After a week of frantic packing and last minute preparations, I’ve finally set out on my move to the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, Antarctica.
To get to Antarctica, the jumping off point from the “civilized world” is Christchurch, New Zealand. Everyone who’s going in a given “wave” assembles in Christchurch, and then flies on military flights across to McMurdo.
Although the flight over to Antarctica from NZ is a special military “ice flight”, getting everyone to Christchurch from wherever they are around the world is done by standard commercial flights.
I departed out of Denver, Colorado. I flew Denver to San Francisco, then San Francisco to Los Angeles on United Airlines. Then from Los Angles, boarded Quantas Airways flight 12 and flew to Sydney, Austraila. After another short and hectic layover, I boarded an Emrates flight to Christchurch.
Getting to Los Angeles from Denver was uneventful – standard united flights. Once at LAX, I began to meet up with a bunch more “ice people” – a few support staffers like me, a few specialized metalworkers going to build a fuel tank at McMurdo, and a whole bunch of scientists.
As us “ice people” began to find each other and assemble, it was interesting seeing all of the different types of people headed down. The welders and metal workers were of a certain type. The service contractors were of a certain type, and undoubtedly the scientists were of a certain type.
Naturally, over the last few days of travel I’ve mainly been hanging out with the science groups. So far, I’ve met three distinct science teams. One group is launching a high altitude balloon with a telescope on it to study cold clouds in space, one group is flying an octo-copter over Mt. Erebus to measure volcanic gasses, and one is freezing cosmic ray sensors into tubes under the ice at the South Pole. I love talking with all of these groups and hearing about their work!
Flying to Sydney on a Quantas Airways operated Airbus A380-800 was great. The plane is absolutely huge, and even in economy class, was extremely comfortable. The seats had a good shape, moldable headrests, and a personal entertainment console in the back of every headrest. Plus, there was a USB port at every seat, allowing you to charge your phone, as well as connect USB media to the entertainment console. I did snoop around a little, and found the stairway to the upstairs crew area, as well as the first class section. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to the top deck to see the rest of the first and business class seats. Maybe next time I’ll be occupying one of those seats!
Flying to Christchurch on an Emirates operated Boeing 777-300ER was also a great experience. Although not as large at the A380, the 777 was comfy as well, and seemed to handle in a more familar way.
Once in Christchurch, I was picked up along with all of the other ice people by hotel shuttles, and taken to my hotel – The Elms Hotel, a short ride away from the airport.