Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It's too cold in Fairbanks, I'm heading south

We've had a chilly November in Fairbanks, breaking temperature records for several days in a row. So I wasn't too unhappy when the time came to leave for another field trip, this time to the South. First, a long flight led us to Christchurch, New Zealand. Christchurch was devastated by an earthquake last March. It is amazing to see the amount of damage. Downtown Christchurch is still mostly not accessible, and many buildings are torn down. A sad sight.

But life does go on. Even though aftershocks are still common, people have been innovative. A former popular shopping district now continues to do business in a serious of tastefully set up containers. There is even a 'retainer bar'.

A favorite stop before the journey to the far South is the botanical garden. It is quite large and beautifully maintained. It is early spring here and the flowers are in full bloom. We soak it all in before we head to the frozen continent.
One thing remains though: gear issue. Everybody assembles and gets briefed about all the things that can and cannot happen in Antarctica, and then we get issued with ECW (extreme cold weather) gear.One more night in Christchurch, and then we load up into a military plane, a huge C-17 airforce cargo transporter that brings us to McMurdo in a mere 4.5 hours.

And here we are now. The next week will be occupied by training, chasing cargo and then waiting for weather. We are attempting to get to Pine Island Glacier, where we will hot water drill into the ocean. More on that later.

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