Chapter 1: From Europe to the other side of the World

Packed and ready to fly to Los Angeles

After months of medical exams, gear hunting and other preparations the time to start this journey arrived.

On the 24th October everything was ready. Packed with 2 large suitcases, a backpack and a lot of expectations I took a NS train in Groningen Central station towards Amsterdam. It was a strange feeling knowing I only planned to return 4 months later. In the back of my mind I knew this was likely to be one of the most remarkable adventures of my life, and I was anxious to reach my final destination: McMurdo Station in Antarctica.

On the 25th I arrived early in Schiphol airport, Amsterdam. After checking in my luggage and passing security control I found myself inside the International terminal. Soon enough I was sitting inside the airplane getting ready for a very long flight. Only this was not destined to be. One hour after departure the pilot let us know of an issue in the heating system of the airplane wings, which would not allow us to fly over Canada. We promptly returned to the Netherlands. One of the flight attendants apologized with a very sad tone as this was her first such case in 33 years. A couple hours later there I was, back to NL. I was expecting to return after 4 months but was back within 4 hours.

Dealing with the canceled flight was quite straightforward. I managed to rebook for the same flight the next day and was assigned a hotel for the night. Next day I flew to Los Angeles without problems, arriving around noon local time. After a long wait at border control I managed to get my luggage and went to pick up my rental car, a Jeep Renegade. After check-in in my Hotel it was time to explore this iconic city.

I spent the next 2 days driving around and visiting all sorts of places in LA. I had planned with Joana, a very dear friend, to meet in LA. She is currently working in the Portuguese Consulate in Boston and wanted to visit the west coast. We tagged along for the second day of my stay and were able to catch up on 5 years of stories and adventures. Some highlights of my stay in LA go to Santa Monica Pier walking all the way to Venice Beach. Visiting the Hollywood boulevard with all the stars paving the floor. Watching LA from the heights of the Griffith Observatory at sunset.

Top: Santa Monica Pier and Hollywood Boulevard. Bottom: Me and Joana at the Griffith Observatory and on the left the view of LA at sunset.

On the 28th it was time to fly to Christchurch. In the airport I met Geoff, a member from the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) team working for GUSTO. He would join me in the rest of the trip down to Antarctica. Curiously, we got the first flight ever from United Airlines from LAX to Auckland, featuring a New Zealand dance performance. The night flight took us 13 hours. It was pretty empty, giving us room to be comfortable and get some rest. Once in Auckland we received a special 12 month visa, required by the United States Antarctica Program (USAP), followed by a successful bio security check. If you ever visit New Zealand remember “Don´t pack a pest”!. We took a second flight to Christchurch arriving finally at our first major stop.