There are no regular commercial airline flights to Antarctica, so our next leg was on an Air Force C-17, which is a big cargo jet that can fly the 2000 mile journey in just 5 hours. We woke up early this morning to head to the CDC, to gather our cold weather gear and get dressed for the flight. After checking in, grabbing a quick breakfast, and taking a quick bus ride to the plane we grabbed our bag lunches and boarded.
Some people sat in regular airline seats strapped to “pallets” in the middle of the plane, some (including me) sat on web bench seats on the sides, and the back of the plane was filled with cargo – supplies for the station, perhaps including food, hardware needed for repairs, science equipment… and our bags!
Here’s me in my seat… If you look closely you can see I’m wearing earplugs, which we all have to wear for the whole flight because it’s so noisy!
I got to go up to the cockpit to look around – here it is with the pilot and co-pilot hard at work, and the guy in back on the left reading a newspaper.
They fly the 5 hour leg down to McMurdo, then after a couple hours there for cargo offload/etc, turn around and fly back to Christchurch the same day – a very long day for them. They fly about three such roundtrips a week, with each crew and plane spending about a month down here before being relieved by a new crew and plane. That’s a lot of trips, and a lot of people and cargo shuttled back and forth!
After a little over three hours in the air we started going over the edge of the sea ice… the first white on the ocean blue in our trip south. This picture was taken out the single window in the “cargo area” we were seated in…
Finally we landed on the sea ice runway in McMurdo, and got off the plane
and onto a very crowded bus (called “Ivan the Terrabus”!)
for the short ride into town.
Now it’s Saturday evening… our flight to Pole is Monday, so we have tomorrow to explore McMurdo.