Posted by: sioglac | Dec 6, 2011

Leavin’ on a [prop] plane…

Before I get started, I totally forgot the most important item in my list of how 80s McMurdo is: there are no cell phones, so we talk on room phones or public lounge phones. And all the principal investigators and important folks around town have pagers. Yes, we use pagers down here. So so 80s.

Anywho, last night at 7:45PM was “bag drag”, which is just a fancy way of saying we checked in for our flight. It’s a bit different than flying a commercial airline though. We show up to Building 140 with all our stuff (both carry-ons and checked baggage) because everything has to be weighed. First the checked bags are weighed. From this point on, we won’t have access to these bags until we are in the field even if the flight doesn’t happen, so packing takes a bit of thought. Then we are weighed with our carry-ons, boots, and parka. This step is not for the feint of heart since the number on the scale will be a lot larger than we are used to. Except for Rory who tipped the scale at a massive 155 pounds.

Bags for just three of usAll of our bags piled in Building 140

Our transport was at 7:45AM (for a 10:00AM flight) and there are a few morning errands to run before the flight, making it a very early morning. After breakfast and errands, we head back to Building 140 for our ride to Pegasus, the new sea-ice runway, which is about 14 miles away on a snow road. And we got to ride in our old friend the Delta. Matt sums up my feelings about this pretty well:

The road to Pegasus isn’t in the best of shape and I’m pretty sure Deltas amplify bouncing. We also road to the runway with some Fuelies (AKA workers who deal with fuels on base). They are great people, but they (not surprisingly) smell like gasoline when they are working. A 90 minute ride in the Delta, on a bad road, on little sleep, with a constant scent of gasoline was not really what I needed this morning.

We got to Pegasus at 9:30AN and after a bathroom trip, we waited in the passenger taxi (driven by Elisha, who sat next to me on the flight from Aukland to Christchurch) until the New York Air National Guard told us they were ready for us. This presented me with the opportunity to snap some pictures of the incredible views:

I kinda love the paint jobs
Awesome views back of Ross Island. Erebus on the left, Terror on the rightAir traffic control, I presume. Also I’m way impressed they built all this is 2 days last weekRoyal Society Range looking pretty stellar

We finally head to our Herc around 1030. Hercs are mind-boggling planes. They are a 60s technology made with slide rules that hasn’t really been updated because, well, they do their job really really well. Some shots of baby we’d be riding in for 2 hours:

And some shots of the inside:

The view from my seatThe cargo netting is actually really comfortable. More comfortable than commercial airlines in my opinionOur cargoView from the window behind me

Propellors turn on, ear plugs go in (loud would be an understatement), and at 10:50AM, we taxi over to the actual runway. Then we stop. One of the skis isn’t lowering correctly. The slight delay gave Ben ample time to eat his flight lunch way early:

About 90 or so minutes later, the ski was successfully fixed (with a Leatherman), except by this time, the flight crew got word that winds were about 40 knots (or about 45 mph) at the landing site. 40 knots gives about 50-100 feet of visibility due to blowing snow and also would put setting up tents somewhere in the “extremely difficult” to “totally impossible” range. Flight is off. Back to the runway to take a 10 passenger van to town. Where we arrived exactly 6 hours after our adventure started. In time to miss lunch 😦

Sooooo close

If we hadn’t had the mechanical issue with the ski, we probably would have ended up flying to Whillans and turning right around without landing (which happened to a different flight today), so the mechanical ended up being a bit of a good wrinkle for us. Yes, we’re bummed. And the flight crew might have been even more bummed. But we’ll try again tomorrow! Today (in McMurdo) is my mom’s birthday (Happy Birthday, Mom!) and it would have been pretty neat to call her from the middle of nowhere, Antarctica on her birthday. Alas. Anywho, the good news is that you got this (far too long) post and these pictures.

Oh and there’s no need to remind me that I jinxed myself… I’m fully aware.



  1. Nice pictures! Worth missing agu for this?

  2. […] a bit repetitive: kick it in New Zealand for a few days, get stuck in McMurdo a week or three, fly to the Whillans Ice Stream, drive over 1000 miles on a snow machine, dig some holes, collect some data, come home. It’s […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: