Leaving on a Jet Plane (make that 4 Jet Planes and a C-17 Military Cargo Plane)

    The best part of any travel itinerary occurs when you get there. The worst part is the planning it takes to get there. Of course, when travel destinations are in the same state or the same country, arranging a travel itinerary becomes a straightforward task. But if they’re not, well it becomes not so straightforward. Last summer, before I even applied for the PolarTREC program, much less expected an opportunity to travel to Antarctica, I participated in the School of Rock sponsored by the International Ocean Drilling Program aboard the JOIDES Resolution. It was a fascinating week of learning about the science of core drilling below the ocean floor and the strategies and techniques involved in the analysis of core samples. It just turned out that one day of the overriding theme Exploring Ocean Cores and ClimateThe average weather over a particular region of the Earth. Climate originates in recurring weather phenomenon that result from specific types of atmospheric circulation. Connections of this program was dedicated to Ice CoreA cylindrical section of ice removed from a glacier or an ice sheet using a specialized type of hollow drill. Enter the definition here. Drilling in Antarctica.

    One of the faculty presenters, who was from Ohio State University, was a frequent visitor to Antarctica, conducting scientific missions in pursuit of ice core samples from various locations around the continent. On one occasion, I engaged in a conversation with this professor, inquiring about his experiences in Antarctica and what was involved in travel to get there. He had responded by telling me that it was not an easy task to get there as it took five days to reach McMurdo Station. It didn’t register with me why it would take five days to travel to Antarctica… until having gone through it myself. It did take me five days to reach Antarctica and, in this journal entry, I would like to describe and explain the flight, or actually flights, that took me from Richardson, Texas to McMurdo Station, Antarctica.

    The trip was structured into two separate phases. The first phase consisted of four flights originating in Dallas/Fort Worth and ending in Christchurch, New Zealand, while the second phase consisted of a single flight from Christchurch, New Zealand to McMurdo Station, Antarctica. Because the flights in the first phase were completed on a national carrier, I was able to obtain detailed information including a flight map of each of the trips. This detailed information is presented below. The second phase was on a C-17 military cargo plane and similar information for this flight was not accessible.

    First Phase

    Dallas/Fort Worth, TX – Denver, CO

    The first phase of the trip began on October 28 with a flight from Dallas/Fort Worth to Denver.

    Leg 1 of Flight
    Map of Leg 1 Flight: Dallas/Fort Worth, TX to Denver, CO.

    The total flight time was 1 hour and 56 minutes covering a distance of 656 miles.

    Denver, CO – Los Angeles, CA

    The second leg of the trip started later in the afternoon on October 28 with a flight from Denver, CO to Los Angeles, CA.

    Leg 2 of Flight
    Map of Leg 2 Flight: Denver, CO to Los Angeles, CA.

    The total flight time was 2 hours and 33 minutes covering a distance of 876 miles.

    Los Angeles, CA – Auckland, New Zealand

    The third leg of the trip began later that night on October 28 with a flight from Los Angeles, CA to Auckland, New Zealand.

    Leg 3 of Flight
    Map of Leg 3 Flight: Los Angeles, CA to Auckland, NZ.

    The total flight time was 12 hours and 30 minutes covering a distance of 10,499 kilometers (6,524 miles). Although I left Los Angeles late on October 28, I actually gained a day because my flight was directed from east to west. When I landed in Auckland, New Zealand, it was Monday, October 30.

    Auckland, New Zealand – Christchurch, New Zealand

    The last leg of the trip ended on October 30 with a flight from Auckland, New Zealand to Christchurch, New Zealand.

    Leg 4 of Flight
    Map of Leg 4 Flight: Auckland, NZ to Christchurch, NZ.

