I was up before six this morning for a final check of my gear that I organised and packed last night. I also dressed in my Antarctic issue cold weather gear that I was required to wear and carry with me for landing. Wide awake brimming with excitement I checked my bags in return for a boarding pass, at the American base departure lounge.
After a little breakfast we were briefed for our flight via an American safety video that highlighted the dangers of the Antarctic such as fire (due to it being the driest continent on earth, almost drier than the Sahara desert!) cold and workplace safety. Just before 9:00am we had left the runway, destination Antarctica. The plane that carried us was not the usual Air force Hercules or similar that you would expect, but extremely similar to a commercial airplane. Two hours into the journey the occasional small iceberg could be spotted beneath the thick cloud. By 12.30 we were flying over large broken up sheets of sea-ice, with the cracks becoming less and less. Such a view was quite amazing and stirred many emotions mainly of elation, awe and disbelief that this was actually happening. It is only now that I am beginning to realise my lifelong dream to follow the footsteps south of the early explorers, Hillary and Peter Blake. As the skies cleared to perfect visibility I couldn’t help but smile.
Parts of the sea ice were huge as well as appearing quite thick. This only makes my respect for those who sailed to the continent grow. Navigating the frozen water (especially in early times or small boats like the ‘Seamaster’ used in Blake Expeditions) would have taken plenty of skill and courage as the sheet ice changed formations and at times began to close up.
As we landed on the ice runway outside McMurdo Station (the American base) we were ushered onto busses with Mt Erebus dominating the distant landscape. At only -1 degrees Celsius with very little wind conditions were perfect, if not a little hot considering the down jacket I was wearing. As we drove through McMurdo I constantly looked for landmarks like Discover hut and observation hill that I have seen photos of and hope to visit. As we were driven over the hill the humble yet homely Scott Base came into view.
We were met by David, the internal manager at Scott base who gave us the grand tour of the base after we had changed into some more casual clothing. David is a navy man but came across with a really nice vibe whilst making sure everything was explained and he met a set time schedule. Almost like a boarding master of Scott base which feels like a big hostel. Everyone is here for a different reason be it Scientific, Conservation or other but everyone cleans up after themselves and pitches in with work where they can.
I am now settling into the base having had a nice roast pork dinner with an extravagant chocolate mousse/ tart creation for dessert. Sitting in the lounge staring out at the ice is just amazing. It is now 9:30pm and the sun seems brighter than ever (the summer months in Antarctica sunlight is 24/7, it is the opposite in winter). It has been a long day I am now off to me allocated ‘bob the builder’ bed sheets to get some shut eye.