We should have flown to McMurdo today. Instead: another baking hot summer’s day in Christchurch. Our shuttle to the US Antarctic Program base out at the airport was due to pick us up at 6.15 this morning… then it was 8.15… 11… “I’m sorry, you won’t be flying today”.
We’d been warned this could happen. We fly on a US airforce C130 Hercules, on a journey which will take around 8 hours across the Southern Ocean and down along the TransAntarctic Mountains. Any sign of bad weather, and the plane will turn around and come back (‘boomerang’) to where we started. Or, in our case, won’t even leave. So instead we’ve spent the day catching up on work, planning, catching the last of some summer sunshine…waiting…
Over the past 2–3 days, our team has assembled here in New Zealand, along with various other groups of cruise support staff and folks heading to McMurdo. USAP runs a fairly large operation here in Christchurch with, it seems, a number of groups deploying and returning on a weekly basis at this time of year.
Yesterday was kit issue and flight orientation day: a couple of hours at the USAP base form filling, watchinga series of video briefings (“when you get to McMurdo you’ll get yet another briefing: that one will be shorter and more to the point”) and, with a fair degree of amusement, trying on our flight clothing – the extreme weather gear that we have to have with us at all times. ‘Michelin Man’ doesn’t even come close.
6.15 tomorrow morning is our latest departure info. Boomerang bags are packed. Let’s hope we don’t use them.