When we got to the check-in counter at 7:20 there were very few people in line, which confirmed my impression that we were REALLY early. We breezed through and checked our bags with no trouble at all. Since I hadn't eaten we went to the (pitiful excuse for a) food court so I could grab a bite. I wondered how much time we had before boarding so I checked our passes. They read "Boarding time: 19:30. 19:30? For a 10:00 p.m. flight? What time is 19:30 anyway? We kept coming up with 7:30 and kept recalculating because why would a 10:00 flight board at 7:30?
I decided to forgo the food and get to the gate on the off chance that they really were boarding us two and a half hours early. When we got there every seat in the boarding area was taken and they were pre-boarding!! So much for early. The plane left at 8:30! 8:30!!!! I could not believe my luck. We actually made it onto the plane and so did our luggage--and I never sweat it once since I had no idea we were late. Phew.
And then, believe it or not, my luck held out because one of the things I was looking forward to (and forgot to put on my last post) was going to the Antarctic Center in Christchurch. I was really hoping I'd get to talk to one of the scientists that works out there. Lo and behold, who should be sitting next to me on the plane? Not a scientist, but a member of the National Guard who has, for the past eight years, been stationed (off and on) at the South Pole!! Can you believe it?! So I pestered him with questions about how many people lived out there. What kind of people were they? Did they have to build houses differently to keep out the cold? Was there an actual town with buildings and roads? Did the scientists, civilians and National Guardsmen and women intermingle or did each group keep to itself? Here's what I found out:
Some of the front doors on buildings are like those restaurant refrigerator doors.
The planes that land there have skis on the bottom for landing and take-off. (The guy I was talking to works on the heating and cooling systems of these planes).
From about October to February there are roughly 1200 people living there. The rest of the year about 20 people stay on.
The civilians that work down there come from all walks of life. They are old and young. Some of them might be there to avoid paying taxes (hmm, should we consider relocating?). Some of the "hippies" might be there to avoid bathing.
The buildings there are on stilts because the ground gets higher every year, which, the guy said, "proves Global Warming is a crock." (Hmmm, I wonder what the scientists say.)
There are three types of animals: penguins, seals and some scary sounding scavenger bird with a four-foot wingspan and razor sharp talons that tries to take your food away (kind of like a gigantic nightmarish seagull).
There is no road going from one side of the Pole to the other. They want to build one but some "hippies" in Washington are trying to stop it because they want to keep the area in its natural state. (Imagine that.)
They all drive full-size Ford pick up trucks because Ford supplies all the cars.
There are two bars at the South Pole. I forgot to ask their names.
The South Pole is a glacier and it moves a little every year. (I can't remember which way).
They don't allow visitors.
It's only about an eight hour flight to the South Pole from Christchurch.
It's 11,000 feet above sea level. Weird, huh?
I might have to do some fact checking now, but how cool is it that I got my wish!? Okay, so he wasn't a scientist but I'm not going to be picky. And now Jerry and I have a jumping off place for research about the arctic! The cramped seats and the turbulence were practically bearable thanks to the arctic fun facts provided by my neighbor.
And then we slept, and we landed, and went through customs and it was all over. It was such a relief to see Warren and to step out into the perfectly warm salty air of Auckland.
As we drove out of the airport a huge sign on the side of the road read, "Do it, in Auckland."
I'm not exactly sure what it is but....Okay!