The Flight to The Ice

21 Sep
The day has come and the little butterflies are very active in my belly.  I couldn’t sleep well so I woke up at 2:30am, showered and got all ready (packed, tidied my room, ate an early morning snack, etc.).  I met my other compadres, picked up my ‘to go breakfast’ from the B&B (this place is really great if I hadn’t said so before), and we boarded the ‘Supershuttle’ to the CDC, not just the clothing distribution, but our boarding area.

Once at the CDC, we loaded all of our baggage into the separate changing rooms and proceeded to suit up for the plane ride.  I had to put on about 4 layers of clothing in preparation for the ride and arrival on The Ice.  It was a little warm at first, but then thinking about our plans for the rest of day, I adjusted quite nicely. 

After dressing, I had to make sure that my luggage was the proper weight.  This was a fun task.  I moved items from my yellow duffle to the boomerang bag and stuff to my carryon back and forth until I made the my weight withi1/2# to spare.  I was pretty impressed (or so I thought).  I got in line to check in.  We were greeted by very friendly US miliary folk who checked our passports and asked us if we packed our luggage, etc. and then proceeded to the weighing station. 

The very attractive traveling outfit (notice the BIG RED on the top of the pile) plus all of my luggage!

The very attractive traveling outfit (notice the BIG RED on the top of the pile) plus all of my luggage!

I hoisted the yellow duffle on the scale and it was PERFECT!  Then I was told to put my boomerage bag on as well.  I was initially told that my boomerag bag would not be counted in the 75# weight limit.  I WAS SOOO MISINFORMED!  I hesitantly looked at the scale and it said…89#!  I thought I would have to either wear more weight or carry it on or maybe they would not let me go?  Instead, the very nice miliary people didn’t say anything and moved my luggage towards the big pile of cargo that would be loaded onto the plane.  I guess they plan for that sort of thing

THEN, the very nice miliary personnel told ME to step on the scale with my carryon.  I was a litte shocked and said ‘excuse me?’ but did as he asked.  For the sake of my insecurities, I am not going to reveal this weight, but let’s just say that I had on ALOT in my carryon and ALOT of clothing on.  The nice miliary man wrote down my weights, gave me a pretty necklace for a boarding pass and I was good to go.  I was boarding pass #16.

I met up with Linda and since we had a few minutes before we had our next activity.  We causally dined in the Antarctica museum food court.  I was previously told not to spend any time at this museum because I was going to see the real deal and that it was much better than any museum had to offer.  I had nice runny eggs and some yogurt.  A good nutritious way to start the day.  I figured that I should get used to eating this type of food as I will not always have the best foods available down south.

We headed back to our the CDC and began the boarding process.  We initially watched a very thrilling video  about our flight there, what to expect when stepping off of the plane and what our first few hours would include.  The butterflies were getting bigger and bigger.  At one point, I looked at Linda and said, “Are we really going to Antarctica?”  Her response was, “Well, we watched the video.  Do we really need to go now?”  I could tell this would be a great adventure!

We got in line and chatted with some others.  We each went thru security (and yes, we had our liquids that were over the 3-1-1 regulations that airlines follow) and then boarded a bus.  With each of us having our BIG RED on and one carryon, the bus filled up quickly.  We headed out to the plane, a C 17.  OH MY ——- GOD!  This plane was HUGE!  I thought that maybe we would pass it and find a smaller one, but I was wrong.  It was a bit intimidating!  This was nothing like the commerical planes.  (See the links on the right for more details about the plane).  We unloaded from the bus, picked up our pretty sack lunch as our inflight meal, and made our way onto the plane.  We climbed up the few steps and my first view of the interior was amazing.  I wish I could have stopped and taken some photos, but we (all 120 of us plus the crew) had other plans for that time.  The plane was so big and cavernous, I was till very nervous. 

Since all of the ‘good’ seats were taken, the ones facing front, I had no choice but to sit facing the center of the plane.  I had some crazy thoughts of leaning too far back and falling out, but realized that there was nothing else I could do about it.  I have sky dived before…I could handle it, right? 

I tried to get settled in my seat taking off a few layers of clothing and arranging my carryon so I had the important things easily accessible.  We didn’t have the nice little overhead compartments, just the space below our seats.  We had PLENTLY of leg room which was very nice, but couldn’t recline at all.  Oh well!  After all passengers were seated, our flight crew, the US Air National Guard greeted us and proceeded to explain the safey features, the lavoratory location (yes, only one, with the miliary bladder needs always coming before ours), emergency exits, and the duration of the flight.  The speaker on the PA was definitely not the typical flight attendant and gave me some discomfort.  He was attractive and his outfit/uniform complimented his skin color, but I was still anxious.  Although we all make fun of the flight attendants on the commercial airlines, I have a deeper respect for what they do and the comfort they provide by just being there! 

It was 8am and we started taxi-ing down the runway and shortly we took off about 8am.  Everything was loud and shaking like I had never experienced before on a flight.  I did pick up the ear plugs that were provided when we went thru security, but they only served to muffle the loud engine I felt I was sitting on.  It took about 1/2 hour and then I think I adjusted to the expereince.  If not, i guess I had another 4 1/2 hours to get comfy.   

At this time, people started to sleep, eat, and/or remove various layers of clothing.  I choose to catch up on my friends in Hollywood by reading the People magazine.  Eventually it hit me that I woke up at 2:30am in the morning and I was still tired.  I tried to close my eyes and rest.  Sleeping on this flight was a bit different than sleeping on commercial.  Without reclining, but with nice cushioning from BIG RED, I eventually dozed off.

