Friday, October 12, 2007

Who Won't Turn Off the Lights?

It is 10:35pm and it is as bright outside as late afternoon on a Denver winter day. Because we are below the Antarctic circle, the sun won't actually set for the next 4 months. However, we are still supposed to have some spectacular sunsets around 2:30am in the morning for the next month as the sun approaches the horizon. I'm hoping to stay up late tomorrow night to make that happen, but as everyone knows what is WAY past my bedtime, so we'll see.

However, a good reason to catch the sunrise might be to avoid my room. It is a little bigger than my college double dorm room. Instead of two beds, we have four beds in there and no windows. Not having a window might be a blessing since the sun won't set though. On the other hand, the dorm is kept kind of hot and having a window could cool it down. My two roommates are firefighters on base. One is working a 24-hour shift so I'll meet him tomorrow.

The rainy Christchurch weather broke just before sundown on my last evening there. I'll remember it a lot more fondly now that I finally got to see it drying out. The free public botanical gardens have to be some of the best in the world. I don't know when they were started but it had to a long time ago because some of those trees are huge.

Another picture from the Botanical Gardens.

I'll try to get pictures up in the next few days. I just haven't had time yet because I've been exhausted. The final leg of my journey entailed getting up at 4am, checking in at 6am, and then a 6 hour flight in a C-17. The last hour of the flight was amazing as we got to see Antarctica from above. After that, we had another briefing and then I unpacked and took a nap. I was and still am beat. Since then, I've explored Gallagher's bar, the Coffee House Bar, the cardio gym, the weight gym, and just generally tried to get acquainted with my new surroundings. At the peak of the day, it was 0 degrees F. I'm not sure what the temperature is now, but I'm still wearing my Keens for anyone who said I wouldn't wear them down here :-)

I'm tired and have vehicle training at 7:30am tomorrow so I'm off to bed. Good night.

Everyone had to put on their Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) gear before we flew the last leg.

The fully loaded C-17. In the back left is our gear.

Antarctic mountains taken from the C-17.

More photos taken from the plane.

Another photo taken from the plane.

Getting off our C-17 at McMurdo.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Rain on My Parade

The last few days feel like various ways to crush my excitement of heading down to Antarctica for the first time. The excitement first really hit me Sunday morning at training (standard company training, not really Antarctica specific). After seven hours of training, that excitement was gone. Monday morning it came back and they did it again with three straight hours of safety training. Then, there was hours of flight. Now, it is cold and rainy. I'm still ready to go though.

I'm almost there. I'm currently in Christchurch, New Zealand (east coast of the south island). It took me 3 flights, 17 hours, and 10,000 miles or so to make it. Even though spring has sprung and the flowers are blooming here, it is cold and it is wet. I'm not a fan. I'm really beginning to appreciate my last day in Denver which was warm enough to take my shirt off and take one more bike ride with Nala followed up by a quick visit with John Bain and Chedd's gourmet grilled cheese with Lindsay. (Thanks a bunch to both of you)
That last afternoon was doubly good because everyone else had to go to the airport and wait five hours for their flight. When I got to the airport everyone was spread out among the entire terminal. Only a couple Ice people per row and not too many sitting together like when I travel with my ultimate team. I think it is because so few people know each other yet. I think that on the way home, they'll be filling the rows up and sitting close to each other to savor each last moment before they go their separate ways. Maybe it is just because we are going to be stuck together in planes for 17 hours though too. Somewhere in the Denver airport, I started to feel naked. I didn't have my phone or keys on me for the first time in about two years.

The first flight was uneventful. The second flight, the 12 hour flight to Auckland, New Zealand, was long. I ended up watching three movies, trying not to cramp up, and finally appreciating the little head rests that come out like wings so you can actually sleep in the middle seat. The woman in the aisle seat next to me didn't move the entire flight. After the flight to Auckland, we had to pass through customs and biosecurity. There are so many rumors about what is or isn't allowed and horror stories of $600 fines being handed out for having a little dirt on your hiking shoes or forgetting an apple in your bag. Your first real exposure to this is while you are waiting to claim your bags and they have the cutest dogs ever sniffing everywhere. If they find something, you get to open your bag up on the spot while they check it.
I knew my hiking shoes were clean, but last time I had aired my tent out the new bird feeder attracted lots of birds to poop on it. It wasn't really dirt, but it did go in the seeds category, I think. Either way, I was worried. They took my tent into a backroom where I couldn't see anything and spent 20 minutes going over it. Luckily, it came out clean enough that I didn't get a fine, but I was worried. The last flight was a blimp because I slept the entire time.
My first day in New Zealand has been quiet. Trying to stay dry and catch up on sleep. In the YMCA that a lot of us are staying at there is some grumbling. Apparently, the flight to Antarctica for two days ago has been delayed twice. Each day, everyone is packing up all their stuff and getting excited to go. Each day, the weather isn't cooperating. I guess a lot of people didn't mind today's delay because they were going to fly down on a C-130 Herc(?) instead of the C-17 which would have taken 8 hours instead of 5. I think part of the delays has to do with the fabulous weather we are having here.

Cyclists should take twice as much care in the rain . . .

Rainy weather aside, Christchurch is beautiful. It has all the green and flowers of everything I miss from the East coast. My hotel is right beside the Botanical Gardens and we are with in a mile of the city center. It is a bit of a weird situation because I want to explore here, but am also anxious to get to our final destination.

An art exhibit on Dyslexia.

A jester outside the Canterbury museum.

A fountain in the Botanical Gardens with the Canterbury museum (left) and my hotel, the YMCA (right), in the background.

A fountain in the Botanical Gardens. I think he is pleading for the rain to stop before he drowns.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Contact Info


William Brotman, RPSC
McMurdo Station
PSC 469 Box 700
APO AP 96599-1035

DO NOT SEND anything packed with Styrofoam peanuts. Also, All mail must clear New Zealand customs. See here for info on what you can't send.

You can't call me. I can call you once I get a calling card and if you give me a heads up.