Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The South Pole Achieved!

Check-in time for today’s South Pole Flight was at 0845 so it was another leisurely morning. A Delta passenger truck carried us three passengers along with the flight crew of six. We boarded the LC-130 Hercules at noon but one of the engines failed at power up and it took two hours to replace the fuel switch on that engine. In the meantime I talked with the pilot who invited me up to the cockpit for the flight.

What a thrill! I sat on the flight deck with the pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer, and navigator. It was a pretty bumpy take off on the skids but soon we were airborne and the magnificent continent came into a view very few people see. About 1 ½ hours later we reached the Trans-Antarctic mountain range and what a sight to behold. As we crossed the TA, as they are called, at 15,000 feet I wondered how Amundsen and Scott crossed these mountains to reach the South Pole. Soon we were flying over flat ice steadily rising to 10,000. The LC-130 altitude increased to compensate for the ice rise.

After three hours the South Pole was in sight and we made an exciting landing. I said my goodbyes to the crew and stepped onto the South Pole ice. The engines stayed running as the plane can only sit on the ground for 30 minutes before having to take off again. It’s a harsh environment on anything mechanical especially aircraft.

I was met by two of my new co-workers who immediately took my bags and made me welcome. Once inside the station the three of us went to a quick orientation then assigned our rooms. Two of us huffed and puffed as we climbed one set of stairs and I thought - altitude sickness. Yes, I have it. It’s like a bad hangover. The air pressure put the altitude at 10,500 feet. The station recommends drinking 5 liters of water a day and plenty of rest.

A Delta.

Mt. Erebus as seen from Pegasus Airfield.

The airfield restroom.

The firehouse.

One of two control towers. I sure like the tracked truck.

Passenger terminal.

My chariot awaits.

My luggage is on this pallet.

Only Three of us.

Working on one of the engines.

On the flight deck - the flight engineer in front of me and the pilot to the left.

On the way to the South Pole.

The navigator.

The Trans-Antarctic Mountain Range.

At the South Pole.

I'm hunched over on the flight deck as there is no headroom for me.

The South Pole achieved!

Amundsen - Scott South Pole Station. My home for the next 10 months. My room is in the last wing on the right.

A highlight of my life. What a privilege and honor.

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