Antarctica Departure Day: Heading For The Ice

I don’t think it’s possible to have a more stressful start to a trip. For my flight I was told I needed to be there 4 hours before the departure time (bit keen) and that check in would close 3 hours before departure. I would be flying to The Falklands via Cape Verde, a total of 19 hours 10 mins flight time on a big ol’ grey military plane that only departs twice a week. My mum and I left for what should have been merely an hour’s drive but turned out to be an hour and a half longer. This was due to the closure of what seemed to be every entrance into Oxford and therefore Brize Norton, the RAF base I was due to be flying from just a few hours later. After some ultra dramatic panic attacks, the stress eating of one of my pre-made plane meals and a ‘sod it I’m not going’ we finally made it; the check-in time being made later after my desperate call to the emergency out-of-hours office, pleading to hold on for me.

After giving my mum a quick kiss and squeeze I was met by the rest of the JCR joining crew, a bubbly bunch of characters waiting as eagerly as me for our adventure!  Amongst the stews (me), cooks, officers, engineers etc. We also have a BBC television crew who will be filming for an upcoming documentary, in the words of Joey Tribiany, this could be my big break?! If you see my cheeky little face grinning in the background please be sure to screenshot it for me so I can frame it for my granny for Christmas. We took off at around 2am and I chugged down a couple of Nytols (unfortunately with no wine, military plane…) and slept pretty much solidly for the whole 6 hours of the first flight. I cannot express to you the joy I have found in discovering the powers of herbal sleeping tablets. Annoyingly and unintentionally I am a bit of a princess and the pea when it comes to sleeping. Unless horizontal, cosy and the perfect temperature- it just isn’t happening. No matter how tired I am, how much I try I just can’t sleep in a seating position. Until now. Nytol, you have saved my high-maintenance life with your natural remedies and I weep slightly at the thought of all the sleep I’ve lost on all the long haul’s I’ve sat through in the past, wide awake, without your aid.

So now I am sat on the second plane, finally airborne after over a 2 hour delay because the plane was too heavy, sat on the runway burning extra fuel and trying not to scream into my scratchy plane pillow. If my sleeping habits didn’t make you think I was hard work, my eating habits definitely will. I am a vegetarian (mostly vegan at home) with a serious gluten intolerance. And as I stated before, I ate one of my pre-made plane meals in my moment of panic so I boarded with the expectation that there would be absolutely nothing for me to eat and that I’d just have to starve to death after a whole four hours of not eating. But thankfully just before I was about to write morbid letters of farewell to my family and friends with my frail, hunger-stricken bones they found me a jacket potato and cheese (ew) that would have to suffice.

I got some pretty good info about the boat last night, that there’s two good gyms on board (horahhhh!), the foods good, crew mess is nice etc. And that there’s the occasional pub quiz. I also heard the word Yoga muttered but I won’t get my hopes up. However, the best news of all is that we will be departing The Falklands on the 21st for the first three week stint of the trip and heading for Antarctica. I won’t be able to get off of course but I’ll see ice burgs, penguins and seals, and if God answers my prayers, a whale or two. This means I’ll have visited EVERY CONTINENT ON EARTH. Feeling slightly on cloud 9, trying to play it cool and be aloof about the fact that at just 20 years old I’ll have seen a place that the majority of humans will never see in their lifetime. My inner voyager is back and doing what she does best, donned up in all her gear and ready for exploring (and by gear, I mean all the neat polar sub-zero weather gear I get to wear!).

Sorry- ultra cheesy (like my grim potato) but a massive thanks to everyone who has congratulated me and motivated me to go for this, knowing that I’m a massive wuss and need constant care and love but for believing in me enough to propel me forward and make sure I didn’t turn down an incredible opportunity through fear and past events. Dad, Muma, Grandad, Smegs, Carl Cakeford, Naomi and all my other lovely friends and family, you lot keep me afloat (pun intended).

See you in The Falklands !

UPDATE****

I wrote that on the last leg of my journey into the Falklands and now here I am finally! We are waiting to be picked up and taken to the boat and we waste no time and will be leaving this evening straight for the ice, my first three week stint before we come back to the Falklands for 2 or 3 days to refuel and pick up some more researchers. I’ve already had some bus banter with a couple of the engineers so that’s a good start, and the boat hard drive has Game of Thrones and Peaky Blinders on it so I’m pretty much ecstatic. I went for a long run this morning, a very bleak and barren background with a few seagulls here and there but the sun was shining, I could hear birds singing and the air was so clear and unpolluted I felt as though I’d done 15 balloons, a pleasant change from London’s city smog. I gave myself a little pep talk, reminded myself of my goals and targets for this trip, meditated a little and mostly just felt the grass and soil knowing that it would be a fair while before I was back on dry land again. I’m really not sure how much communication I’m going to have or how well informed I’ll be able to keep you all, but there will be blogs, not sure about photos as I’m not sure how strong the wifi is to upload them so I apologise for the lack of feature photos there’ll be, but stick with me and hopefully the quality of writing will keep you entertained.

Bon Voyage!!!

C.J.R xox

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