Thursday, December 30, 2010

More flight delays

The flight has been delayed until January 2nd at 7:30 pm so it's time to rent a car and tour the countryside. We're thinking of driving up the coast to Kaikoura and then trying to get to Nelson or even further into the fjords. It's supposed to be gorgeous there. I didn't get a chance to see it last year, so I'm very excited.

We were originally planning on going to a cricket match today but ended up deciding to just grab a big dinner and get some rest. Most of us were fairly hung over all day and since we will be doing a lot of driving/hiking early tomorrow morning, we decided it would be best to go to bed. We ate at an indian restaurant downtown that was absolutely phenomenal. There were actually a lot of Indian people eating there, so you know it had to be good. When I ordered a dish as spicy, it actually came out spicy, not white-man spicy. After a few bites, we were all sweating and our noses were starting to run--the good stuff. Had a couple of local organic pilsners. They were actually pretty good unlike most of the NZ beers I've had.

That's all for now. In the next couple of days, I'll expect to take some breathtaking pictures. I can't wait! Middle Earth, here we come!

Flight Delays lead to Hangovers

After the flight was delayed 24 hours, my group and I went off to the Bard upon Avon which is a nice english pub style bar near the hotels to discuss our plans for the following day over some beers. I remembered that there was a cricket match between NZ and Pakistan today and suggested we check it out. The match is at 7pm and hopefully we can get tickets. With our plan set, we were able to focus on our beers. The bar had a girl singing and playing guitar. Before playing a cover, she would describe the artist saying that "I don't know if you've heard of them" but it would be by someone common in the US. Apparently, the only artists that make it to New Zealand are Dido and Brian Adams. She was good, though and we were all enjoying the live music. The bar finally kicked us out around midnight so we went to Sol Square where we could continue drinking. There was a little bar called Cartel that I remember going to last year that had a DJ and a very chill atmosphere. We grabbed some more drinks and the next thing I knew, it was 5am.

I begrudgingly got out of bed this morning at around 10:30 and after video chatting with Sara got some food. I went to one of the restaurants in the hotel and had a salmon and cream cheese sandwich. I asked if they had bagels and the server laughed. I have no idea what was funny... apparently there aren't many jews in NZ.

Now I'm sitting in the lounge at the Windsor waiting for the rest of my group to show. I've seen 2 others so far.

My hangover isn't so bad, thanks in part to New Zealand's weak beer.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Flight Delayed...

Had a great day in New Zealand today... fairly laid back. Being a server in NZ must be the easiest job in the world--you don't tip, and the people are too nice to complain. Our lunch lasted about 3 hours--dinner almost the same.

I read in the paper today that Maria Sharapova landed in NZ yesterday on a flight from LA, so she must have been on my flight.

Went to the CDC (Clothing Distribution Center) today and got all my ECW gear. Since I've done this before, I knew exactly what I needed and how it should fit.

When I got back to the hotel, I found out that the flight was delayed 24 hours so now we're deciding on what to do. We're thinking of taking a day trip to either the Alps or Akaroa. My vote is for the alps since the last time I went, the weather was terrible.

The flight is at 7am, meaning I would have to be at the CDC at 4:30am, which puts my wakeup time at 3:30am--so I'm happy I don't have to do it tomorrow.

Day 1 in New Zealand

At the hotel, I grabbed a snack and a beer at the bar and then went to the Windsor to meet Zak and Grant. We went to the Dux de Lux nearby for some great food and beer. It's a microbrewery which means its beer is slightly better than normal New Zealand beer. I had the green-lipped mussels (which were enormous) and their pale ale and bitter. The beers were good, the mussels were amazing.

We then wanted to go to this japanese place across town but when we arrived there, it was closed. Yesterday was New Zealand's boxing day and combined with the earthquake a couple of days ago, a lot of business were closed. We ended up going to this british nearby where I got another new zealand beer and some appetizers. The onion rings were good but the bread and dips was terrible. The dips were almost unrecognizable versions of normal dips--a pesto, a hummus, and a sun-dried tomato, but were just awful. After this we wandered around the city. We could see the destruction from the earthquake. New Zealand has very strict building standards so the damage was minimal but still visible--cracked windows and facades, some buildings even looked partially demolished. Pic below:

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Arrived in Christchurch!

