Today we are heading South ! After some last minute preparation and saying goodbye to friends and family, I found a couple of hours sleep before our departure to Antarctica. The alarm rang at 7am, because our flight was delayed by two hours during the night. We checked in with the United States Antarctic Program and were transported on a bus to the C17 which was already waiting for us. The sun was shining down on us from a beautiful blue sky and conditions for a successful take-off seemed ideal. However, minor technical issues with the aircraft forced us to wait another hour until we could finally board.
The flight went very well and our “flight attendants” from the US Air Force kindly provided us with sandwiches and chips. After approximately four hours the shady interior of the plane became brighter as the cloud layer around the Southern Ocean cleared more and more. Other passengers gathered around the small windows to see what is happening out there. As their eyes became more used to the intense reflection of the white continent they started to smile – Antarctica welcomes us with a perfect day !
We landed straight on the ice and the cargo in the middle of the aircraft was shaking as the tires hit the frozen ground. Within a moment, the doors opened and a stream of fresh, cold air filled our lungs. The feeling when you leave the C17 and take your first step in Antarctica is overwhelming. Towards South you can see White and Black Island, followed by the Transantarctic Mountains in the West. As you turn around you face the Ross Ice Shelf in the East – its dimensions are of the size of France. But this is nothing compared to the majesty of Mount Erebus towards North. This active volcano with its glaciers and countless crevasses is dominating the entire landscape. I agree, he has his nickname “the Ice Volcano” for a good reason.
We enter the bus called IVAN who takes us within 45 minutes to Scott Base. Perfect timing for dinner at 6pm (Green chicken curry). It has comfortable -20 degree Celsius outside and almost no wind. Our arrival in Antarctica ends with a briefing about the Health and Safety requirements at base. I can’t wait for tomorrow !