I knew that when I was confirmed as a participant in an Antarctic field season that what I would experience would amaze me, but I hadn’t figured that even the journey to the ice would be this incredible. After 36 hours of flying, layovers and running between terminals our team finally arrived at our gateway to the snowy south: Christchurch, New Zealand. Before we even set foot on the ground the interactions with the flight attendants, embankment videos and strangers who would start up conversations radiated warmth.
The energy of Christchurch has a way of simultaneously relaxing and energizing your spirit. The city mirrored the culture of the people with the vibrancy of street art, modern architecture and the commanding presence of vegetation that seemed to demand a return to nature. On our first day here my team, Allie Balter, Tyler Pollock, and I went exploring in the city’s lush Botanical gardens that are located close to the heart of the city. The flowers and trees were blossoming in a grandeur that I have not experienced in New England. Meandering through what felt like miles of park with elaborate rose gardens, green houses and even giant red wood we eventually made it to the city center. As we continued to roam there were nothing but friendly faces and the occasional art sculpture or mural to offer a warm or interesting perspective, including non-other but the city wizard. The nearby mountains often found their way into the view of the cityscape in stark contrast to the buildings. On one of our days when flying was not an option, scientists whom we had become acquainted with at our hotel joined us for a gondola ride and hike along the Bridle path after a quick lunch in the square where “Food truck Friday” was in full operation.
Mixed in with the excitement of discovering a new and interesting place were trainings and clothes fittings for our upcoming trip to Antarctica. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the day that I was finally able to don my first “Big Red” down jacket with the USAP logo embroidered on it. The trainings and friendly staff at the USAP center heightened my excitement for our trip and soon I was counting down the hours until I could see the C-130 that would be carrying us down to McMurdo. Our loadmaster was from my hometown’s airbase in New York and was a sight for sore eyes for our troop of tired but hopeful scientists as we boarded the vessel. What a beast that plane was. One look inside and you knew we were bound for adventure. Exposed wire and jump seats, with the cargo secured right in front of you. It was the most amazing ride of my life. The whole plane vibrated and was filled with the roar of the dual engines as we strapped in for an eight hour ride.