Friday, December 28, 2012

Antarctic Adventure 2012: Back in New  Zealand
That was an amazing 36 hours down on the ice! I cannot even describe how outstanding this experience was and it was well worth all the long flights. I would like to send a special thanks to the 109th Airlift Wing from the New York Air National Guard for their coordination and helping me thorough every step of this journey.  Today they were able to put me on a resupply flight to the South Pole and even gave me a headset and let me sit in the cockpit for the 4 hour LC-130 Hercules ride to the bottom of the world. The view form the cockpit flying over Antarctic was breathtaking. Once we landed at the pole I had 20 minutes to explore before we took off again. They warned me not to run because the high altitude would tire me, but even after just quickly walking I was out of breath in minutes. I made it to the geographic south pole and saw the ceremonial south pole from a distance. Fun fact, the geographic south pole changes every year. 

As soon as I landed back on the Pegasus Air Strip on the ice sheet outside McMurdo, around 1800, I was told to eat quickly as soon as I got back because they had a busy night planned for me. We walked back over to Scott Hut but this time we had a guide to let us in the actual hut. It was incredible, and looked as if they had just left. There were animal carcasses drying in a store room, boxes and cans of food staked by the walk ways, and gear hanging up to dry. It was eerie, like stepping right back into history.

Scott's Hut built in 1902 with floating ice pier behind it.

Mummified Seal Carcass outside Scott's Hut.
Cross at Hut Point.
Seal Seen from Hut Point.
Seals by a crack in the ice by Hut Point. 

After I got back from Hut Point I headed off towards Scott Base, the New Zealand base close to McMurdo, for a tour of the pressure ridges. Pressure ridges occur where sea ice is being crushed  into the land by the ice shelf. The cracks that occur in the ice are popular places for seals to hang out. I was extremely lucky to be taken out to the pressure ridges because the United States closed them down three days before and the Kiwi's had closed them the day before because people were falling though the cracks in the ice.  Luckily they opened up a trail three hours before now and I was one of the lucky few to be allowed to go out onto the ice. I would like to give special thanks to Master Sargent Brian Marcyjanik who was instrumental in organizing this tour. It was one of the coolest thing I have ever experienced, walking between towers of ice, and getting as close as ten feet to seals. See more pictures on the Pressure Ridge slideshow on the left hand bar.  

 After the three hour adventure onto the ice, I got a few hours of much needed sleep and then was back on a C-130 Hercules for the flight back to Christchurch. I also got to talk to the forecasters at the weather center in McMurdo before the pilots were briefed in the morning.  My trip to Antarctica was a once in a lifetime experience, and with the help of the Air National Guard I was able to have experiences that some people who live in McMurdo for months never get to. Thank You!

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