Monday, October 09, 2006

Christchurch, New Zealand

The day and a half of orientations, safety meetings and paperwork completed in Denver, I have now excitedly endured a 12 hour, L.A. to New Zealand, 747-400 aircraft voyage as perhaps only I might. At a cruise altitude of 38,000 feet, I don't know if I have been higher. The clouds were spectacularly lit by a full moon and I was moving at almost 600 miles per hour over the Pacific Ocean. And I didn't even have to pay money for this!

Looking down I could not help but think of the many passages and night watches served sailing on Crazy Horse. We never did get to sail her into the Pacific, though if no one ever buys her maybe we'll have to. Crossing the equator in an airplane passenger seat was anti-climactic for someone who wanted to be behind the yoke of the plane himself or the wheel of a sailing vessel. There wasn't even an announcement as most folks were asleep. So into the Southern Hemisphere I went for the first time. Immediately I could feel my bodily fluids start to cycle in a counter clockwise direction.

The flight from Auckland to Christchurch was beautiful. I scouted the mountains I'd love to climb after returning from the ice.

Now I have been in Christchurch on the South Island for a few two days. Yesterday I spent hourse in the beatiful botanical gardens, enjoying the sound of the wind through the trees, the songs of the birds and just the sight of beatufil living and colorful plants - the likes of which I shall not see for some number of months.

Our departure is planned for 9am tomorrow morning. We got issued our Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) gear today and it was quite fun to try everything on.

I could not help but get excited putting on a full set of Carheart insulated work clothes, work mittens, the HUGE white bunny boots, among 40 other Ice folks all trying their stuff on. I got the luggage weight down to 75 lbs and am told to be back at the airport by 0600 tomorrow morning.

The flight on the C-17 should take about 5 hours and everyone is hopeful we don't "boomerang." This means to turn around half way there (over the cold southern ocean) because of unfavorable landing weather at McMurdo Station. We were told today the record is 7 boomerangs before a succesful landing. The C-17 acutally has the fuel endurance to fly all the way to the station, then decide it's a no-go, then turn around and fly all the way back to Christchurch. An interesting way to spend 10 hours.

So now I prepare for sleep, feeling like I am heading toward the moon tomorrow. The two groups of explorers I know best are the Apollo moon astronauts and the Antarctic explorers of the early 1900s. And tomorrow I am heading to a place where half of my heros have lived. Mawson, Shackleton, Scott (who is definately not my hero) and my most favorite of them all, Norweigan Roald Amundsen, the first man to the South Pole. (Amundsen made it there a month before Scott and made it back with supplies and energy to spare while Scott perished on the return journey. The Last Place on Earth chronicles the expeditions and is also my favorite book.)

I love the New Zealand so far, beautiful mountains and wonderful people. Tomorrow, toward the ICE!

If anyone is interested in McMurdo Station weather forecasts, try:
Note that there is always light and that actual day (when the sun is above the horizon) gets longer by 17 minutes per day.



  1. Good to have you down on this side of the equator Benny-Oy!

  2. Hey Ben! Hope you have not boomeranged. I've been eagerly anticipating your trip blog so to get up this morning to find your first post about this trip is very thrilling.

    Hoping for a picture of you wearing huge white bunny boots!

    Dig the link to Weather Underground. David and I are curious: does no moonrise nor moonset mean that the moon is either always visible or never visible? We are big moon watchers and have not encountered this before. What can you tell us about this?

    Looking forward to hearing you've landed safely @ McMurdo!