    The total flight time was 1 hour and 18 minutes covering a distance of 767 kilometers (477 miles). I remained in Christchurch, New Zealand for two nights. The next morning upon arrival in Christchurch, New Zealand, I attended the US Antarctic Program CDC(abbreviation) Clothing Distribution Center (or Centre as they spell it in New Zealand) (Clothing Distribution Center) to undergo additional orientation briefings, evaluation of laptops for connection to Internet at McMurdo, quick medical evaluation which involved temperature reading as well as a current flu shot (which I had already had done) and then, lastly (but most importantly) retrieval of our ECW(abbreviation) Extreme Cold Weather clothing Extreme Cold Weather) gear which everyone was given an opportunity to try on prior to formal check out. All of these procedures and processes spanned the morning of Tuesday, October 31. All of the participants were then given the rest of the day for free time and a chance to enjoy the sites of Christchurch, prior to our scheduled “Ice Day,” or our flight to McMurdo Station on the following morning.

    Second Phase

    Christchurch, New Zealand – McMurdo Station, Antarctica

    The only leg in the second phase of the trip occurred on Wednesday, November 1 with a flight on a C-17 military cargo plane from Christchurch, New Zealand to McMurdo Station, Antarctica.

    Boarding pass
    Boarding pass for flight into McMurdo Station, Antarctica.

    Waiting to board
    I am waiting to board the flight to Antarctica.

    Inside the plane
    Inside the C-17 before taking my seat.

    The total flight time was 5 hours, covering a distance of 3,864 kilometers (2,415 miles). All totals from all flights combined, the flight from Dallas/Fort Worth to McMurdo Station, Antarctica covered 10,948 miles over 23 hours and 17 minutes.

    Upon reflection, the trip was indeed a rather long one filled with hours upon hours waiting in airport terminals with limited access to Wifi. However, I consider myself among the luckiest of passengers as there were no flight cancellations, weather delays, mechanical issues, or lost luggage to contend with. I will be honest and admit that, at times, I did find myself uttering those words generally heard during any travel excursion (Are we there yet?). However, upon landing, it was beyond satisfying to realize, “Yep, we’re here,” only to step outside and witness such an awe-inspiring sight as the backdrop from McMurdo Station, Antarctica.

    Me in Antarctica
    My arrival at McMurdo Station, Antarctica.

    Yet another way I decided to document this flight and the overall momentous occasion was through a photo collage of footsteps. I would like to acknowledge that the idea for this came from a former PolarTREC teacher, Armando Caussade, who I met at orientation in Fairbanks, Alaska earlier this year. One picture that he proudly displayed was one of his first steps taken upon reaching Antarctica. I could see how such a photo could evoke such strong memories and set to do so myself. But from a much broader perspective. This trip for me, as I thought about it, consisted of a series of firsts and lasts which are displayed in the array of footsteps in the photo collage. Starting in the upper right-hand corner, these are my first steps as I got up on the morning of October 28, 2017 followed to the left by my last steps before I left my house. In the upper left-hand corner are the first steps at DFW airport prior to boarding my first flight to Denver. Just below this photo are my last steps at LAX airport in the United States. In the lower left-hand corner are my first steps upon arrival into Auckland, New Zealand, while the photo to the immediate right are my last steps in Christchurch, New Zealand, just prior to boarding my flight to Antarctica. Of course, the final photo in the collage in the bottom right-hand corner depicts my first steps in Antarctica.

    Steps to Antarctica
    My first and last steps to Antarctica!

    Although this is my first (and most likely last) visit to Antarctica, I can promise you that these steps will be “cast in bronze” and remembered for years to come!

    Coming Up Next: In the planning of travel to any destination, checklists are common. Preparation for an upcoming trip is important so that one has an enjoyable yet safe experience. Travel to Antarctica is no different in that there are checklists to follow. But in a way it is different. Very different.

    Crary Lab
    Weather Summary
    Mostly Clear and Frigid
    1 degrees Fahrenheit
    Wind Speed
    15 knots E
    Wind Chill
    -19 degrees Fahrenheit