The team successfully made it to Christchurch, New Zealand, today after 16 hours of travel. We flew from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles, then onto Auckland, New Zealand (~13hr flight), and finally Christchurch (~1.5 hrs). In the process we completelly missed the 18th of November (we left on the 17th and arrived on the 19th) – that’s what happens when you cross the international dateline!
This is our spot map so far – if you want to see more click on the Spot us! tab above
Christchurch is the logistics hub for the United States, New Zealand and Italian Antarctic research programs. From here we will get kitted out with all our polar clothing (tomorrow). Christchurch will also be our departure point for Antarctica. On Monday, we are scheduled to fly from Christchurch to McMurdo base aboard a C-17 Galaxy military transport plane (more about that soon!).
Christchurch has a long history of supporting Antarctic research and expeditions. Robert Scott provisioned his ships here during the Discovery 1901-04 and Terra Nova 1910-13 expedition. He took on board everything: hay to feed his ponies; coal to power the ship as well as food and building materials. You can find more about Robert Scott here
There is a memorial to Robert Scott and his men near downtown Christchurch. It commemorates their valiant efforts in reaching the South Pole and their unfortunate deaths on their return journey just a few days walk from their base. The memorial also recognizes the important role that Scott and his men played in pioneering Antarctic research – as well as being explorers, Scott’s expeditions undertook research on a wide variety of subjects – from geology to biology to zoology to meteorology.
Scott’s memorial used to look like this:
Unfortunately it was severely damaged during the 22nd February earthquake that struck Christchurch. Here is a photos of it after the earthquake.
Today we also had a chance to walk around downtown Christchurch. As maybe some of you will know much of downtown Christchurch was devastated by a series of earthquakes during 2010-2011. On the 4th of September 2010, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake occurred at 10 kilometers depth. This caused widespread damage but fortunately no deaths. On the 22nd of February, 2011 a magnitude 6.3 aftershock struck just to the north of Lyttelton, the city’s harbour. This earthquake was very shallow, at only 5km depth. This caused violent shaking, and is amongst the most intense shaking ever recorded in an urban area. Unfortunately, this earthquake resulted in the deaths of 181 people and many buildings and landmarks were severely damaged. On the 13th of June two more large aftershocks occurred, and although more building damage occurred, no more lives were lost.
Much of downtown Christchurch has only recently re-opened, and there are several areas that are still cordoned off because they are too unsafe for people to enter. We found visiting the outer part of downtown to be a pretty sobering experience. It certainly looks quite different to Christchurch that some of us remember. There are also new ‘container shops’ constructed of stacked shipping containers – very post modern! Many of the locals we spoke to were upbeat about the city’s prospects, but it must be difficult for anyone who hasn’t experienced them first hand to really comprehend what these events were truly like to go through. Here are a few pictures of what we saw: