Miles of mountains and ice
I'm lucky enough to visit Ross Island once or twice a year. Infact most friends think I'm extremely lucky! However there's a large gulf between what they think I do, and what I actually get to do! Still I can't blame them, the media depicts all sorts of important people and reporters flying in choppers to visit volcanoes, Dry Valleys, and historic huts surrounded by friendly penguins.
Well most of my time there is spent in one ricketty cold building fixing equipment (or trying not to break it further!). Actually that building got replaced during the 2006/7 season so I now have a nice new place to work.
Visiting Antarctica for a short work trip can be broken into three stages: getting there, doing the work, and getting back. Each stage has plenty of potential for frustation, especially if your inclined to be impatient!
Before you even start the long journey you need to pass the medical. I do this in June or July because I often head south for a week in mid August. The medical is very thorough. Once you have a date to fly south you need to get to Christchurch at least the day before. Here you check in at the Antarctic NZ facility to pickup your special clothing. The most important part of your kit is the "ECW" or extreme cold weather clothing. Regular travellers have their sizes and preferences well sorted out, but kitting-up can be quite confusing for the first time.
Most flights leave at an awkward hour, if they leave at all! Weather, aircraft faults, and other issues will very often mean a change of schedule. I've waited many days in Chch before flying out. It pays to have plenty of spare clothing left at Chch, plus a few jobs to do so that these extra days are bearable.
Once you "get the call" the flight is on you need to dress-up in your kit, eventually even wearing full ECW, and interesting experience during a hot January day! You sit through a briefing video, go though check-in and securety, and eventually squeeze onto an old bus for a short ride to the 'plane.