There are a few steps to getting to the TransAntarctic mountains, which are our final destination…as you can imagine, Antarctica is not the easiest place to get to.
Firstly, we have to get from California, to Christchurch, New Zealand, then to McMurdo Sound, Antarctica.
Christchurch is located in the South Island of New Zealand, and is where the United States Antarctic Program (USAP) and Antarctica New Zealand are based, and where all US and NZ Antarctic travellers leave from. (It’s also where the big earthquakes were earlier this year and last year).
Our first leg is to fly from Santa Barbara (via Los Angeles) to Auckland (a 12 hour flight – you can see Auckland near the top of the North Island) and then from Auckland to Christchurch (about 1 1/2 hours).
We arrive in Christchurch and go visit the people at the USAP to get all our gear. (Look out for an update once we get to New Zealand to see what we’ll be wearing.) Once we’ve got everything ready, filled out all our paperwork, we’re ready to go on the next flight. We can never know exactly when this will be, as it depends on the weather. If its too windy, or too cold, or too snowy, we’ll have to wait for the weather to clear.
The flights to Antarctica are run by the US Airforce, so the plane is a bit different from what you’d expect on a normal commercial flight. We’ll be flying on a C-17 Globemaster plane which looks like this:
There aren’t really proper seats inside, or any flight attendants! For take off and landing everyone has to sit on seats which are bolted to the floor around the cargo, and then after takeoff we can go and find a more comfortable place to sit/lie – on the cargo or on a box. The flight takes about 6 hours depending on the wind, so its not really that comfortable! As you can see, there isn’t a lot of room!
Once we arrive in Antarctica, we’ll be staying firstly at McMurdo which is the American base (just around the corner, about 2 miles away is Scott Base, which is the New Zealand base).
While we’re at McMurdo, we’ll collect all our food supplies and load them into big wooden boxes. Then, we’ll take a helicopter flight to our field area. We’re heading into TransAntarctic mountains which are here: