Thursday, January 08, 2009

New Zealand

On the Sunday before our flight home, we took a trip out east of Christchurch to Akaroa. This is in an area with rolling hills and mountains. Imagine a quaint sea side village surrounded by hills right out of "The Sound of Music". New Zealand is a beautiful country with friendly people and low prices. A big bonus here as far as foreign vacations go is that you are not functionally illiterate when you step off the plane like you are in Europe or Asia.

Our first view of Akaroa Harbor. The trip in from Christchurch is not recommended for those prone to car sickness. This is one of the most curvy roads I have ever driven.

We had a very relaxing lunch right on the water.

This is the pier where we took a boat tour of the harbor.

They told us that 75% of the homes in the area are "holiday" homes. It's no wonder. This place is absolutely beautiful.

We had a dolphin escort for much of our harbor cruise.

Two stately cliffs overlook the entrance to the harbor.

This cliff is as tall as the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

After the tour, we took the scenic route back to Christchurch over the mountains.
We drove down to another bay which had a beautiful beach. The place was almost completely deserted.

There were sheep grazing on these hill sides. It was right out of a movie.

This is a view of Akaroa Harbor from above. You can see the entrance to the harbor that we saw from the boat.

On the way back in to Christchurch, we visited a beach that was comprised completely of smooth pebbles. The smallest was about the size of a pea. There was absolutely no sand on it. It was natural, but it looked like it was brought in with dump trucks.

Some of the rocks had very noticeable colors when wet. Some of them actually looked like jade.

This is definitely the most unusual beach I have ever been on.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


I arrived at home about 10:00 p.m. Monday night after 30+ hours of traveling. I will be posting several more posts on our day off in New Zealand and some final thoughts on life on "The Ice". It's been a grand adventure and I would do it again with no hesitation.

More to come . . .

Saturday, January 03, 2009

First Leg of the Trip Home

With monitoring of the balloon performance handed off to the crews at Palestine and NASA/WFF, we can begin our long journeys home. We had a one-day delay of our flight because of a medical evacuation that obviously took priority over our return. Instead of the five hour flight on a C-17, we had an eight hour flight on an ski-equipped LC-130.
Here we are getting on the LC-130. Note the ski attached to the nose gear. Strange - when I looked at this picture today, I realized that stepping off of Antarctica was nowhere near the emotional experience as stepping on. I didn't give it a second thought. I just got on the plane.

I took a seat near a window so I got this great view of the Mt. Erebus area. Look at the huge crevasses at the bases of the glaciers. You can't see these from the ground.

Further into the flight, we saw huge ranges of snow covered mountains surrounded by pack ice.

About three hours before landing, we could see big ice bergs in the ocean. They did not look like much at this altitude, but these are big Titanic-sinking sized ice bergs. I'd love to see one of those up close some day. Click on the picture for a bigger view.
Here are some impressions from our arrival in Christchurch. When we were walking from customs over to the CDC, one of the ladies on the plane was running here hand through the shrubs planted along the walkway and feeling of the leaves. Henry and I asked her and she had not seen a shrub for three months. She stopped and felt of one of the leaves. I was on the ice for only a month, but I also felt compelled to stop and drink in the lush feel of all the living things that surrounded us. On the bus ride into town, we saw a guy running with his dog. She said "Look at that dog!" She had not seen a dog for three months. It was fascinating to think of the contrast between sterile Antarctica and green, lush New Zealand. It might take a little getting used to, but I'm sure I'll manage. I am scheduled for a flight home that will arrive DFW Monday evening. I'm ready to be home.