Friday, November 09, 2007

Made it!

If you've read my older blog entries, you might remember that I almost missed the flight from McMurdo to Pole last January, and I was the last one to report for transport. Well, I did it again. I took a nap in the afternoon, and during my nap the flight time got moved earlier than what had been most recently posted. I woke up all of five minutes before I was supposed to report. When I saw the latest updates on the screen, I threw all of my stuff together and ran up the hill to catch my ride down to the ice runway. The weather was beautiful and the trip this time was mercifully smooth. I spent almost the whole flight glued to the windows in the back of the plane. The flight over Antarctica offers a rare and exceptionally beautiful view. For most of the flight, we fly over the Transantarctic mountains. They are sizeable peaks, but they are drowned in ice up to two miles thick. Only the tiniest tips of the mountains peak out above the white. The view is unearthly, stunning, and mesmerizing. As we get closer to pole, the ice overwhelms the mountains and all that is left is a solid, featureless white plateau that shines in the sun. I enjoy this part of the trip so much... which I think you can tell from the picture at the bottom.

When we got to pole, the pilot came in to land, and then when we were just a few feet above the ground, took the plane back up again. I suddenly worried that we were being boomeranged again, or that something was wrong with the landing gear. But no, they just like to check out the skiway from the air if it hasn't been used in a little while. So we came right back and made a smooth landing, dumping cargo out the back of the plane as we slid down the skiway. I even saw a glimpse of the telescope through the window as we arrived, and I felt a rush of excitement.

I once again tried to snap a photo just moments after stepping onto the polar ice. It is hard to do while bundled up and with the shock of the cold and the need to quickly get away from the aircraft. The station was almost obscured by a huge pile of snow, the first pile of drifts that have been shoveled and cleared from the upwind side. As we were arriving, a large company of outgoing winterovers were gathered to immediately take off in the same plane. One of the two SPT winterovers, Zak Staniszewski, was on this flight, so I stayed to see him off. The picture below shows a shot of him and Steve Padin, our second winterover, at the end of their long eight months of operating the telescope. I could tell that it was a very emotional moment for all of the winterovers finally leaving the station. I only hope that Zak makes it to Christchurch soon to see his girlfriend and take a long, very well earned vacation.


Blogger Judy said...

Glad you made it. I think I need to readjust my "liking of the cold" after reading about you and seeing all the gear on people there. Burr.... 8 months at the South Pole - I hope the guys do well in Christchurch also. They deserve it.
Today I chauffeur around a woman who hasn't been in Athens in 40 years. It's going to be fun. And hope the curry puff lady is at Farmer's Market...for a treat. Hang in, girl.

7:17 AM  
Blogger admin said...

Chair lift for stairs

1:46 PM  
Blogger cristi said...

residential stair lift

4:14 PM  
Blogger Gnanes said...

The place looks so beautiful. I love snow. :) Life is short and better enjoy what we got.

3:49 PM  

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