The Journey to Antarctica

The southern tip of South America is the closest land to Antarctica and the Argentinian City Ushuaia probably the most famous platform for journeys (in general by boat) to Antarctica. However, we travel through New Zealand which is closer to our target area near McMurdo Station and we go there by plane.

Most tourist journeys to Antarctica start from South America and visit the area around the Antarctic Peninsula, but research trips can go through different hubs, depending where you want to go and under which country you do your research. The US programs have two main access points to Antarctica: Punta Arenas in Chile for expeditions around the peninsula including Palmer Station, and Christchurch in New Zealand for expeditions to McMurdo and South Pole station (see picture). The access route through Christchurch is the bigger one as it allows access to a larger area of Antarctica.

USAP Transportation routes

USAP Transportation routes to Antarctica [source: USAP Participant Guide]

I take off from Switzerland from where I take the route eastwards via Australia to New Zealand. In Christchurch, two days are needed before we can take off to Antarctica/McMurdo. The most important point here is grabbing the personal field equipment like gloves, hats, pants, jackets, boots, sleeping bag and mattresses. We have to bring our long underwear, socks and maybe some insulation layers, but the rest is provided. That’s a great service we can enjoy and makes the travel to Christchurch much less painful because you don’t have to accommodate this 10 kg of equipment in your luggage. How much you still have to pack can be learned from Matt Siegfried’s Nature Blog and his funny video (I love the rabbit! 🙂 ).

Christchurch is also the place where I meet the first members of my crew, but where you also could be hold back to go to Antarctica in case of a health issue. If something has appeared since the preparatory health checks, you are asked to report them and you could be forced to go to a doctor to clarify your situation before they let you continue. If you are unlucky, it could even mean you have to turn around and forget about Antarctica for now.

My flight with a US Air force transportation jet (C-17 or similar – yesyesyes!) to McMurdo is scheduled for the 9th of November, however, about 50% of all scheduled flights are changed, so chances are big the flight takes off a day or two later. In McMurdo we have about one week to go through several trainings before they let us go to our field work site Taylor Glacier.

Our program covers 7-8 weeks of field work, whereas some people of the crew are being exchanged (like me) after half of it. This exchange is the only scheduled crew transportation between McMurdo station and Taylor Glacier during the season, which means we are all staying and living on the glacier for the duration of our field work. This means also no showers, no internet, no laundry, no… but more to that later… (and also about what we do and why we do it and…. many things to report! – looking forward)

We leave the glacier in early December and go for another few days back to McMurdo to pack samples we have obtained from the glacier. Via Christchurch it goes than again back to reality.

Cheers, Bernhard

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One Comment on “The Journey to Antarctica

  1. Hi Berni
    I wish you a “confortable” stay on the glacier and successful research work.
    Take care, Pa

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