What to Do When Stuck in Christchurch

Lars, Sophie, and Emma arrived safely in Christchurch on Friday and had two full days of training over the weekend. These trainings covered waste disposal protocols, fire safety and prevention, medical services, computer and network usage, and a general introduction to the United States Antarctic Program (USAP). The most gripping trainings covered health and safety on the ice: we were taught how to recognize and treat hypothermia early, the warning signs and dangers of frost bite, and how to pitch the tent and light the camp stove in our survival bags. Any person travelling off the main roads in McMurdo is given a survival bag meant to keep two people alive for three days. During the weekend we were also given our Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) gear, which included everything from our giant bunny boots and neck warmers to the “Big Red” parka and wind bib.

After all this training and gear distribution, we were more than ready to fly down to the ice on Monday, our scheduled departure date. However, no one ever said getting to Antarctica would be easy! Sunday night we learned there was a 24-hour delay due to snow buildup on the runway near McMurdo. Although disappointed, the team rallied and spent the day reviewing our field work protocols and rested up for the big journey. On Tuesday morning we were supposed to fly out bright and early, but just as we were getting ready to leave the hotel we were notified of another 24-hour delay! Again, we were disappointed but took advantage of the extra day to explore the beautiful sites Christchurch has to offer. We explored Riccarton Bush, a sanctuary for kiwis and other local birds, as well as the small coastal town of Sumner. We have made friends with other scientists and contractors who will travel to the ice with us, so all the extra time has allowed us to really get to know one another and share our science knowledge and experiences. Hopefully we will be able to fly out soon, but as they say: patience is a virtue!

Written by: Emma Weitzner

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Heather Liwanag