I'm in New Zealand. The weather is terrible. It's cold, rainy, and veeeery windy. The flights were ok. The first flight from LAX to Auckland was about 13 hours long. I watched 3 movies and then closed my eyes and pretending I was asleep for about 5 hours. The meal was served while I was watching Inception so I spent the last 40 minutes of the movie trying not to vomit. Not the best part of my flight. After my nausea subsided, I watched Dinner For Schmucks. I understand that this movie is usually watched to induce nausea, but I took my chances of a double-negative effect. I liked it. It had more of a plot than I was expecting. Finally, I watched The Other Guys with Marky Mark. It was also surprisingly good. Once the flight landed in Auckland, I had to go through customs. New Zealand has very tight customs restrictions pertaining to food. If you bring food in, you get fined $400. They also check your hiking shoes to make sure that you don't have dog crap on them. The flight from Auckland to Christchurch was about an hour and very turbulent. There were a lot of younger people on the flights and they wouldn't shut up. It's no wonder why everybody hates American travelers.

Finally, my team and I took a quick stop-off at the Clothing Distribution Center to drop off some equipment that we hand carried on the planes and then went to our hotels. I decided to stay in a real hotel this year, right near downtown. Christchurch is small, so that only saves me ~5 blocks of walking, but I'm mostly excited to stay in a hotel with a restaurant, bar, gym, and private bathrooms. I don't know why everyone doesn't do this! I only get 2 hours of internet access a day here, so I may not have time to post pictures, but this place looks like a 5 star hotel from the late 70s that hasn't changed since the BeeGees.

The Hotel is the Crowne Plaza and I'm in room 607 if you want to make a very expensive call to harass me.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Last Minute Mohawk

Well... as a parting gift, I let Sara shave my head into a mohawk. I figured, why not? It's the South Pole and I want a mohawk.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

It's that time of year again

Tomorrow night, I will begin my journey to the south pole for the second time. It's very exciting, although I'm not looking forward to leave civilization behind for so long.

For anyone new to this blog, or for a refresher, check out my first post from last year to hear about the science aspects of my trip. I intend for this blog to have a very small amount of science content and mostly describe what life is like at the South Pole.

As a quick refresher, I am part of team BICEP 2, which is a telescope at the south pole that is looking at the polarization of the Cosmic Microwave Background, the glowing remnants of the big bang, for evidence of the early gravitational waves that torqued our early universe during inflation, leading to the interesting universe that we see today. That's a bit dense, so in layman's terms, the telescope looks in the microwave spectrum (vs the visible spectrum of the Hubble). At this wavelength, the universe glows--a ghost signal from the big bang. Hidden in this glow are clues as to how the universe formed. We are looking for a certain signal that will show when the universe underwent a very rapid expansion--an expansion that explains several "strange" things that we see in the universe today. We're located at the south pole for two reasons. First, it's very dry there. Since we're looking in the microwave spectrum, we don't want a lot of water in the air absorbing the microwaves that we want to see. Next, there's a spot visible from the south pole that has the lowest galactic foreground contamination (it's empty) which is where we observe.

I leave tomorrow night at 11:30 and arrive in Auckland, New Zealand at 9:50 am two days later. I then get on an hour long flight from Auckland to Christchurch where I'll be staying in a hotel in Cathedral Square in downtown. Last year I stayed at a bed and breakfast which was nice but the rooms were tiny and I had to share a bathroom with the whole floor. Although they had decent food and a very nice staff, I think I'll have more fun downtown. The following day, I go to the Clothing Distribution Center (CDC) to pick up my extreme cold weather (ECW) gear. Then, the next morning I will depart for McMurdo, Antarctica for an overnight stay before arriving at the South Pole on December 31st--just in time to wish in the new year.

Please post or email me any questions about the trip or random questions about the pole and I'll answer them with a FAQ section. I will have a phone number and email address where I can be easily reached assigned to me once I arrive so I will post them once I know them.