Hobart Tasmania, Australia to McMurdo Station Antarctica.
Its 1:30am and we are sitting on the verge waiting for our bus to pick us up and take us to the famous Sapphire Lounge at the Hobart International Airport. For those of you that don’t know where Hobart Tasmania is, well its the little island state off the bottom of Australia. Tassie as us Aussie’s call it is a seriously beautiful location, with picturesque mountains and unusual to the rest of Australia it is very green. Tassie’s airport is very small, however tucked away in the corner is the Saffire Lounge, the international terminal. The only international flights that leave this airport are those that fly to most remote place on earth, Antarctica. Today I am one of those lucky few that get to not only visit this amazing continent, I get to live and work there for the summer season.
We board the AAD, (Australian Antarctic Division) A319 jet plane. I feel this sense of, is this really happening? Am I actually going to Antarctica? We are in the air, this is no ordinary flight, the cock pit is open, there are a bunch of seats in the middle of the aircraft that are missing, there are all these red bags everywhere, and everyone is chatting. Some are reminiscing of their previous expeditions, some are getting to know the other trades are some are just stunned into silence. As we settle at our cruising altitude we are able to move about the aircraft. Everyone seems to congregate in the large open area in the middle. This is so unusual, its like a lounge area, we sit down, chat amongst our selves, we have a few cups of coffee and eat our muffins. This is how air travel should be. I am asked if I wanted to have a look in the cock pit, “Um Yes!” So I walk up to the cock pit, I walk through the door and I am welcomed by the two chilled-out pilots. I sit down next to them and have a great chat. They point out a few things, like the pancake sea ice that is forming, a few small icebergs and a bunch of switches. It is amazing to look out the front window of an aircraft, then to look out and see sea ice, well it’s just breath taking.
As we start our decent, we are instructed to start putting on our survival gear. Now its starts to get really hot. I have so many layers on, of hard core Antarctic survival clothes, but I am still inside the aircraft. I look outside and I can see huge expanse of sea ice, then I see mountain and I can actually see land. I can see Antarctica! We drop below the clouds and I can see the runway. Then we land. I am now on the Frozen Continent. I step off and I am struck by the freezing -17c. My glasses instantly freeze up, my camera lens fogs up and I can feel the hair inside my nostrils freeze. I know that I am here, I am standing on Antarctica. The airstrip at McMurdo is the Pegasus Field and it is on sea ice. It is incredible that the huge A319 Aircraft can land on the sea ice. We are quickly escorted to the infamous “Ivan The Terror Bus”. This huge all terrain people carrier vehicle that looks like something from a Mad Max film, for the very slow drive to McMurdo Station.
Once at ‘Mc Town’ we are informed that we will be staying here for a few days, because of bad weather and that we will be sleeping in the gym. After setting up our camp we get to wander around the station and find our way to Scott’s Discovery Hut, and up on top of a nearby hill to have a look over the Ross Ice Shelf. There I get to see my first Seal, basking in the Antarctic sun. After our long day, we search out one of the two bars that McMurdo has and find ourselves the centre of attention. We play pool, learn a game of Shuffleboard, which has now become one of my favourite pub games, and as Aussies do, we have a few drinks.
As we leave the bar we are greeted by a perfect midnight sun. This is the first time that I have seen the midnight sun, it is out of this world beautiful. I have a moment and flip out a little. It is midnight and the sun is high in the sky, it is so bright I am forced to wear my sunnies. I am in Antarctica, it -17c, it’s midnight and the sun is shinning bright. This is going to be an EPIC summer.
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