I’m late getting this blog started, but I figured I’d start at the beginning anyway so I can share more of the pictures I’ve taken since I left the states on Monday, December 17.
Things started with the journey from Austin to Christchurch. I was travelling with two other students and our flights took us from Austin to LA to Sydney to Auckland to Christchurch. Not the most direct path available, but probably the cheapest for the U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP). The flights were more or less uneventful, save for one possible security breach in LA when someone who had checked a bag didn’t board the plane. After much searching, the bag was removed and we were on our way. It was a solid 15 hour flight, but I was comfortable and the movie selection was great. Being short on long flights is really the way to go, since I had no problem stretching out and putting my feet up.
We arrived in Christchurch on the evening of Wednesday, December 19 local time. We got a quick brief at the airport from a USAP spokesperson and then took a shuttle to the Elms Hotel, where we were all staying. That was our first glimpse of the earthquake damage from February 2011. The front half of the hotel had collapsed and was under heavy construction during our stay and the remainder of the building was surrounded by scaffolding. The office staff was working out of a cargo container since the lobby had been destroyed. It was an interesting experience, but everyone seemed in good spirits despite the situation.
When we arrived at the hotel, we found out our scheduled plans had been pushed back, but lines got crossed when we were told exactly how much. We were told to report to the Clothing Distribution Center (CDC) at 2200 the next day, which we assumed to be a strange new time to, you know, distribute our clothing. Turns out it was actually the report time for our flight and we nearly missed the 9am pickup time to go to the CDC to get fitted for our Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) gear. Luckily we made it just in time for the shuttle to the CDC.
At the CDC we had to go through waste management and IT security training before getting our clothes. When the training was done, we went into the changing rooms where 2 orange bags had been prepared with clothes based on measurements we provided to the program earlier. At that point we had to try everything on to check for sizes. We were given heavy boots, carhart overalls, lots of socks, several different weights of long underwear, a variety of fleeces, mittens gloves, glove liners, hats, and a neck gaiter. This is also when we got the iconic red parka. I ended up with a size XXS, so keep that in mind when you see pictures of me drowning in it.
Before we left the CDC, we already heard that our scheduled departure had slipped an hour to midnight. Little did we know, that was the beginning of many flight changes.