The day we had all been hanging out for had finally we arrived, it was time to fly to Antarctica! The night before I had been too excited to sleep. I lay in my bed going through what I needed to do in the morning, wondering if I had managed to squeeze everything I needed for the next 5 months in to my two bags. When my 5am alarm went off I felt like I had barely slept, but I was glad to get up and start the processes of putting on all my extreme weather clothing. At 5.45am we left the hotel we had been staying in for the last few weeks and headed towards our Christchurch office for a 6am check-in. Our journey had begun. Packed in the van with our multiple layers on, we excitedly chatted about our rough sleep and how much we thought we were over our baggage allowance, a measly 11.34kg for checked in and 10kg for carry on (we had bags to follow a few weeks later). Once at our office we loaded ourselves up with our bags and headed in to the US Antarctic program passanger terminal. By this time, we had been in our extreme weather kit for a good half hour and had started to cook from the inside out. So as soon as we had checked in, like most others, I stripped down to my overalls and ditch my extreme weather jacket in the departure lounge which was rapidly becoming a sea of orange and red jackets, the colours of the American and Kiwi kits. Before too long, we were heading through security and onto the bus to be taken over the road to the airport where our plane awaited us.
Our aircraft was to be an Australian military passenger plane meaning we had windows!! As I understand it, this is a rare luxury. Most often, you will be with the cargo in the back of a Hercules or something similar. We felt very lucky to have the opportunity to actually see the continent from the air as we approached. At first, we were loaded into the back half of the plane for take-off but as soon as the seat belt sign was off we free to move around. Although the plane was just below maximum load capacity, it was only about half full with people. There was a section where the seats had been taken out so we could just mingle and lie on the floor. The cock pit was also open to go look in and chat to the pilots. Many of us used the first half of the flight, while we were over the ocean, to catch up on sleep we had missed out on from the night before.
Roughly three hours in to our flight the sea ice began to appear and excitement began to rise, we were getting close. Then we hit the main content. The day was perfect, there was little cloud giving us amazing views, we really couldn’t have asked for better. For most of the next hour or so we were glued to the windows, taking in the breath-taking scenery and trying to come to terms with the fact that for the next five months, this was the place we are going to call home. It is so incredibly beautiful. Where ever you looked it was white with peaks jarring out. Absolutely stunning. As we neared the airfield the pilots made us aware that it was around -40 degrees Celsius outside and time to get our extreme weather kit back on and prepare for landing. I probably put my jacket on a little too early and by the time we touched down and took our first steps on the ice, I was pretty hot, took me back to our fire suits from training. My first impression of -40 was ‘oh this isn’t so bad’ the heat I had built up inside the plane kept me warm for the next ten minutes while we took photos and loaded into the awaiting trucks. Base was about a 40-minute drive away. With about six of us packed into the back of each land rover we started the journey towards base. Unfortunately, before long the windows had iced up and so we sat in our frozen box with no views or real idea where we were heading.
The rest of the day was spent doing a tour around Scott Base. It’s larger than I had imagined. At first it seemed like a bit of a maze but after doing a few labs and becoming familiar with the names of the buildings I seem to have gotten the hang of the place. After what seemed like a very long day, we settled into our rooms and unwound before our first day of work begun the next day. We were finally here.