Never did I think I would be flying to Antarctica on an executive charter. We had power outlets, snacks, and drink service. We also only had 30 people so, after all piling into the back of the plane so that it would take off, we spread out and everyone got a row to stretch out on.
After we got into the air, the captain made an announcement that the cabin door would be open the whole flight and we should come say hello if we feel so inclined. No. Way.
Needless to say, I didn’t do much stretching out on the flight to McMurdo because I was too busy sipping my flat white and bombarding the pilots with questions. They were very patient with the 3 of us who refused to leave them alone and were incredibly friendly. They even turned out the lights for a while so we could stargaze through the cockpit window and watch the simultaneous sunrise and moonset, my last for the next 6 weeks.
As the glow got brighter, I went back to my row to get a few hours of sleep. I was careful to set my alarm so that I could be awake to watch as we came over the ice. At 5am I was back in the cockpit, camera in hand, watching the sea ice pass below. We crossed. After several hundred miles, the clouds set in, but in the meantime we were able to pick out the bottom of the Dry Valleys, ice-covered volcanos and ice streams. What an incredible sight.
As we descended, I took my seat and the clouds set in. I was getting a little concerned about the weather as we approached; flights have been known to “boomerang” only an hour from the runway because they’re unable to land. Boomeranging at that point would have meant another 4.5 hours back to Christchurch and a NZ Christmas without most of our luggage which would remain with the plane.
I was thrilled when we touched down. Everyone got back into their ECW gear to deplane and it was so awesome being able to step out onto the ice. That day was the coldest it’s been since I arrived, but I was enjoying it too much to be bothered.
We boarded Ivan the Terrabus for the 90 minute trip back to McMurdo, listening to Terrabus parodies over the radio the whole way.