2 January 2010
Scott and Shackleton's Last Port of Call En-route to History
Posted by Dan Satterfield
Ann Posegate and I are taking the weekend here in Christchurch to practice with our video and camera equipment. We head to Antarctica on Tuesday morning. Trip of a lifetime.
Everyone we meet here who learn our true destination is jealous! I bought some stuffed penguins at the gift shop and the clerk asked if I was headed to the ice. When I told her yes, she gave me a 20% off discount card and said we take care of you science types down here!
It’s only a 5 hour plane ride but there are no tourist facilities. The closest you can easily get to the ice is the Antarctic Peninsula (by cruise ship) and even they are being very strictly regulated now. The interior has a climate so harsh, that few want to visit. The science there is unique. We can measure the true background greenhouse gas levels, and at the South Pole, telescopes can see things not possible elsewhere. The elevation there (Over 2800 meters) and the very cold/dry air make it possible.
Antarctica belongs to no one and everyone. The NSF science facilities are governed by the Antarctic Treaty signed by over 30 nations. It’s very restrictive. I cannot even bring back a pebble! No closer than 5 meters to the penguins – I hear they come to you though. (If you can stand the smell!)
The NSF has worked very hard to give us a tour of almost EVERY bit of science being done on the ice and we are just as interested in meeting the scientists who are doing it as we are in hearing about it.
Scientists love to share what they are working on. Just like we meteorologists, they will talk about our job all day if you give us the chance. My wife will tell you to be very careful about giving that chance, too!
I had an email from Barbara Harbuck who works at McMurdo medical. She calls Arab, Alabama home. Small world! I am looking forward to meeting her.
We took a bus to the Christchurch Gondola and paid 25 NZD to go to the top! Very well worth it. We could see the little harbour town of Lyttelton.
It was from here that Robert Scott last picked up provisions for his attempt at the pole in 1911. He made it a few days after Amundsen, but unlike Amundsen he did not return alive. Shackleton and the Endurance stopped here as well.
The Endurance was of course crushed in ice and his trek to South Georgia Island is still ranked as the greatest survival story of all time. It took them two years, but not one man was lost! If you’ve never seen the movie called THE ENDURANCE you should look for it. To me, Shackleton was the greatest of all the polar explorers.
Wow!I can tell by the smile on your face how happy and excited you are and I’m so glad you got the chance to take this trip because I know you LOVE cold weather. You are taking some beautiful pictures. I can’t wait to see more. Stay safe and keep warm.
As a native of Christchurch who remembers the C-141 Starlifters flying over from Operation Deep Freeze on their way to the ice, I’m glad you got to see the city that served as the base for so much exploration. I hope you got a decent chance to have a look around.
(And as for the Antarctica adventure itself? ENVY.)