Thursday, December 11, 2008

Final Destination: South Pole Station

Welp, it’s here…D-Day (D for Departure, not for Death). All my pre-tests have been taken. All my forms are filled out, or printed out, or thrown out. The last items have been purchased (baby powder and a funnel—I’ll tell you what they’re for when I have to use them). The last Christmas gifts have been ordered (and I even received my cousins gift—what a nice surprise!). The last requests for baby penguins have been received, noted, and will be considered. The bags have been packed, repacked, and packed again—three checked pieces (the third for work gear)! I remembered to bring my chocolate and my towel (I feel like I’m in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). So am I excited? Am I nervous? Hmmm…I’m excited. But mostly I’m really tired: I've got these poor little neurons who are now so used to firing that they don't know how to quit. Each one has a different question--what should I do with my analysis? what did I forget? did I e-mail people? what will I say on my blog? did I pack right? how on earth did I score this awesome exit-row aisle seat? what if I packed too much? what about too little? which is worse? do I need flip flops? (I think you get the point.)

Everyone’s been asking about my itinerary, and the truth is that I can only provide you with an outline as I myself don’t know all the details. That’s what the blog is for, right? I’ll update you when I figure it out!

So here’s the basic story for the next few days. Today (Dec 11th 2008) after a very hectic morning, a great deal of help from my mother and Tim Tharp, and a lovely noon phone call from my brother in Geneva, I left Chicago at 3PM. (I’m en route to LA as I write, though who knows when I’ll actually be able to post). I arrive around 5:30 PM LA time and depart for Auckland, NZ, around 8PM. That’s 8PM Thursday evening. This flight lasts 13+ hours. I arrive at 6:25AM on Saturday, New Zealand time. (Friday is sacrificed to the time gods—or the International Date Line—in return for a 48 hour day on the return trip.) I then have to uncheck my bags, go the 20 feet through customs (where I’m supposed to give them a fancy schmancy letter saying I’m a US government employee and they have to let me in—pretty cool!), and recheck it all. Fortunately I have a long layover before I depart at 9AM. I arrive in Christchurch at 10:20AM. Once I claim my bags, I’m supposed to follow the blue penguin feet outside the door and down a few blocks to the Clothing Distribution Center (CDC). I don’t get my Extremely Cold Weather (ECW) gear until Sunday, but if I stop by the CDC when I arrive I can drop off all the equipment I’m lugging around that isn’t mine. Finally, when all this is done, I can go happily to my hotel (the Windsor B&B) via shuttle, shower and find a place to eat lunch. I’m told not to go to bed until 9PM or so. So that will make it…let’s see…1AM on Saturday at home in Chicago, which is about 40 hours from when I woke up in Chicago this morning. Yikes! I sure hope I can sleep on the next plane!

So….wasn’t I going to the Pole? Yes, indeed. On Monday, after two nights in Christchurch, I board a military plane to McMurdo (MCM), the base on the shore of Antarctica directly across the ocean from Christchurch. I stay there one night and finally arrive at my final destination, Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station (NPX) on Tuesday…if the weather’s good. If not, we try again. And again. Until it works. And how cool is that? (Not so cool actually—only about -14 degrees Fahrenheit today, with a wind-chill around -40.)

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