It was a white out. However, after a 51-hour delay in Christchurch and then a noisy 6-hour flight in a US Air Force aircraft (a C-17 for the plane-spotters amongst you), we land on the sea ice by Ross Island. It was evident that sea ice was not particularly healthy for this time of the year, and it was only recently that the airstrip had to be moved because of an unexpected crack in the ice.
Walking off the plane into the sunny white landscape felt like a surreal dreamland and I needed a hit of that cold fresh breeze to remind me to take a breath. We were then quickly taken with our baggage from the icy airstrip and transported to the Scott Base, passing various vehicles which looked like they were taken from the film Transformers. Aside from personal items like a laptop, camera, etc., our kit is a lengthy list; 2x upper & lower merino thermals, fleece top & bottoms, 4x jackets, salopettes, 3x boots, 8x pairs of gloves, 2x balaclavas, 4x pairs of socks, 2x neck gaiters, headband, 2x sunglasses, ski goggles, beanie, woolly cap, drinks bottle, sewing kit, ice axe and climbing gear. Beauty products are also surprisingly vital in the Antarctic, with moisturiser being a highly appreciated item against the extremely cold, dry winds (and if you manage to get some ladies moisturiser with added sun-protection, you’re smiling). So I’m well stocked.
Life at Scott Base is well-facilitated, with comfortable rooms and living areas, an all-you-can-eat canteen, gym, gift shop, museum, library, dvd lounge and a very cheap bar, in addition to all the science labs and logistical sections. All windows have amazing views of the surrounding mountains and ice as well as a family of Weddell seals who reside a short distance from the base. I’m slowly getting used to 24-hour daylight, but I need a watch to have any idea of the time.
Having done some survival training, tonight we camp out somewhere on Ross Island to test ourselves. Weather looks good, only about -20 degrees C. Hopefully I’ll be back in the morning.