Thursday, December 29, 2005

Sara goes to South Pole!!!

A small rendition of my trip to the South Pole, the furthest south any human can go! It was a merry Christmas to me! This trip was suppose to be done earlier in Dec. but was postponed. I found out on Christmas Eve that I was going. We planned to leave Dec 26th and return on the 27th, but the ever changing itinerary did just that - changed. We left for the terminal on Monday Dec 26th at 6:45 am. It included a 1/2 hour ride to the airport and then on to an LC-130 (military) plane for the 3 hour, 800 mile ride to the pole. All started out well. At 9:15 am on the 26th we boarded the LC-130 plane number skier 96. When they went to start the plane, the 3rd engine would not start so they had us deplane and head back to the galley at Willy air field. After an 2 hour wait, they reloaded us on skier 96 and tried again. This time we had take off and I remember thinking I am finally going! How wrong I was. An hour into the flight, the plane had trouble with the auto pilot and we were forced to turn around and head back to McMurdo, Willy airfield and back to the galley. We landed around 11:30 pm and were waiting to see what was going to happen. The first air crew changed and a second crew arrived. Still no plane. Once the auto pilot problem was fixed, they loaded us back on skier 96 and we tried yet a third time to take off. Again engine 3 failed, this time losing parts onto the snow. Off the plane we went and yes back to the galley. By this time we were all ready to head home but the pole wanted us down there asap so we waited for a new plane to be ready. At 9:00 pm after sitting in the galley all day, they put us on skier 00 and tried one last time. This time, with a third air crew, we made it into the air. Again I thought I would make it to the pole this time, again I was wrong. 13 min into the flight, the weather at the pole changed and would not allow us to land so the plane turned around and took us back to the galley. This flight lasted a total of 26min 39 sec. We arrived at the galley at 10:30pm and were finally able to head back to McMurdo and into bed. They decided we would try again tomorrow.

This is skier 96, the plane we loaded an unloaded 3 times before finally deciding that it just was not going to make the flight.

Tuesday Dec. 27th 2005. Trying again to make it to the South Pole. Transport to the airfield at 7:45 am. Out at the Willy airfield galley (again) by 8:15. This time we were suppose to take skier 00 at 8:30. Again the plane did not start. Again we waited in the galley. This time only for 3 hours. At 11:15 am we finally boarded skier 90 and headed to the pole. This time we took off and actually were on the way! This time I actually landed at the pole!

On an LC-130 the passengers, referred to as PAX, sit in the cargo part of the plane in webbing seats. There are no regular seats on a flight like this. It is really loud in the back and ear plugs have to be worn at all times. Also it gets really cold in the back and heavy coats and boots are a must.

Standing on the flight deck with the pilots. I knew the air crew and was able to sit on the flight deck for the flight down. The windshield is actually made up of 20 smaller windows creating a ton of light coming in the window.

This is Matt. In McMurdo we drink a lot of coffee together. He is the co-pilot for this flight. Here he is making me some coffee for the flight.

Pictures of the Trans-Antarctic Mountains. This was about 1 hr 40 min into the flight. These mountains are the major range that separates the pole from McMurdo. There are areas in this range where no human has ever stepped.

We landed at the South Pole at 2:30 pm on Dec. 27,2005. The South Pole station is being rebuilt. The old station was under the dome as on the right, and the new station now sits above ground. The new station is able to hold more people and science experiments. I was able to stay in the new station.

The entrance to the old station and dome.

Under the dome the old structure are being taken out and replaced on the outside.

The structure under the dome and station is dug into the ice. It is like climbing around in a ice mine. It is -65 in the tunnels. They hold the piping structure for water and sewage.

Tons of ice crystals form around the heated lines.

People make shrines in the ice tunnels. The sturgeon has been at the pole since 1996.

The UFO Base and Vostok are some of the more famous "land marks"

The "pole". The reflection in and the flags behind.

The actual pole is moved each new year's day. The ice moves about 2 inches a year so they move the pole each year to keep it exactly where it should be.

There are 3 pole markers at the site. This is the one that looks the most official.

I was at the South Pole until Dec 29th. We were there for a HAZMAT cleanup. Once the job was done, they sent me back to McMurdo. The flight back was not as interesting as the one to the pole and we made it back to McMurdo by 2:30pm with out incident.

And Yes Mom, Noopy did go with me- See..


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