Following two weeks of fun in the sun with Pat and Lauren in Florida, I started the 4 day journey to Antarctica on the world’s largest plane for the world’s longest flight. The Qantas A-380 double decker holds close to 500 souls, and 17 hours of flight time left ample time for sleep and 6-8 movies, which I lost track of at some point. We finally landed in Christchurch, New Zealand for a day and a half of orientation, the issuing of extreme weather gear, plus some time for biking, some good Indian and Thai food, plus a run to the grocery store to bring some fruit to the folks further south that haven’t seen a banana in a few months.
The flight on the bone rattling C-130 NY National Guard cargo plane took off the next morning at 9 AM, and a mere 8 hours later we landed on skis on a glacier on Ross Island, the home of 1000 people in the summer at McMurdo research station. Everyone grabbed a late dinner, some linens to go with room assignments and were tucked in a few hours later for a first night’s sleep on the frozen continent.
The next day I was informed that I should pack up to go further inland to the South Pole, since my dental services were needed there before the flights are halted in a few weeks. That turned into a 4 day wait because of weather delays, so I did a few fillings and a root canal on the locals before flight ops decided that our mission was critical enough to send us off on a modified 1942 DC-3 called a Bassler, which will fly in all sorts of crazy weather. It is unpressurized and requires passengers to wear a nasal cannula delivering oxygen, which is no more uncomfortable than flying with 2 pencils stuck up your nose for 3 hours.
Now that I was going, I became a drug mule for controlled substances to the medical clinic, and a bootlegger for a scotch delivery to a thirsty polie. In four days, I checked everyone’s teeth that needed checked, did a few fillings, and ended with a surgical wisdom tooth extraction on a gentleman that is staying another 9 months in the dark and cold winter months.
That left a day for excursions, so I caught a ride and then was put in the drivers seat of a Piston Bully to the neutrino project called Ice Cube. That was followed by a snow mobile ride to Spice Core, the ice core project pulling up samples from thousands of feet of ice to study the environment trapped in 6000 year old ice. I finished the day at an NOAA research site that is studying the cleanest air on the planet. It was enough science to make my head spin, so a pleasant dinner of lamb chops with mint jelly, vegetables and pecan pie was a welcome end to the afternoon at the bottom of the earth.
Hope your new year is going well and drop a line from life up north.