I am safely in Christchurch, New Zealand. The local time here is 21 hours ahead of California time, so I'm basically living in the future. We arrived in Cheech (how the locals call Christchurch) on Friday, Nov. 20th at around midnight (12 am local time or roughly 3 am on Thursday Nov 19th west coast time).
The journey to the South Pole began for me on Tuesday, Nov. 17th at 11pm when I boarded a non-stop flight from Los Angeles to Sydney, Australia. The 14-hour flight took me across the international date line and the equator. When we crossed the date line, I basically skipped the day of November 18th. We arrived in Sydney around 10 am on November 19th. If you're confused about all that, so am I and I'm the one living it! When passing over the equator, we experienced quite a bit of turbulence, which is impressive considering we were flying on one of the largest commercial airplanes. Larger planes don't typically get as "bumpy" as smaller planes. The reason for the turbulence was due to the inter-tropical convergence zone (ITCZ). This band of thunderstorms forms north and south of the equator due to the converging air masses from the northern and southern hemispheres. In fact, if you look at a satellite image of the earth from space, you can clearly see this band of thunderstorms. Maybe I'll write a blog post about this interesting weather phenomenon at a later date (considering I'm a trained meteorologist and weather still excites me).
We had an extensive layover of about 8 hours in Sydney, so a group of the SPICE Core team left the airport and took a train to the city. I did this same journey last year, but it was still awesome to see Sydney again. We found a nice shaded area in the botanical gardens adjacent to the Sydney Opera House and took a nap/break. I didn't get much sleep on the flight. In fact, I'm running on about 10 hours of "good" sleep in the last 48 hours - yikes! We also had some delicious food at a side street cafe before making our way back to the airport for our flight to Cheech.
The flight from Sydney to Cheech was much shorter, only about 3 hours. We got to the hotel rather late at night and had an early shuttle ride to the Clothing Distribution Center (CDC) this morning. At the CDC, every person traveling to the Ice (Antarctica) is issued their extreme cold weather (ECW) gear. This gear consists of the "Big Red" parka, Carhartt bib overalls/jackets, the insulated "bunny" boats, and other cold weather gear like mittens and beanies. After getting the ECW gear, we had the rest of the day to tour the city.
I opted to take a relaxing nap in my hotel room. It was a bit overcast and windy in the early afternoon so I felt this was the best weather to catch up on some rest. When I woke up, the sky was clear and it was a gorgeous afternoon. I took a brief walk around the city and visited some of the main attractions. Christchurch was struck by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake in 2011 which caused a great deal of damage to the city, especially the older structures. The city is doing a beautiful job of recovering from this disaster and many new buildings have been erected in the last year alone and so many more are currently in construction. Cheech is becoming on of my favorite cities - not too big and a very cultural place.
This afternoon we also got verification that we are scheduled to leave for McMurdo, Antarctica tomorrow morning at 9 am. We will be flying an Air Force C-17 cargo plane. I'll update from McMurdo tomorrow!
Until next time,