Faults in Ice and Rock

John Jacobsen
Monday, January 3, 2011

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Earlier post Bardo southpole

Later post Red Eye to McMurdo southpole

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My stay here in Christchurch may be a short one. Arrived yesterday afternoon to the heat of high summer and found out directly that our clothing date would be this evening — and that we were scheduled to fly immediately after receiving our cold weather gear. That gives just over a day here, which is shorter than I might have liked, but which might result in arriving at the Pole and getting settled in sooner, which would also be nice.

The flight schedule has been screwy, apparently because of cracks in the ice runway at Pegasus airfield. Some folks have been here in Christchurch for 10 days waiting for a flight (lengthy delays or even cancelled trips are an ever-present danger when traveling to Antarctica). Another advantage to reaching McMurdo tonight would be to avoid such a fate. I once stayed here for a week while waiting for a part to arrive for a C-130; it was a nice vacation, but my stay at the Pole will be short enough that to lose 10 days would be a bit of a setback.

Speaking of cracks, I felt a small earthquake yesterday just after arriving (we also had one in Chicago last week, followed by a Thunderstorm on New Year’s Eve!). Evidence of the big earthquake which hit in September is everywhere, mostly in the form of scaffolding, missing buildings, and friendly signs saying DO NOT APPROACH OR ENTER THIS BUILDING.

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It is nice to smell New Zealand again. Pictures and words can convey a bit of the feeling of being here, but I realized yesterday after leaving the International Terminal in Auckland how much of my experience here is tied up in smells. Part of that may have been reinforced by the repeated shock of going from the Pole, where smells of burning fuel, body odors, stale beer, steel, and various synthetic things dominate, to the opulent, moist smells of the late summer air in Christchurch. Even my hotel, the Devon, has its own distinctive and instantly recognizable smells, whether from the flowers outside, the cleaning substances they use, or some combination of the two.

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I am a bit jet lagged, but slept well. Sleeping the whole night, with the windows open and the breeze blowing in, with no screens and only the occasional electric tram going by, was lovely. Tonight what little sleep I get may be on a C-17, bundled up in my red parka with a bunch of similarly-attired humans and God knows what sort of cargo. Or, the schedule may slip and I may sleep in a real bed again… we shall see.

Earlier post Bardo southpole

Later post Red Eye to McMurdo southpole

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