Getting to the South Pole

Day 1 – 2004-01-18

Caught the 08:15 from Cardiff Central to London Padington. There was a bit of a delay outside Bristol Parkway, but otherwise straightforward.

Outskirts of Swindon
The outskirts of Swindon – Click to enlarge

I arrived at Heathrow with time to spare. The flight to San Francisco arrived ahead of schedule. I had an unoccupied seat next to me, so I was relatively comfortable. The BA food wasn't very good - the red wine was dreadful.

At SFO I had the third degree from a typically obstructive imigration official. He took exception to my coming for one night, despite traveling on tickets paid for by the US government. As always, there imigration / customs system made no concessions to the principles of keeping things simple.

The courtesy bus for the Best Western took about 45 minutes to arrive, but once there, the hotel was nice enough.

Day 2 / 3 / 4 – 2004-01-19 / 2004-01-20 / 2004-01-21

San Francisco airport, from my hotel room – Click to enlarge

What a murky day. The image is enhanced - it was probably worse than this!

I phoned Helen, and then Ben, arranging to meet at check-in. I kept the room until just before 2pm, and headed for the airport. After an ice cream, and a bit of a wait, Ben turned up, with two big packages containing replacement gearboxes for the DASI elevation drive.

US officialdom strikes again! Our borading cards were maeked “SSSS”. I wasn't able to find out exactly what this means, but it's something like secondary security search. So rather than just going through the normal scanner / X-ray, we had a manual baggage check, and a wizz round with the hand-held metal detector. Must be the beard!

On the LA flight, a woman in front started to go nuts, because I had to use the stowage area above her seat for my laptop. Fortunately a stewardess calmed her down. But she did have three little children, which were a bit of a handfull.

At LA they messed up my seating request, and I ended up in a middle seat, next to Ben. But it wasn't too bad. The flight was operated by Qantas, and was a lot better than the BA flight.

On arriving at Auckland, we first had to clear immigration. Again the queue was very long, but the official was very pleasant – what a contrast with the US. After checking in our bags for the flight to Christchurch, we had to find the correct terminal – easier said than done! We found the Qantas domestic terminal on the second attempt, and the flight was unremarkable.

Since we crossed the international date line, a day went astray somewhere!

A shuttle from the airport took us to our hotels. At the Heritage, they didn't have my room ready. The promised coffee wasn't available, so they gave me a voucher for a beer at their bar.

So, I passed a few hours wandering around the town, trying the trams, looking at the old college (and Rutherford's “den” in particular, and having a bit of lunch. when I finally got into the room it was huge.

A tram Christchurch College
A tram on the city tour A part of the old college – now an arts / crafts centre

Day 5 – 2004-01-22

This was the day for getting our clothes issued at the Clothing Distribution Centre. But first I had the morning spare, so after a cooked breakfast I headed off in search of the railway station. In the event I didn't quite make it, because I got a bit lost, and ran out of time.

The clothing issue at the CDC took a while. But we had time to look around the Antarctic Experience and visit the gift shop. In the evening I went with Ben to an Indian restaurant. This was quite nice. Early to bed though, because we were due back at the CDC at 05:00.

The park The Avon
The park - College behind The Avon - well, this is Christchurch!
ECW kit Big penguin
Some of the ECW kit Meeting a giant penguin at the IAC

Day 6 – 2004-01-23

This was the day for heading off to Antarctica. A whole bunch of us took a shuttle from the Heritage to the CDC. After changing into ECW (extreme cold weather) kit, we went through the normal sort of metal detector / x-ray setup, and waited in the Antarctic Passenger Terminal for our flight. But it was very much delayed because of a fault, and eventually they swapped planes. This was a C141 transport, courtesy of the US air force. We all piled on, and were strapped in one-by-one by the load master. We took off at about 09:40. The flight lasted a little over 4 hours – thankfully not longer, as the toilet facilities are limited, to say the least!

At the APT C141 waiting
At the APT C141 waiting
About to embark About to embark
About to embark About to embark
Inside the C141 Disembarking
Inside the C141 Disembarking at Pegasus
After landing McMurdo - or Mac Town
After landing McMurdo – or “Mac Town”
Scott's hut Scott's hut
Scott's hut Scott's hut
A seal  
A seal  

Because the C141 has just wheels, not skis, it has to land on a glacier, quite a ride away from McMurdo. So it took a while for our tracked bus to get us to the base. After another briefing, we found our rooms, organized our luggage, and had some dinner.

Next I headed off with the cameras for some photo opportunities. I found Scott's hut, with a union flag flying outside. Jacob, another DASI guy, appeared, so he was able to take a few shots of me outside the hut. We found a seal. Later I saw two penguins, but at a great distance through a telescope – so no picture.

Day 7 – 2004-01-24

The final flight south was by LC130 (the Hercules variant with skis). We took a bus (big wheels instead of tracks this time, so a lot faster) up to the air strip. I forgot to keep the cameras out, so I have only a few pictures, after I managed to extract the CoolPix from the strapped-down pile of carry-on bags.

Inside the LC130 On the LC130
Inside the LC130 On the LC130
Landed at the Pole  
After landing at the South Pole  

The flight took about 3 hours (and the toilet was even more basic!). After landing at the Pole we were met by Clem Pryke. We had some lunch, another briefing, and then I crashed out on my bed. I'm sharing a room with Ben and one other guy. After a bit of a rest I took the film camera out to see the Pole markers. This finished off the film. After some dinner I crashed on the bed again, fully clothed, and woke up just before 03:00 the next day!

Back to Index

Next – At the Pole