Well, after three flights, nearly 17 hours in the air, and about 6 hours worth of layovers I landed in Christchurch yesterday afternoon.  I met up with Brad, Liz, and Abby (the rest of the receiver team installing the new camera on the telescope) at LAX and we were on the same flights the rest of the way.  Of the four of us, I'm the only one that hasn't been to the Pole at least once (this is the third trip for Abby and Liz, and the fifth for Brad).  While we're given all the information we need for traveling independently, it was really nice to have people who have done it before with me.  We also met up with John, a grad student going to the Pole for BICEP 2 (another CMB experiment), accidentally at LAX.

     I first want to say that I really like the money in New Zealand.  Many countries have multi-colored paper money, and different denominations are different sizes.  New Zealand's money is no exception.  So far, I've seen bills for NZ$50, $20, $10, and $5, and coins for $2 and $1.  Each bill has a different notable person.  The one that sticks in my mind the most is Sir Edmund Hillary on the $5 bill, but that's only because I remember seeing the cast of the Lord of the Rings get a bunch of $5 bills signed by Hillary when he visited the set while the movies were still filming.   (It was in one of the many fantastic documentaries and extras in the Appendices of the LOTR extended edition box sets).  In case any of you didn't know... I'm a huge LOTR fan, and have been my whole life.

New Zealand money (front). On the $50 bill: Sir Apirana Ngata. $20: Queen Elizabeth II. $10: Kate Sheppard. $5: Sir Edmund Hillary

New Zealand money (back). On the $50 bill: Kokako. $20: Karearea (New Zealand Falcon). $10: Whio (Blue Duck). $5: Hoiho (Yellow-eyed Penguin)

     But enough of that side track.  When we finally got to Christchurch, claimed our baggage, and reached our hotel, we decided to take quick showers and meet up for some food and roaming around downtown.  Christchurch is a really pretty town, but the earthquakes this past spring really hit it hard.  (Apparently there was a quake on the north island last night, but it didn't affect me at all here).  Much of the heart of downtown is still closed off, as the buildings are still too dangerous to be around after the quakes.  As I roamed the town with the SPTpol gang, they pointed out place after place that they've frequented in the past that are now only rubble, or gone entirely.  It took a while to reach the center of downtown with so many streets and blocks shut off.  We were even sent away at one point by a soldier in camouflage sitting in a little shack saying that the way ahead was too dangerous for us to visit.  Parts of town really felt like sets from a disaster/zombie movie, which was sort of surreal.  And it's really sad to see so much of the town still in ruins.  The parts that aren't give a sense of what the town was like before the devastation, and it makes me sad I couldn't have seen it before the disaster.

The earthquakes this past spring left much of Christchurch looking like this.

     While the town is still in rough shape, many places are rebuilding or are already back in business.  As we walked towards the chapel in the center of town, we found a block of newly re-constructed businesses, all built out of brightly painted shipping containers, sometimes several welded together to make a bigger space.  It was actually really cool and it gave off a nice vibe.  The block felt pretty modern, was really environment friendly recycling the shipping containers the way it did, and it was the busiest block we passed all day.

     Just past the shipping container shops was the sole open entrance to the middle of downtown, where the cathedral is located.  There were signs saying we were entering at our own risk: we risked injury or even death if another earthquake struck and already damaged buildings were further destroyed around us.  We of course went inside to see what we could see.  The chapel was in total ruins, but some structures, like a nearby monument, fared the quakes well.  (I have pictures for these, but they're on my phone, and I have no way of grabbing them.  I'll try to post them whenever I get around this hurdle.  Sorry).

     After seeing what was left of downtown, we decided to walk back towards our hotel via the Christchurch Botanical Gardens.  This was a huge park with really picturesque locations, some beautiful flowers and trees, and a nice break from all the quake destruction.  We stopped for a pint of beer and a bite to eat a few blocks from our hotel, and went our separate ways to pass out for the evening.   (More pictures I can't access!)

     I got my ECW (Extreme Cold Weather) gear at the Clothing Distribution Center (CDC) this afternoon.  I also got my laptop checked for viruses and the like so I can get access to the wireless network at the Pole.  I’ll get a flu shot when I get to McMurdo tomorrow.  The CDC had about 30 of us trying on our gear, trading in for different sizes, and organizing our baggage for the ice flight to McMurdo.  During the flight, we have to wear cold weather gear so we're all ready to go once we step off the plane and onto Antarctica.  Wearing it all is going to suck, because it's been in the mid to high 70s the last couple days.  But a little discomfort in Christchurch will be worth it to feel comfortable on the ice.

We need to wear all of this on the flight to McMurdo, even though it's 75 degrees in Christchurch right now.

A bunch of ECW gear bags after a big group of USAP participants got their clothing.

In addition to all the baggage we're checking on the flight, we also get one carry-on (mine will consist of the detectors I'm hand carrying and my laptop), and we also get one bag called a "boomerang bag."  Every once in a while, flights halfway to McMurdo have to turn back because of weather.  If that's the case, the only bags we'll get back are our carry-ons and the boomerang bag, which needs to have a change of clothing, shoes, and toiletries so I'm not stuck roaming Christchurch in my bunny boots and big red parka.

My bags are the green duffle and the two bags just to the left of it. I also have one more duffle bag at the hotel, and I'm using my backpack as a boomerang bag.

While at the CDC, I learned that check-in for tomorrow's flight is at 2:30 AM, which means we get picked up from the hotel at 2:00.  It's currently 8:30 PM (Sunday), so I'm going to pack up, try to get some sleep, and be ready to go to the airport to finally arrive in Antarctica.  If all goes well, next time you hear from me I should be at the Pole!