What could go wrong?

By Prof James Madsen

We were done getting our cold weather gear (CWG) by noon, so we took a shuttle back to our hotel. We decided to walk to downtown, the area most affected by the earthquake in 2010. While progress is evident from my visit last year, it still has a post-apocalyptic feel to it, heightened by emptiness because Monday was an official holiday honoring the New Year. We walked for about five hours, which accomplished three things. It kept us awake until a somewhat reasonable local bedtime, it tired us out so we could sleep, and we got to see the incredible after effects of a major earthquake, and how resilient people are, rebounding from catastrophe.

Robert and Laura relaxing in the warm NZ summer sunshine.
Robert and Laura relaxing in the warm NZ summer sunshine.

The next morning, we had a reasonable shuttle time, and headed to the clothing distribution center (CDC) to get our pre-deployment briefing, and redistribute any items into the appropriate bags. We got out boarding passes, gave up our boomerang bags, and then had a couple of hours to enjoy the sunshine since there were weather issues in Antrctica, and all flights were being delayed 2 hours. While we were eating lunch at the nearby Antarctic Center Café, we learned the weather worsened, and the flight was canceled.

No worries, as my UWRF colleague Suruj, who lived in Christchurch for about nine years, had suggested we go to Sumner if we had the chance. Another colleague, James Roth from the University of Delaware who had just returned from the ice the day before, joined us. It was a great day of walking again, this time along beautiful ocean front. We ended the day eating a hearty meal at the Brewer’s Arms, where we were watched James polish off a half kilo steak with a side of ostrich that he cooked on 500 degree rock at the table.

Robert, James, and Laura at a beachfront café in Sumner.
Robert, James, and Laura at a beachfront café in Sumner.

The next day was more streamlined as we didn’t need to do the preflight video. Things looked pretty promising as we boarded the plane on time, and taxied down the runway. About three and a half-hours into the flight, there was an announcement followed by the dreaded twirling of the arm, the crew member indicating we were turning back. We got boomeranged.

We stayed in the Sudima hotel this time, which is a shorty walk from the CDC. We were all tired from the flight, about 7 hours and right back where we started, so we had a nice dinner in the hotel, and called it a night.

Robert and laura ready to board, trial one.
Robert and laura ready to board, trial one.

 

Working on the front ski, an essential component!
Working on the front ski, an essential component!

he next day, we had try number three. Again, all was good until the final checkoff revealed a mechanical issue. We de-boarded and spent a couple of hours in the lounge. So far, as I write this on the plane, all is good. Next post from the ice!

Boarding, take two!
Boarding, take two!
Traveling first class!
Traveling first class!