Today at 9:00 am I was picked up at the Pavilions hotel by a shuttle bus and taken to the United States Antarctic Program (USAP) offices here in Christchurch, New Zealand. It is a requirement for anyone traveling with the USAP to report here first, in order to attend orientation and also to pick up the cold weather gear issued by USAP.
At my arrival I met Hans and James who are also heading to the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, as well as other people that will be working with different research projects that are currently been carried out at the Pole. There were maybe a dozen people in all who, like me, also reported to the USAP.
We had already been assigned our extreme cold weather (ECW) clothing which comes packed into two large orange bags. I tried it on right away and fortunately everything was the right fit. They knew what would be right for me since I had filled in a special form on clothing sizes two months before my departure. A few people had to exchange a couple of items, though, which can be easily done through the on-site warehouse.
As part of orientation we all sat down and watched four short videos for about half an hour, which emphasized travel logistics and safety precautions, as well as the stringent ecological regulations that are in effect in Antarctica. Briefings like these are required to all who travel to Antarctica, before ever setting foot on the continent. Afterwards, we got through other requirements such as medical and information technology clearances. Later on, around noon, we moved to the computer room from which Hans and I will be posting to the web.
We will be released later on in the day and get back to the hotel. And of course, we have been asked to report back here again tomorrow (Tuesday, January 6) at 6:30 am, to prepare for our flight to McMurdo station in the Antarctica coast. After a day or so there, we will catch yet another airplane which will take us to the South Pole.
Since this journal was posted so early in the day, around noon, I wanted to add a few notes. Hans and I left for lunch very late, around 2:00 pm, and took a number of pictures as we left the International Antarctic Center where the USAP offices are located. We got back after a quick meal and did not leave until about 4:00 pm, as we still had things to do.
At 5:30 pm we met with James—who was also staying at Pavilions—and all three went for a walk in downtown Christchurch, as the hotel is conveniently located just a few blocks from all the main attractions. We walked down Papanui Road, stopping for a few pictures next to the clock tower at the crossroad with Victoria street. We continued down to Avon River and leisurely walked all over downtown for at least a couple of hours.
We had a very enjoyable chat and dinner around sunset, at an open air restaurant, returning to the hotel around 10:00 pm.
Hoy a las 9:00 am salí mediante autobús del hotel Pavillions en la ciudad de Christchurch, Nueva Zelandia, con destino a las oficinas del Programa Antártico de los Estados Unidos (USAP, por sus siglas en inglés), localizadas en esta misma ciudad. Este trámite es requerido para todo el que viaje a la Antártida bajo el auspicio del USAP. Allí me encontré con Hans y con James —cuyo propósito es también el de trabajar en IceCube— así como otras personas vinculadas a los muchos proyectos vigentes en el polo sur.
Lo primero que hicimos fue probarnos la ropa y abrigos que nos habían asignado, la cual nos fue entregada inmediatamente y venía empacada en dos grandes bultos de color naranja. Me probé todo y la talla resultó perfecta, aunque algunos tuvieron que cambiar y solicitar otras tallas.
Nos presentaron cuatro vídeos informativos y completamos ademas los requerimientos médicos y de informática. La orientación se centró fundamentalmente en las medidas de seguridad necesarias en el polo y en la logística de vuelo. Luego me dirigí a la sala de cómputos, donde me acompañó Hans, y en la cual permaneceremos para publicar información en la web.
Si todo sale bien, mañana (martes, 6 de enero) a las 6:30 am retornaremos a estas oficinas para tomar el vuelo que nos conducirá a la estación de McMurdo en la costa de la Antártida. Al día siguiente deberíamos tomar otro avión que finalmente nos transportará al polo sur.