It’s been just over 28 hours in Antarctica and my did we hit the ground running!
On our flight we had a contingent of VIPs including Nick Gale (the director of the AAD), Tony Press (legend of ACECRC), Emma Johnston (Dean of Science at UNSW and President of STA), and other directors and guests of the Antarctica Foundation. Everyone on the plane (be it their 10th time or first) was hugging the windows photographing the sea ice and taking selfies galore. The vibe was excitement all ’round.
When we touched down at Wilkins Aerodrome the VIPs were hurried out on a Basler (no idea of spelling, it’s a fixed wing aircraft that isnt the twin otter). Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough space for the nVIPs (not very important personal), so instead of a 30min flight we had a 3 hour bus ride. Turns out though, we scored the inaugural ride in Terra (aka big red bus, aka red dog, aka terra bus, aka Queen of the Desert [my suggestion]). Terra is a 6 wheeled monster-truck bus that had been flown down a few weeks before and replaces the old bus Priscila.
On arrival we went straight to an induction in Odeon (a conference/movie room which has these couches seemingly straight out of a gold class cinema), did a tour of the station, had dinner (curry!), did some unpacking, then crashed hard in our adorable rooms. We each get our own room, which is fantastic, and we’ve been put in the East Wing – the newest of the accommodations. In fact, Nev (the head builder) finished them and the bathrooms the day we arrived! They still have that new car (?) smell.
In the morning we ventured forth to the lab. Turns out they’re real labs with a laminar flow, milli-q, fume hoods, temperature control cabinets, etc. Pretty impressive set up for a remote desolate continent. We had the VIPs pop in for a visit and a chat. We espoused the benefits of our work and the importance of it to Australia’s (and the rest of the world’s) work in Antarctica. I think they enjoyed it. The rest of the day was briefings, planning, unpacking, and meetings.
By 5pm we all were buggered. It didn’t feel like we had done much in the day but I feel like I’ve been here a week already! The AAD have prioritised us for survival training, so we’re off tomorrow from 0830 until Saturday morning on ‘survival training’. We get to trek to Shirley Island, where I hear there’s a colony of Adelie penguins and a seal or two, and we have to camp out overnight in a bivvy somewhere. It means we can then go on boat trips (and recreational trips) beyond the station limits, so it gives us a bit more freedom to do the work we need to. It also sounds like a bunch of fun – especially since the weather has been outrageously decent.