When I woke, it seemed to be a meal time, I am not sure exactly which meal, breakfast or lunch, but good food was provided.  In our cute little lunch bags, we had fresh fruit, granola bars, candy/chocolate, turkey/cheese/mayo/mustard sandwich, a bottle of water (hydration, hydration, hydration), and a bag of the NZ version of Sun Chips.  I nibbled a bit and then did some people watching.  Since the seats on the side were face to face, I tried not to stare, but it became impossible.  so, I got up and took some photos.

The 'flight deck' on the upper level of the plane.  There was a small window for saying hi, but they closed the curtain and I couldn't see a thing!

The 'flight deck.' It was on the upper level with a small window to wave and say hi. Before takeoff, the curtain was shut and I couldn't see a thing.

 

A wide view of the inside front of the plane.  Notice the other newbie doing the same thing!

A wide view of the inside front of the plane. Notice the other newbie doing the same thing!Another view from inside. I was seated on the right side facing in.

 

The view of the back four huge pallets of luggage, food, and mail.

The view of the back; four huge pallets of luggage, food, and mail.

The view from the back of the rows of seats.  I was seated on the right side of this photo.

The view from the back of the rows of seats. I was seated on the right side of this photo.

As I was mulling around, I was told to take a peak outside the back window, to the left of these cargo pallets.  These photos that are below are my first views of Antarctica.  They were from the plane, but still AMAZING!  I couldn’t believe how serene and picturesque it was.  The views seamed like a painting and completely unreal.  Little did I know it was only a small taste of what I would encounter when we eventually landed.
Isn't it beautiful!

Isn't it beautiful!

I know, even more amazing!

I know, even more amazing!

 

Yes, more.  I am not sure where this is, but I know it's Antarctica!

Yes, more. I am not sure where this is, but I know it is Antarctica.

I know...WOW!

I know...WOW!

After my brief stroll and amazing views, I decided that my trip would not be complete without using the lavoratory.  I know it sounds wierd, but I wanted to really live it up on this excursion.  I got in line, there was about 6 people ahead of me.  I waited patiently and watched closely to those in front of me to see how this process worked.  You may think I am nuts, but there was a sign on the door that identified rules for ‘lavoratory usage.’ The sign mentioned unzipping and removing clothing to expedite the time actually in the lavoratory and minimizing the amount of waste left in the actual room (I thought that was pretty ironic, hugh!).  I even recalled that the military ‘flight attendant’ reminding us that the toliet may not flush atleast for the firt hour and to ‘Plan Accordingly,’ whatever that meant.  So, eventually my turn came up.  I entered feeling a little nervous and concerned.  I did my stuff as efficiently as possible, unzipping prior to entry and minimizing my waste.  I said a little prayer as I flushed and luckily all went bye-bye.  As I headed to wash my hands, I ran into a little glitch; there was very little water and no soap.  I did what I could and figured I could heavy rely on my hand sanitizing lotion when I returned to my seat.  Looking back on that 20 minute lesson, I would have to say that I am very grateful for the commercial airlines and all they offer.
When I arrived back at my seat, it was just in time for turbulence.  Perfectly planned I might add.  I would have to have been in the lavoratory during any turbulent times!  I fastened my seat belt and tried to focus on not thinking about my own mortality and plunging to my death in this metal missle.  The turbulence lasted about 10 minutes and was pretty rough.  I was concerned that I was becoming a litte green (as were some others around me), but then it subsidded.  I was grateful for the learning experience of dealing with this, but very elated when it was over.
Time came and the miliary flight attendant announced we would begin our descent into McMurdo Station.  At that point, people started to pack up all of their belongings and started to reassemble and redress with all of the layers they previously removed.  It was quite a site.  Since everyone else was doing it, I figured someone must have known what they were doing. 
The landed was great bearing in mind all of the weight in the cargo pallets.  I am hesitant to say almost better than most commercial.  I did begin to wonder as we got closer to the runway, what kind of breaks do you use on THIS MUCH ICE?  I decided that I would watch the military flight attendant and when he stopped looking concerned, we were safely on the ground.  Before long, we were landed safely and taxied to our stopping point.  We recieved further directions from our miliary flight attendant and had to wait patiently for all to be set up on the group for our arrival.  We were the first plane of the season and the first people that the ‘winter overs’ would see after seeing the same 112 faces since April/May.   We were in for a treat!
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5 Responses to “The Flight to The Ice”

  1. brian September 22, 2008 at 2:16 am #

    it must have been nice in that big new plane?
    mine was old and slow.
    what about the ride into mcbase?
    any new named trucks?

  2. Mike McCallie September 22, 2008 at 2:47 pm #

    Wow, I am so envious. What a great adventure. I am so glad your blogging this. I look forward to all the updates. Stay strong Marci, Teresa and I are with you and praying for you to have a great time and to be safe. Mike

  3. Mom September 22, 2008 at 5:21 pm #

    I gues flying in a commercial plane is not going to be very exciting for you anymore….

  4. Fredlee September 22, 2008 at 5:47 pm #

    What an adventure – I am a little jealous and am anxious awaiting more news from the ICE

    Fredlee

  5. Sarah September 23, 2008 at 1:51 am #

    1) You look beautiful! Soooo good to see you!!!

    2) You are my new superhero.

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