Catching a C-130 at pole

Waiting for the flight from McMurdo to land at Pole was during the last few minutes a bit nerve racking. The visibility was getting worse as the arrival time approached and I was frequently looking out the windows at the markers the Met folks use to report visibility to the pilots. I could see only two markers as opposed to the 4 or 5 and then the horizon one could usually see on clear days. When I went over and asked them if this meant the plane was going to land (as opposed to boomeranging and heading back without landing – or picking me up) Chris leans back in his chair and says:

“Ya know, the weather is a like a cat…”

These winter-overs love torturing us grantees, especially when we are obviously nervous about getting off the ice. He continues, after savoring the tense moment (at least tense for me), “…you never know if it is going to do what you want.”

“Well, I can see 2 markers, that’s 2 miles, right?” I ask.

“Nope, those are 1/2 mile markers. I just reported 1 mile visibility”

“How much visibility to they need to land?”

“1 mile.” he says with a Cheshire grin.

Well, the visibility didn’t get any worse, in fact it got a little better, and the plane landed just fine. I packed up all my stuff (except my music player which I forgot in the hustle and is currently being brought home for me) and walked out to the skiway to wait for and then load onto the plane.

Some of the best days you’ll have at pole are the days you arrive and leave, but not just for the obvious reasons. There is a real comradery which happens at those times. When arriving by having friends and co-workers show up to greet you and carry your bags for you (because you’re sucking air due to the altitude) and then when leaving by wishing you well and standing out there in the cold to see you off. You don’t have to go out there, but you want to. John has some great shots of us out there that day.

Finally on the plane after the door closes as we start to taxi, I hear a loud squeal (through my earplugs) thinking ‘oh man is that going to go on for the next 3 hours?’, not a second later I notice that the air is getting easier to breath. They’re pressurizing the cabin to normal flying pressure (approx 5K ft.) which is usually thinner air than normal but here, it is thicker air! I whipped out my GPS, which has a barometric altimeter and Michelangelo caught a little video of that thick air filling the cabin. I spent the next hour or so taking deep, deep breaths.

Don’t worry, this isn’t a post without at least one silly movie from me on my last day at the pole:

One Response to “Catching a C-130 at pole”

  1. Dekator Thorpe Says:

    be careful, someone may travel there to hear it and be dissapointed! LOL

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