Written by Erin Phillips Writer
Yesterday our team arrived at McMurdo station, Antarctica. After a 24-hour weather delay Monday morning, we flew from Christchurch, New Zealand to Antarctica on a C-17 military cargo plane. Flying in a C-17 is very different from flying in a commercial jet. The aircraft is loud and cavernous, with the hydraulic and electronic systems in clear view on the interior and our bags wrapped on pallets in the back of the plane (Plate 1). After a five hour flight we were all a bit nervous as the plane circled for about an hour above the airfield at McMurdo. The bad weather conditions threatened to force our return to Christchurch on what is known as a “boomerang” flight. Eventually, the crew from McChord Air Force base in Washington treated us to a smooth landing on the sea ice runway (Plate 2).
As a first-time visitor to Antarctica, I was ecstatic to set foot on the ice and take in the white and the bitter cold. This is also the first trip to Antarctica for team members Paul Wallace, Glenn Gaetani, and Dan Rasmussen. The others are seasoned veterans; Philip Kyle is celebrating his fortieth field season and Ken Sims has spent ten seasons here. As a neophyte to “the ice”, I had much to learn when I arrived. It felt much like the first day of college as I searched maps for buildings, organized my dorm room, and ate in the cafeteria here at McMurdo Station. We will now attend numerous training sessions to prepare for our fieldwork in Antarctica. The harsh conditions in Antarctica make this training an important necessity, but I am eager to embark on our fieldwork investigating the origin of the volcanoes on Ross Island. The work will be exciting, with helicopters and snowmobiles to transport us to our field sites, high altitude camping on Mt Erebus, and penguins to welcome us at our campsite on Mt Bird.