Thursday, January 4, 2018

Christchurch

The facade of the International Antarctic Centre in
Christchurch. The U.S. Antarctic Program has offices inside.
Friends, I am in Christchurch, New Zealand!

I'm actually here for just a few days, and then I will fly to McMurdo Station, Antarctica. I am traveling as part of a training program for early-career researchers in Antarctica, and I am beyond stoked to be participating. As you are aware, much of my field work so far has taken me north to the Arctic, but I have never been to the southern polar regions. I am full to bursting with excitement and cannot wait to leave my footprints on the Antarctic continent.

I met most of my fellow course participants at the airport, since we were picked up and brought to our hotel together. Since arriving, we have spent our time recovering from jetlag, getting to know each other, and preparing to deploy to McMurdo. We visited the International Antarctic Centre yesterday to do the bulk of the preparations. Laptops had to be checked out by the IT guy. We had to provide proof of receiving an annual flu vaccine and get our temperature taken (you will not be allowed on the plane if you have are sick and have a fever). It was a lot of little things, but the main event was getting assigned our Extreme Cold Weather gear.

Two of my fellow trainees, Leigh and Luana, 
model their polar gear
I was familiar with the concept of assigned polar gear from my cruises in Svalbard, but many of my fellow participants have never been to a polar region. We marveled at the thickness of the parkas, the seriousness of the boots, the number of hat and glove options we were offered. First-time participants are required to take everything with them; only veterans can refuse assigned gear if they know they won't use an item. By the end of the day, our bags were stuffed with gear.

Speaking of bags, that was our other major task yesterday: repacking our things into the USAP-mandated categories. We were allowed checked bags and carry-ons, just like on commercial flights, but then we had to have one "boomerang bag." The "boomerang bag" is the only one you're given back if your flight gets aborted halfway to the ice and you have to return to Christchurch for a few days. It contains your toiletries and warm-weather clothes (it's currently summer in New Zealand). It took a while, but we got everything re-packed and arranged into the proper categories, made sure it was under the maximum weight and under the maximum size, and headed out. We are ready to deploy.

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