Antarctica Expedition : Post #1 - October 6-8, 2012

This post kicks off Diane's blog/diary that she kept during her expedition to Antarctica.  There are many entries to be posted here in the coming weeks, along with any updates on the happenings around Gondwana: Images of an Ancient Land. Check back often or follow Gondwana on Twitter and Facebook!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Still in New Zealand!!!

Oct 6

After a fun plane ride on Air New Zealand, I checked into the Elms Hotel in Christchurch. Christchurch suffered extensive damage during the earthquake 2 years ago and is still trying to recover. The downtown area is pretty much closed down, homes have been abandoned, and many buildings have been demolished.

The Elms has no reception area, restaurant, and no services... so after checking in, I put 2 large duffels and my 2 carry-ons on a dolly and rolled it up to the 4th floor. I spent most of the day trying to connect to Wi-Fi (which never did work) and waited for Murphy (my photography assistant) who arrived around 6:00.

We settled in and went to the George Hotel to eat and use the Internet.

Oct 7

Murphy and I discovered Brigittes, a cute cafe in the Miraval area of Christchurch, for breakfast.

After a leisurely morning, we went to the CDC office (Clothing Distribution Center) where we were briefed, computer checked, and received our required gear for any trip within or to Antarctica.

Black wind overalls, black balaclava wind stopper (face mask), goggles, black fleece hat, Red USAP Antarctic Jacket and White rubber thermal "moon" boots. We are required to wear this gear on all flights including the C-17 Cargo plane that will take us to McMurdo. We were also informed that many times as you are approaching Antarctica (5 hour trip) the weather is too bad to land so you "boomerang" and come back to Christchurch. Sooo, you need to pack a boomerang bag with enough items for 2 days and in case you do return to Christchurch, you will have some clothing and essentials.

We had a fabulous Thai dinner with Lou Sanson (who heads the New Zealand Antarctic program), after picking up 3 bottles of 2009 New Zealand Pinot Noirs to bring to McMurdo.

Upon arriving home from dinner, we were told that our deployment from Christchurch was delayed 24 hours so we would not be leaving the next morning.

Oct 8

Murphy and I checked out of the Elms and headed for the Commodore Hotel...Wi-Fi!! That is why I have been writing the last 3 days of events today! We also have a restaurant! And a sauna and pool.

Catching up on all.

McMurdo has a live camera that views the weather:

http://www.usap.gov/videoclipsandmaps/mcmwebcam.cfm

You should check it out!

So we viewed it and there was no visibility.. it now looks a little better but it will have to stay clear and the runway needs to be cleaned before we can be authorized to leave New Zealand.

We shall see... Low-key evening.

Posted by Diane Tuft

Antarctica Expedition : Post #2 - October 9, 2012

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Still in New Zealand

 Oct 9

Looks like McMurdo is clear!! But they had to clear the runway and road so we will not be leaving until tomorrow.

Another day in Christchurch…

What to do??

Murphy and I decided to go over to visit Lou Sanson at the New Zealand Antarctic Center and he guided us to the International Antarctic Center. We spent over and hour and a half going through. They had a simulated "cold, storm room" which only reached 17degrees F and a -1 degree wind chill,

Quite balmy compared to what we are going to. I think McMurdo is 9 degrees today. Not bad. It looks really beautiful and clear.

We then went to a 4D Antarctic theater equipped not only with 3D visual effects but waves and seals spraying water on us, seats vibrating as we hit the icebergs and snow falling on us as we went through storms! The center is quite informative and a good way to begin to understand the complexities and beauty of Antarctica.

Lou dropped us at the city center where we saw the devastation caused by the last earthquake and the temporary containers set up as shops.

After lunch we walked through Hagley Park…ancient exquisite trees, Azaleas, fields of flowers, swans and ducks.

We then went to the Antarctic Installation, "Icefest" - pretty interesting. And finally headed back to find that we are scheduled to leave at 6:30am tomorrow. Unfortunately, we cannot go on the C17 (Cargo aircraft) because the ice is not firm enough so we will have to fly on the airbus. But if it stays clear we will have an amazing view as we land tomorrow!!

Posted by Diane Tuft