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The Best of the Seven Continents!

MCMURDO STATION, ANTARCTICA– On November 18th, we actually got the go ahead to head south! Our C-17 airplane was ready and the weather at McMurdo had finally cleared, allowing us a small window to make the journey to Antarctica! As with any travel on an airplane, it was quite involved and we needed to arrive early at the departure terminal.

Once at the terminal we had to weigh all of our bags and ourselves! Let’s just say it is a shock when you weigh yourself with an extra 40+ pounds of emergency cold weather gear and your carry-on! We were then given a boarding card and had to sit in a small theatre and watch a safety video! After waiting for an hour or so we got the green light to go through the security area and onto a bus. A short ride to the runway and there was our airplane! I think my jaw dropped when I saw the C-17! Soon I would be on a plane heading to Antarctica!

Outside of the Antarctica Departure terminal with my boarding pass.

The C-17 we flew to McMurdo Station, Antarctica

Luckily, our flight was loaded with cargo and the passenger load was minimal. In total there were 11 people, not including the loadmasters and flight crew. Normally the planes are crowded with 50+ people and cargo but we lucked out! These planes are incredible. It felt like sitting inside of a giant electronic whale stomach! Weird I know but there were wires, straps, gadgets and metal EVERYWHERE! The seats came out of the wall of the plane and there were only four small windows on this huge plane! You also have to wear earplugs because it is so noisy!

Here is our luggage on a pallet, ready to go to the ice.

Here is a strange shot of the ceiling of the airplane.

After five hours in the air we were finally descending! The clouds in the sky and the ice were seamless, creating a blanket of white. We were almost there! Soon the plane rumbled and we were gliding down a sea ice runway! Image that, a huge plane landing on sea ice! After we taxied for about 15 minutes, the door opened and we stepped off into the white magic that is Antarctica. The emotions and excitement were overwhelming. The view was truly breathtaking. Glacier-flanked Mt. Erebus, the southernmost active volcano in the world, loomed over the ice and the mountains seemed to just pop right out of the sea ice! I was standing in Antarctica and have now visited all seven continents on this fascinating planet. It is such a privilege to have an opportunity to conduct research on such a vast, remote, and untouched continent. With such a spectacular welcome to the ice I am confident that this trip is bound to be awe-inspiring and spectacular at every turn! Stayed tuned as the excitement continues!

The view from the plane door as we took on first steps onto the sea ice.

Heidi’s first minute in Antarctica! Let the icy adventure begin!
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