Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Back in New Zealand

When I left the pole it was -45 F. When I landed in Christchurch it was +65 F and dark... quite a different experience.

We left at around 1pm from the pole on an LC-130 Hercules. The Herc's are remnants of the 70's but are incredibly well built and comfortable planes. I really enjoy them--although they are ear-splittingly loud (though it was on the C-17 that I busted my ear last time). About 3 minutes into the flight, we took a hard bank, where the plane went perpendicular to the ground (quite an impressive feat for how large this aircraft is). It took us by surprise and felt very disorienting, but once we returned to horizon a bunch of us applauded. It was a lot of fun. I've certainly never done moves like that in a commercial airliner. We think that the pilot's decided to buzz the station since it was the second to last day of flights. They usually dip their wings or fly real low, but I guess we had a veteran pilot who decided to give them a show. It was quite disconcerting to look out the window and see Summer Camp straight ahead...

All day I had heard rumors (from our famous South Pole Rumor Mill) that there wasn't going to be a C-17 flight that day or that it was leaving earlier, but anyway that we would have to stay in McMurdo until wednesday. Well, as we were landing, I didn't see the C-17 (a very obvious sight on the ice) but I didn't see the large transport to take us back to mactown either. Well, as we got off the plane, out in the distance we saw the C-17 circle around a mountain and come in for a landing. These planes are extremely impressive close up on the ground, but to see one maneuver and land (especially with the antarctic mountains in the background) was extremely impressive. They are truly gorgeous planes. Sure enough, we got on the C-17 within the hour. It was about 10 degrees outside and you would have thought it was the middle of a summer heat wave--I didn't hurt to breathe, my beard wasn't covered in ice, I didn't even need a jacket! The C-17 flight was packed. We lined both walls, as well as had 2 palletized airliner seat inserts and a center line full of people. It was a great flight, although after about 3 hours I was fairly bored. Although the C-17 is a much newer and prettier and faster plane, the LC-130's are way more comfortable. After about 4 and a half hours, I could see my first sunset in two months creeping through the windows. It was quite a sight to behold.

We arrived in New Zealand at around 10:00 and quickly rushed through customs, dropped all of our extreme cold weather gear off at the CDC, and checked in to our hotels. I'm staying at the Crowne Plaza again. Unfortunately, I still didn't have my flight info but I planned to call the next morning as soon as they opened (which I did--update later). I checked in at about 11 pm and we all decided to meet at the Casino across the way since we knew its kitchen would still be open. Thanks to the high-altitude training, by the end of the night I didn't feel so much as a slight buzz. It's quite a strange sensation...

I called the travel office this morning. They don't think they can get me on a flight until this weekend. To top it off, my hotel can't accommodate me any longer so I can't leave and I have no where to stay. Woo-hoo.

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