Greetings from chilly, rainy, but lovely Christchurch, New Zealand!
This may come as a surprise if you were expecting me to be in Antarctica already – believe me, I expected to be there already as well. It’s looking like my new ice flight date should be sometime later this weekend or early next week.
I’ve been told throughout the process that I should be ready to roll with the punches and take things in stride, and my time so far in Christchurch has certainly reinforced this.
The process of orchestrating hundreds of people flying to Antarctica, in winter, for the first time in months, in the era of COVID, with all the personnel, equipment, logistical, policy, environmental, public health, safety, and other considerations, has been… full of surprises.
As a newbie to the program, I obviously don’t know all the details behind the scenes. But from the bits I’ve heard, this is really quite a complex operation. I know everyone is doing the best they can get us down to McMurdo safely.
Earlier this week was a travel frenzy – 25.5 hours on flights, 30 hours door-to-door of flights and ground transportation. Transfers, customs, NZ biosecurity. Finding a deserted corner of the airport to take my mask off to eat. Explaining the visa situation over and over again to airport personnel. Packing and re-packing to meet NZ airport security guidelines (they took my spare AA batteries, but I’ll survive). Ground transport. COVID testing. Then, finally, well-deserved sleep.
And now? I’ve had several days now in hotels here. We’ve had online Zoom trainings and orientation meetings, but plenty of time for relaxation. For COVID safety reasons, they’re trying to keep us in our rooms as much as possible.
This also means I’m surviving primarily on room service food! Golden syrup granola with banana, kiwifruit, yoghurt, and toasted sunflower seeds: 5/5, delicious and contains actual fruit. Margherita pizza: 1/5, why did I think room service pizza at 3pm would be any good? I deserved to be disappointed here.
I’ve had a chance to take a few walks around town, but unfortunately without the ability to stop anywhere, eat at restaurants, or enjoy much of what Christchurch has to offer. Such is the reality of high-stakes travel in the world of COVID.
When I’m not out enjoying my little walks around town, I’m keeping busy prepping for Antarctica and watching silly YouTube videos. Connecting to the Internet from New Zealand has given me a brand new set of auto-recommended news, music, and YouTube suggestions, so there’s plenty to do. Right now my primary task is finding and downloading books for my Kindle, so I have something to do when I’m finally in the land of slow Internet.
Oh – and making very mediocre lattes in the hotel room, with a knockoff Nespresso machine and boxed milk. I’m gradually starting to lower my coffee expectations, in preparation for the instant coffee from the McMurdo galley.
More updates as I have them!
Ice flight in (???) days.