Red Eye to McMurdo

John Jacobsen
Wednesday, January 5, 2011

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Earlier post That’s the Way southpole

Later post Revolution Number Nine southpole

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As we began our descent to Pegasus Airfield, it finally came to me, bleary-eyed after a brief but intense bout with REM sleep, why we had left Christchurch at the unholy hour of 11 PM rather than something more civilized. I had chalked it up to the whimsical vagaries of military flight schedules (picturing some tough hombre of a McMurdo Ops flight sergeant displaying active and deliberate lack of consideration for everyone’s sleep schedule). The clue, though, was that the previous day’s flight also left at the same time — I realized that they were probably putting us down when the runway would be hardest, most frozen. The reason for the 10-day delay for the previous groups going in was a soft ice runway. In other words, by scheduling us as a red-eye, they were simply keeping us safe, and indeed, we landed just fine — though I could see the “softness” (gaping holes, actually) in the ice just off to the side as we approached the dirt road to Scott Base.

C-17 Flight Deck En Route to McMurdo Station, Antarctica from John Jacobsen on Vimeo.

The flight had its moments, despite the increasing aches, pains and mental fogginess caused by the sleeplessness and discomfort of multiple transoceanic night flights. I got up to the flight deck and talked to one of the airmen for a bit. He was clearly excited to be flying this particular mission; postings to Antarctica are apparently highly sought after and this was the 7th continent he had flown a C17 to — repeated deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan being the norm.

McMurdo seems (in what little I have seen of it — I slept for five hours after breakfast) exactly like I left it in 2009. After dinner and “bag drag” (carrying ourselves and our gear up the hill to the Movement Control Center for weighing and palletization of the cargo), I hope to walk around and take some more pictures.

In short, we are here, safe, even slightly rested, and ready to fly to the South Pole tomorrow.

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Earlier post That’s the Way southpole

Later post Revolution Number Nine southpole

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