Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Arrived at Pole!!!
The LC-130 that flew me to pole.
grr!!! This machine doesn't want to be in mcmurdo any more than I do.
The trans-antarctic mountain range as viewed from the plane.
me in the back of the plane.
Finally arrived after only 12 days of delays...
I woke up this morning and took my last longer than 2 minute shower for a few weeks. It was quite nice. Afterwards, I packed up my stuff, cleaned my room and headed out to meet the shuttle (at about 6:45am). The shuttle was a normal passenger van, lifted about 2 feet, and given a badass 4WD system. Usually, we take a Delta out to the airfield but since there were only 3 of us (plus the flight team) this shuttle took us the whole way. Once we boarded the plane, they started up the engines. We heard a strange sound and the plane lurched a little bit. Apparently, engine 1 had a blown starter so we deplaned and caught a shuttle back to the airfield's galley to wait for them to repair it. It was just 3 of us travelers and then 2+ crews of airmen so we spent a while talking with the pilots. They were all cool guys. Some were young and some were old and they all had different perspectives on flying these massive planes in antarctica. Some of them were asking me about what I do at the south pole and I gave a mini science lecture. I could tell that their minds were thoroughly blown by the stuff my telescope looks at. It's always fun to share science with people who wouldn't usually come into contact with it. Once we got back on the plane, we started up the engines again, this time all four started, but there was another maintenance problem. One of the generators wasn't working. I'm not exactly sure what a generator in this context does, but I can take a guess. This was a quick repair and we were ready to fly within a half an hour or so. With my luck this trip, I figured we'd scrub the whole thing and I'd be stuck in mcmurdo for another day.
As I mentioned, there were only 3 of us in the LC-130 (that's the one with the skis) so it was quite spacious. The airmen were pretty relaxed about us moving around. About an hour into the flight, we crossed the trans-antarctic mountain range and I went to the back of the plane where there was a larger window and took some pictures. I'll try to post pictures with this posting, but the internet here at pole is much slower and a lot less reliable. We landed on snow, which is just about the smoothest landing possible and after a short taxi, we deplaned. Just about my whole group was waiting for me, which was quite heartwarming. It really felt good to be greeted with hugs and smiles by everyone after the rough travels. If any of them happen to be reading this, thanks! You're the best. The cooks made a plate of lunch for me and kept it in the oven so I had some food--more reasons why south pole is waaaaay better than mcmurdo. My room is in the station, which is excellent, and I even have a window!!!! I'm not actually sure whether or not that's a good thing.
Hmmm... fire alarm is going off... is it a test? Hmmm... doesn't sound like it... better go.
Well, it wasn't a drill, but it wasn't a problem. I'm back (about 20 minutes later). They announced that they were looking for one of my group members so I assume he was playing with matches.
I'm going to try to take it easy tonight to avoid getting altitude sickness (since we're at 10,000 ft). It's a balmy -15 degrees F (-34 with the wind). Beach weather.