Tuesday, December 29, 2009

planes, trains and automobiles...

Greetings from the ice!

On 30 Dec, I made it to McMurdo Station, Antarctica. It feels so familiar in so many ways, yet it has changed a bit since I was last here in the 2005-06 season. As soon as I arrived (to a nice sunny day), my colleagues and I hit the ground running.

It was a very long journey to get to McMurdo. We fly commercial airlines to get to Christchurch New Zealand, and then we fly a US air national guard flight to fly to Antarctica. Here are some images of the different vehicles I traveled in to get to McMurdo:

1) I left State College in a Canadian Regional Jet to fly to Detroit Michigan (300 miles; ~1 hr - 1st pic at left)
** then I got stuck in Detroit because of a mechanical issue with the plane; delayed overnight ** (no sleep) In the Detroit airport they have a nice electric train to use to make your connections...

2) I left Detroit on a Delta jet to fly to Los Angeles, California (1979 miles; ~5 hr)
I had a long layover in LA, about 14 hr. I fought off sleep and got my last fix of pro football in the bars in the airport. I checked in with the Quantas counter early and was surprised to get bumped up to business class for my next long flight! When that happened, I was eligible to go to the exclusive lounge, where I was able to take a shower and recoup a bit.

3) I flew from LA to Auckland, New Zealand in a huge jet (~6500 miles; ~12.5 hr). This was a very long flight, but it was comfortable. My seat folded out to be flat so that I could sleep!

4) I flew from Auckland, NZ, which is on the North Island to Christchurch, NZ on the South Island on a moderately sized jet (~ miles; 1.25 hr). This was a full flight with a number of American students from the University of Nebraska, who were going to exchange farming practices and knowledge, I think...

Finally in Christchurch, I went straight over to the Clothing Distribution Center to pick up my Extreme Cold Weather gear (parka, long underwear, bunny boots, etc.) The CDC is run by terrific folks who are very efficient. I met up with a group of soil biologists in town and we went out to dinner (Dux de Lux - not to be missed!).

The next morning we caught a shuttle from our hotel to the CDC to change into our cold weather gear and get ready to fly a US Air National Guard flight (big C-17 military transport plane) to Antarctica. I had missed the flight the day before (given my delay in Detroit), but it all worked out because the flight to Antarctica had been delayed because of bad weather in McMurdo. The flight was about 5.5 hrs, must have been about 2000 miles...

As soon as you de-plane, you step out on to an ice shelf that is an incredible environment. Only snow and sky surround you. We took "Ivan the Terra Bus" from the ice runway to "town" (McMurdo base).

It takes a lot of different vehicles to get to Antarctica these days...

Please note that I will be focusing this blog on informing my kids' classes (kindergarten and 2nd grade), though I hope all will find it informative!


  1. Hi Mike! Madeline and I really enjoyed reading this. Sounds like quite an adventure just to get there... We look forward to hearing more.

  2. hey Mike,

    I really enjoyed getting the insider view of travel--you seem to deal with being stuck in an airport waaaaay better than I do. I made this a favorite so I can follow.