Laura’s Amazing Journey: Getting There

By Laura Moon Parmeter  (UWRF Undergraduate in Physics)

Wow, what an amazing trip so far! The flight over to Sydney was 17 hours, but I slept through most of it so it flew by. Once in Sydney I changed into some summer clothes and sandals and headed out to Circular Quay to see the Opera House and the botanical gardens. The idea of walking around all day after a long flight didn’t sound too bad… but my feet thought differently. My feet were not used to wearing sandals so I arrived back to the airport with four blisters on my feet…. Well worth it if you ask me. Sydney is beautiful! Then I was off to New Zealand.

The Opera House in Sydney
The Opera House in Sydney, Australia

I didn’t know too much about New Zealand before arriving but a few things surprised me. The country is so clean and the people are so polite! Although Christchurch is a big city it has a small-town feel. We were able to go to the Sumner beach one day when our flight to the Ice was cancelled. It wasn’t the warmest of days so we tried to stay in the sun as much as possible to keep warm. Silly me, I forgot it was summer and the New Zealand sun is harsh! My face got so sun burnt it was swollen for the next two days. But the beach was gorgeous! This is definitely a country I would like to come back to,  I didn’t even get to see the mountains!

Sumner Beach, Christchurch, New Zealand.
Sumner Beach, Christchurch, New Zealand.

We were first scheduled to fly to the ice on Tuesday but that flight got cancelled due to bad weather (that was the day we went to the beach). Wednesday we got on the plane and flew halfway there and had to come back (boomeranged). Thursday we got on the plane for 5 min and then had to get off for maintenance issues. Luckily they got it fixed and we were up in the air in no time. We actually made it to the ice that day! So we got the full experience of cancelled flight, boomeranged, and maintenance issues. Wouldn’t change a thing about this experience.

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The C-130 that took us to the ice.
Robert Zill, Laura, and Prof Madsen at McMurdo Station in Antarctica.
Robert Zill, Laura, and Prof Madsen at McMurdo Station in Antarctica.

We finally made it to the ice! And no I have not seen any penguins yet :(.  The ice breaker ship is coming in though, so the marine life will have a path to McMurdo station.

The C-130 that took us to the ice.
The C-130 that took us to the ice.
The ice breaker ship approaching.
The ice breaker ship approaching.

McMurdo station feels a lot bigger than I expected it to be. To be honest I feel like I’m up in a small town in Wisconsin in the middle of winter. Everyone knows everyone. The only difference is there’s no snow. The ground is mostly black rock from the volcano that’s close by. We should be able to see it from the top of Observation Hill. So far we’ve only taken a hike around the hill and haven’t gone up. We’re waiting for a clear day, hopefully tomorrow.

Hike around Observation Hill.
Hike around Observation Hill.
Living on the edge.
Living on the edge.
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The wind was so strong, I had to stand like this for a moment just to take it in.

Cos-Ray Lab is about a 25 min walk from McMurdo. Dr Madsen thought it would be good for Robert and me to hike it, “so we can get the full Antarctic experience.” He forgot to tell us that it’s all mostly up hill! It wouldn’t be that bad if we were in normal hiking weather conditions… but it’s super cold here and super windy, so we have to wear our big parkas, wind pants, and these 20 lbs boots. Ok I might be exaggerating, but every step up hill they feel heavier and heavier. Dr Madsen does have a point though, the views on top of the hill are breathtaking.

Pictures don’t do it justice!
Pictures don’t do it justice!

At Cos-Ray we were able to get our more urgent work done. One of the neutron monitor tubes was acting up and we fix that. We were then able to move that bare tube to a different location so we could collect as much data as we can while we are here. Then we will move it back when we get ready to leave.

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Cos-Ray is the longest continuously running experiment in Antarctica. People used to have to winter over in that building so there are some interesting items left over from them.

Someone painted this masterpiece in 1980.
Someone painted this masterpiece in 1980.

We are supposed to leave for the Pole on Wednesday. The weather is always unpredictable so we’ll see what happens and we’ll let you know.

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