by Paul Doherty
and Noel Wanner
do you see in your mind when you think of Antarctica? For
us, no matter how much we've read about it, we have no way
to accurately gauge what's in store. Antarctica exists as
a great white space in our minds, a blank-- like a sheet of
ice. So we pack our stuff in San Francisco and wonder: how
many pairs of socks should you take to the South Pole? What
would you pack?
we leave San Francisco, it's a mere 13 hours in the air, and
then we're in Christchurch, New Zealand. Everything here grows
green and lush, and this green seems precious, as it's the
last vegetation we'll see for six weeks-- Antarctica is one
of the driest places on earth, despite being covered in ice.
We wander the streets, picking up last minute items-- a few
cartons of milk as gifts for the scientists we're going to
meet, as the milk at McMurdo Station is of the powdered variety.
day before our flight, we go to the U.S. Antarctic Center
to try on our Extreme Cold Weather clothing (ECW for short).
Then we have a last dinner, a nervous celebration, and early
to bed. The shuttle arrives at 5:45 a.m and takes us back
to the Antarctic Terminal, where we don our ECW gear and sit
around sweating, until the New Zealand Air Force C-130 transport
plane is ready to take us across one of the wildest stretches
of ocean on earth, to Antarctica.
cheerful Kiwi crew wedge us in to the tiny spaces left in
between the huge pallets of cargo headed for the ice: scientific
instruments and food, plus our video gear. The big engines
roar, and the crew hands out earplugs. We sit pressed against
our neighbors, our feet interlaced with those across the aisle,
and we sweat in our bulky parkas. Once we're off the ground,
the old Antarctica pros sought out the first class cabin--stretched
out on top of the boxes of payload! (This is only allowed
on New Zealand aircraft, not U.S.)