Friday, 2 December 2016

Day One: Thursday 1 December

Flying to Antarctica!

11pm and sitting in my top bunk and it’s still light outside!
So I’m actually here at Scott Base feeling slightly discombulated (partly because it’s 11pm and still sunny) but also very glad that we didn’t have to experience either a cancelled flight from Christchurch, or a boomerang one, which is when you get halfway there and the pilots decide it won’t be safe to land and turn back.

Christchurch airport - that's our Hercules.
Things I did expect about the flight:
It was so noisy! You couldn’t talk to anyone without getting right up beside them and yelling in their ear, or passing a written message along the rows. Most people had earplugs or headphones and watched movies or played games on their phones or read or did crosswords (you can guess which I did).
It was so cramped! And that was with only about 15 of us on board - 6 Kiwis and the rest Americans - when there can be up to 60. I knew that you sat along the outside of the walls, and another row of people sat in the middle, but I didn’t realise the two rows would be so close together that our knees were almost touching, and whenever you wanted to get up for a stretch you had to squeeze between everyone’s big boots. I reckon the 8 of us in our section (2 facing rows of 4 each) were crammed into a total area not much bigger than a big double bed. There aren’t any armrests and it took me some minutes of practising and a bit of help from the American guy opposite to get the hang of the strange seatbelts.

Inside the Hercules - pretty much the only place to stand and stretch your legs.
Yes, we did get a paper bag lunch and a big 1.5 litre bottle of water which was lucky as it was so hot (see below). Inflight entertainment consisted of burrowing about inside the paper bag to see what treats were there: sandwiches, crisps, a muffin, a muesli bar, a mars bar, a packet of cookies, a packet of crisps and an apple. Someone passed a written message down the row: anyone want to swap for a vegetarian option? (yes, please!)
Yes, the toilet really is a bucket down the back, hidden behind a curtain.

Yes, that's it!
 Things I didn’t expect:
It was so hot! We’d been told to wear our extreme cold weather gear in case of an emergency - possible emergencies were described at length in the safety briefing - and once in the cramped conditions inside (see above), it was pretty hard to get changed into anything else.
The lighting was quite dim, and the windows are very small (more like portholes) so it’s hard to see to read. One person had brought a mini book torch attached to her book. I’ve got one too but it was packed away and no use!
Because it’s so cramped (see above), you have to stow away your stuff and sit down as quickly as possible, so other people can sit down. But once your bag has been squashed into a spare space, you can’t get at it again. So all those 32 pockets were no use, because I had put stuff in my bag instead, that I couldn’t get at. Like a mini torch for reading with! And once you sit down, there’s nowhere to put any of your stuff, so I spent most of the flight trying to balance books, drink bottle, lunch and camera on my lap.
It takes a lot of taxiing to take off and land. When we landed we seemed to be taxiing along for about 10 minutes.
I thought we would see a lot of ocean and then we’d be at Scott Base. We did see ocean – lots of it - and then a lot of clouds -

but then we saw floating sea ice, exciting! This was about 5 hours out from Christchurch.

And then we flew over Antarctica itself – even more exciting!

And when we landed, and climbed into an American truck, it took another 40 mins of driving to get to Scott base, while the Americans on board kept going to McMurdo).
It was sunny and not too cold at all, and all the ice was glittering in the sunshine!
Things I didn’t know but could have guessed:
It is very hard to do up the zip of a bulky jacket when wearing two pairs of gloves and a balaclava. Obviously didn’t get the order of that quite right.
Then we arrived at Scott Base, climbed out of the truck and got welcomed and ushered inside, and now here we are! This is my bunk room, shared with three room mates.



  1. Well done on a great start! Lots of stimulation for writing.

    1. Thanks, Andrew! I'm sure you'd enjoy it down here!!