D-Day -1

Sitting in a hotel in Christchurch, 10 hours away from departure time and thinking about the journey getting here over the last few years, and the adventures to come is all a bit crazy.

In the morning, I’ll be jumping on a LC-130 ski equipped Hercules transport for the eight hour flight south from Christchurch to Pegasus runway which services McMurdo station. A bit gutted it isn’t the even bigger C-17 Globemaster, but settling for the trusty workhorse of a plane that first piqued my interest in the Antarctic as a kid will be exciting nonetheless.

In the recent months since I managed to snare a spot with the United States Antarctic program(me) (Do I have to spell in an American way if I’m working for the US government…), people seem to fall in to one of two (or maybe three camps). Those that think the concept of going to one of the most isolated spots on the planet is great, those that think your mad and those that wish they can come.

The back story behind going to Antarctica is all a bit vague, aside from being a whim that became its own beast. I had always been fascinated with Antarctica, and visitng Christchurch as a kid, and seeing the US Air Force transport aircraft there, ready to ferry people and supplies south was always a highlight. Similarly, wandering around Canterbury museum, looking at Fuchs’ and Hiliary’s Snow Cat and modified Massey Ferguson tractors from the first crossing of Antarctica in 1958 remain clearly etched in my worldview of what would be an awesome adventure.

The last few years have been a work in progress with this being one of the goals to try and achieve. A few setbacks and finally some good luck, have meant that I will get a chance to do what only 1454 others have done, and winter over at the place with the second coldest ever recorded temperature, – the South Pole (Geographic).

How I ended up opting to live in a single building with 43 Americas and one German, rather than trying to pursue a spot with the New Zealand contingent came down to opportunity. I figured that if I wanted to get to Antarctica, it was best to go there to work. And if I was going to go there to work, I might as well go there as a doctor (as that’s what I know what to do). However, as New Zealand’s Scott Base is located just two kilometers from McMurdo station, the largest of the three American bases on the continent, we don’t have any of our own doctors down there with a joint support and logistics agreement meaning the Americans take care of Scott Base’s medical care. The next logical step was to work for the cousies over the ditch. After applying with the Australian Antarctic Division, being short listed and interviewed, missing out initially and then moving twice around the country to get the experience they required, missing out a second time was a bit of case of watching a dream evaporate, as you can’t keep delaying life for childhood whims forever.

However, fortuitously, in mid August, I saw a ad in a email bulletin advertising for Physician roles with the US Antarctic program. Two months later, after psych evaluations and a couple of interviews, a job offer was presented, and I was on a plane two days later to Denver for two weeks of orientation, team building and other planning.

Since then, my mind has been preoccupied with all the considerations of packing for 10 months away from the comforts of home, in a physically very different environment. 0% humidity, extreme cold outside, and only 10 minutes of shower time per week (due to the challenges and costs of melting and heating water) doesn’t lend itself to the same clothes and personal effects you would take camping back home.

As I head out, the main questions I’ve been asking myself I thought I should share. What will be the biggest challenge.

  • the extreme cold
  • the professional isolation
  • living in confined situation with a whole heap of people from a similar yet very different culture
  • The lack of fresh fruit
  • The sensory deprivation of half a year of perpetual night

Anyway, time will tell, and I probably should sign off from the initial penning of this blog, as if I forget anything in the morning, there is no corner shop to pick up a new one. Over this year, it would be great to hear from anyone who reads this, and let us know what you want to read about. Bandwidth will limit photo volume (and quality) but I’ll try and keep this regular with a topic of interest for each post. For those of you who are new to this blog, this is the same platform that I used whilst working and travelling in Africa in 2013. Feel free to peruse if you wish.


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12 Responses to South!

  1. Jeremy says:

    Good luck mate! I’ll be reading from PNG with interest and not a little envy.

  2. Elizabeth Wright says:

    All the very very best from the whole family…..we are so very proud of you and excited for you in this new adventure. Take care, you may need to dig deep to the maximum of your ” intestinal fortitude” and inner strength but we know you can do it. God bless and lots of hugs

  3. Elizabeth Wright says:

    What an adventure Hamish. We are so very proud of you and excited for you in this next amazing step. You may need to dig deep to the very maximum of your reserves of inner strength & “intestinal fortitude.” Take care, God bless and enjoy the experience. Lots of love from us all

  4. Tiffany says:

    Good luck Hamish, hope all goes well down south. I will be reading your blog with interest as I’m in the “wish I could go” camp. Tell us about frostbite and penguins.

  5. Fiona says:

    I hope you get to head out tomorrow Hamish! Will enjoy reading your updates.

  6. r says:

    Yo Bro. Hope you got there this time and haven’t changed your mind. Too late. In our thoughts and prayers back here in 24 degrees. Enjoy, appreciate and look after yourself xx

  7. Rose Odlin says:

    Yo bro. Hope u got there ok and have t changed your mind. Too late. In our thoughts and prayers, thinking of u as we sit complaining about 24 degrees!!! Keep warm and look after yourself.
    Penguins and daily life please

  8. Emily says:

    no boomerang then? say hi to the penguins!!

  9. Penny and Caleb says:

    We’re excited to follow your blog and adventures this year! I’m sure it will be an incredible time and you’ll come back richer for it. Thinking and praying for you!

  10. Donia Bath says:

    I’m back in LA and headed back
    to TX shortly. Wonderful to see you and spend some time with you in NZ.
    I will definitely be following your blog.
    Great things to come.

  11. Noel says:

    High and you have had a most interesting start to your journey eh!.. My ears pricked up at the mention of Meteorite. Thought you might like to check this out:
    So if you did slip a meteorite into your pocket, it might just include and alien. Ooo would that be exciting.

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