hailed a shuttle and checked into our nearby hotel. If that run-on sentence made you uncomfortable because of its length, you begin to understand how I felt when I got to Christchurch more than 24 hours after I left, and “lost” an additional day because of the Int’l dateline.
Emily and I were in Christchurch for two days before we had to fly down. The first night we tried to find a thai place that had been recommended by Gretchen previously (the rest of the team was already down in Antarctica). We ended up finding a Vietnamese place instead, and found out that the Thai place was closed permanently. It was decent enough (I was also starving), and after good food and a fantastic beer – Monteith’s Black – combined with 4 hour time change and little sleep on the plane, I passed out by 9pm. The next morning, we got some breakfast and I did some orientation videos for Antarctica. As an aside, orientations must really make someone influential in Raytheon warm and tingly, because at McMurdo station, you are oriented to literally everything, but that story I’ll tell soon. After that we went to get milk. Yes milk. 6 liters of it, +2 liters of cream, for an ice cream social event at the station which wouldn’t happen without this milk. You see, McMurdo runs out of funny things you might think of as “essentials”. Milk, flour, red wine. None of these are available on station right now. So to save the social, we picked up Milk. After getting the lactose laiden load, we proceeded to the CDC. No, not the center for disease control, but the clothing distribution center. Where I get my famous red jacket, plus a myriad of other gear, that you can see here.
After that, we did a little sightseeing downtown including the beautiful botanical gardens and the devastated downtown. Most of the center of town is blocked off still from the earthquake in February. Military guard the condemned buildings and it gives you the feeling of a zombie scene, or at least that of a terrible outbreak. After successfully finding a thai place for dinner, we walked home (almost a 2 hour walk!) and saw our last sunset for a loooong time.
The next morning we got up, got a shuttle to the CDC (which doubles as the passenger terminal on the C-17 transport), and boarded our flight to Antarctica. This plane is BIG. After a 6 hour flight in a bulkhead seat with an awesome footrest, and a tour of the cockpit (!), we arrived at the ice runway in Antarctica! My icy journey was set to begin.