It felt like I had only just gone to bed and I was getting up again, so, in a slightly dazed state, I pulled on an array of thermal and casual clothes including my flash red socks from the Sir Peter Blake Trust which I hoped would bring luck during my day’s adventures. Not ten minutes later Jana (pronounced Yana) rang to say the flight was two hours delayed so she wouldn’t be arriving to pick me up until 7.50 am. I guess you could say I had mixed feelings about the delay ... I was very grateful for the extra sleep, but I was also a bit sceptical as to whether the flight would leave at all given the stories I had heard regarding the flights from last week!! (Tuesday: flight cancelled; Wednesday: flight departed – 5 hours to Scott Base, too windy to land, 5 hour return trip to Christchurch; Thursday: flight cancelled). Never mind .. that was out of my hands so I just enjoyed the extra sleep and hoped for the best.
Just as I was getting up for the second time this morning, my phone rang again, and Jana informed me that the flight had been delayed again, with the plan still to fly south, but now four hours later than originally scheduled. It wasn’t until we were on our way to the Antarctica departures meeting point (at Antarctica New Zealand’s office) when Paul Woodgate rang to let us know that the flight had been cancelled for the day.
I must admit I was not surprised by the news at all, and I feel lucky to be getting a ‘real’ Antarctic experience! Jana and I carried on to the office in spite of the cancelled flight, and she offered to spend more time with me showing me the clothing warehouse and beyond. It was great .. checking out some of the survival and rescue gear including stretchers as well as the old boots and gloves which have since been replaced by the new kit (first issued last season - 08/09). I was really interested (and impressed!) to learn that all of the gear (e.g. jackets, gloves, sleeping bags, etc.) that is no longer used by Antarctica New Zealand gets bundled up and donated to communities like the Sherpa’s in Nepal and the Inuit’s in regions of the Arctic. Very cool! And actually lots of what goes on in the Antarctica New Zealand workplace is great .. the recycling system, the fair trade (and locally roasted) coffee, and that all of the garments issued as part of the Antarctic clothing kit (with the exception of the boots) are New Zealand made! It is always refreshing to see examples of environmentally conscience workplaces who proudly support local businesses!
I basically spent the rest of today exploring the International Antarctic Centre, which is conveniently located right next door. Jana gave me a bit of a tour to start, and then I spent hours wandering about, reading interesting stories and flicking through photos. As Waikato University has been quite heavily involved with Antarctic research for many years now, it was really interesting to see familiar names and faces popping up in the stories and photos throughout the centre. I even learned that David Lowe’s Sledge Dumplings caused havoc with some unsuspecting Waikato Uni party member on a trip to the Darwin Glacier region during the1978-79 season. From what I could gather the take home message was that sledge dumplings, followed by squash, are not the ideal food-activity combination! (Unfortunately I cannot even elaborate, but I’ll look forward to hearing the story when I get back to work).
David Lowe's sledge dumplings
Other familiar faces included Craig Cary from the Biology department and Jess.
Craig Cary taking samples of micro-organisms that live off a mummified seal carcass
Jess cooking dinner while sheltering from a storm
I also spent a good 10-15 minutes in the storm simulator at the Antarctic Centre .. I figured if I couldn’t experience the real Antarctic chill today, then I might as well experience the next best (?) or at least closest thing! So I got into the jacket provided and put the rubber booties over my shoes and got into the freezer. It was crazy to feel the difference in temperature once the wind was turned on .. despite the room temperature remaining at -8 degrees Celsius! I now have a much better understanding of why we are issued with so many hat and glove variations in our clothing kits! If today was anything to go by the hats and gloves in my kit will be very well worn by the time I come home!
Me experiencing the 'wind chill' in the storm simulator
Penguins at Christchurch's International Antarctic Centre
So today’s Plan A: check-in at 6.00 am, all boarded by 8.30 am, and departing by 9.00 am, remains as Plan A, but has been re-scheduled for tomorrow (13th January). Whilst the weather at both Scott Base and here at Christchurch was fine today, and the forecast for tomorrow appears to be similar; there is a significant low pressure system hovering south of New Zealand which could make the flight particularly rough. It was because of this storm system that the flight south has been delayed so I am really hoping that it dies down over night!! Will let you know what tomorrow brings :)