The night before our flight we received word that our departure time had been pushed back and we were not report until noon instead of our original 6:30am. Extra sleep is always nice. We were greeted with an introduction safety video showing some of the wonders and dangers ahead of us. Then things got real as we suited up in our newly issued safety survival gear and gathered with the hundred other support staff and handful of scientist for the final pre-flight briefing. The scene reminded me of the scene in Star Wars: A New Hope where brief the pilots before they attack the Deathstar.
Then it was off to board our flight, a HUGE C17 aircraft. This was my first flight in a military cargo plane and I was blown away by everything. You could have driven a dump trunk inside the cargo hold and still had room left over. The insides were mostly exposed and you could see all the inner piping and wiring making up the skeleton of the C17. Oh, and the seats were great. I had more elbow room and twice as much leg room as any of the previous flights, I wish I could have taken this plane the whole way from the U.S.
Five hours later our flight crew informed us the current temperature and time, negative 31°F and I’m not sure about the time because all I heard was NEGATIVE 31°F! The pilot came on the speakers to welcome us to Antarctica and warn us they intended to take off in 45mins, so the engines were not going to shut down, and we were to turn right upon exiting or risk “items” being sucked into the jet engine. The doors opened and there we were sitting on a giant glacier. WOOO WHOOO!!! There is only a about an hour of light each day this time of year, and it was dark when we landed but I didn’t care. I couldn’t wait to step out a see the first glimpse of Antarctica. The runway was abuzz and all lit up with all the transport vehicles. I was so excited I almost didn’t realize the cold… almost. I was quickly made aware of the cold when the steam from my breath froze on the balaclava I was wearing. We were able to get one quick snap shot on the run way and then rushed into our waiting hagglund, a sort of snow tractor transport to McMurdo Station. The expedition has officially begun.