Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Still in Christchurch

We thought we would update the blog to let people know that we're still in Christchurch. We were suppose to have left for McMurdo on Tuesday morning. We got up at 4:15 am and were getting ready to leave the hotel when we got a call that the flight had been delayed 24 hours due to weather conditions at McMurdo.

Wednesday morning we got up at 4:15 again and went through the process of getting ready. We kept wondering if we were going to get another call about a delay, but it never came. We went to the Antarctic Center and went through the whole three hour process before boarding our flight. Just as we were rolling down the runway and about to take off, they cut back on the engines and hit the brakes. It was a bit unnerving, but they said there was a slight problem, which they would quickly fix and we'd try again soon.

20 minutes later on the second attempt we took off and began our flight. About 50 minutes in to it they announced there was another mechanical problem and we were turning around.

We found out late last night that our flight today was delayed and we've already found out this afternoon that tomorrows flight is delayed as well. It looks like the soonest we'll be leaving will be Saturday morning. We're assuming they are having to bring in a part from the States to fix the plane.

In the mean time other employees are flying in to Christchurch, so as the flights get backed up, we're getting to spend time with friends here. The first day we were delayed they had to move us to a new hotel. We are now in the Crowne Plaza and we're very happy with our room. Below are a few photos of the place as well as one we took when we were boarding our aborted flight. So until we do actually make it to McMurdo we continue to enjoy our time here.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Christchurch Botanical Gardens

Yes, we know we've had a lot of flower photos already, but Christchurch is The Garden City and the flowers here are pretty spectacular.

Also keep in mind where we're headed for the next five months and that not only will we not be seeing flowers, but also very little color. So once again here are more flower pictures and this time from the Botanical Gardens.... Enjoy...

A visit to Sumner

Last Sunday we took the bus out to Sumner. It was a beautiful day and good time to visit the little coastal town outside Christchurch.
There were a lot of beautiful flowers blooming.
Cave Rock

The New Porsche Panamera 4S

Last week as Kelly was out for a run he went past the Porsche dealer to see what was on the lot. He was very excited to see a new Panamera 4S. This is a brand new car for Porsche and what made it even more exciting is that it hasn't been released in the States yet.

For those of you who don't know, Kelly is a bit of a car fanatic so this was a very special sighting for him.

Our Air Force Load Planning Course

Most people know we came to Christchurch for two weeks of training, but not many people know what sort of training we're doing. To remedy that, Dave took his camera to class one day and we'll do our best to tell you what the course was all about.

The class was taught by two US Air Force Load Masters and after completing the course and passing the exams, we are then certified to do load plans for all military aircraft.

The first few days of the class covered basic pallet building and from there we started learning about the different military aircraft and how to load plan each of them. Even though we don't see all the aircraft covered in the course, we were still required to learn about them.

Each day we covered a different type of aircraft and had to load plan them. This meant cutting out little pieces of paper to represent pallets or tanks or vehicles. We then had to paste them on a template of the plane where we were planning to load them. It sounds easy, but each aircraft has all sorts of restrictions as to what can and can't be loaded where. You have to check the weight and height of each item to make sure it's OK to put it where you want to. There are also restrictions on the weight of each axle and how close they can be to another axle...... This goes on and on and it's really a pretty complex process for each plane.

Each day after learning about the plane, we had to do a load plan in class and then we had two others to do as homework. This is pretty much what we were doing here the past few weeks.

We had our final exam last Friday, which consisted of 30 questions and then doing a load plan on an aircraft of the Instructors choice.

Here's a photo of our instructors, TSGT John Trostle and SSGT Tosha Johnson.
Ray & Kelly were both happy to get 100% on their KG-10 load plans.
Beverly, Liz & Tracy are hard at work on their load plans.Kelly is checking out Twan's load plan.Paul is telling Glen the mistakes he made.Just to let you know, we both passed the course and aced our final exams!!!

Getting Our Extreme Cold Weather Gear

Friday after class we went to pick up our ECW gear. Normally we would have to do this with everyone who is on our flight. They take you in two groups, so you have to battle with a room full of people to get your gear and exchange things that don't fit. It was so nice to get it done early with just the six of us guys from class rather than with 40 other guys.

When we arrived we found our bags laid out with a list on top of everything they gave us. We then go through the bag piece by piece to make sure that everything fits. If it doesn't, you take it back to the employees who work there and they exchange it for a different size.
Normally there's a huge line to return things, but not with our small group. Here are Paul and Twan exchanging a few items.
Here's the room where they lay out our bags. You can see all the other bags lining the wall for the other's on our flight who will get their turn tomorrow. The day of our flight (Tuesday the 29th), we'll show back up here to dress in our ECW gear for the flight.
Here's Kelly trying on his things.Here's a list of everything we are required to wear on the flight. Everything else gets sent down as checked baggage.

Parade of Rooms

Friday night we had a parade of rooms where we went around to see where everyone else was staying. At each stop the host served drinks and appetizers. We started at 5:00 at Tracy's room in the Oaks with wine. From there everyone came to our room in the Grand Chancellor for gin & tonics. After that we went to Liz's room at the Heritage for beers and vodka tonics and we finished up at Lisa's room in the Crowne Plaza with something called Scrumpy (a strong cider).

After seeing all the rooms we went out for a Thai dinner at 9:30. Everyone who participated had a great time. We even got our instructors to join us. Here are a few photos from the evening.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Back in Christchurch

After spending our last week in the States with the family in Selah, we flew to Denver on the 11th for two days of orientation. We then flew to Christchurch on the 13th via Sydney. We left Denver at 4:30 PM Sunday and arrived in Christchurch at noon on Tuesday.

It was a long flight, but we were on the new Airbus 380 and we really enjoyed the new entertainment system and just seeing what a new plane was like. Ours was only the 5th flight this plane had made since being purchased by Qantas.

We're here in Christchurch until September 29th taking a Load Planning course which is required for our jobs. We love being here again, especially since it's spring and all the flowers are just starting to bloom.

Here's the view from our room on the 20th floor of the Grand Chancellor Hotel.Spring colors can be seen in something other than flowers.
Flowers along the Avon River
More Spring flowers.
The fountains at Victoria Square

A Weekend On The Coast

Friday September 4th we finished packing and cleaning the house and we moved out for the next eight months.

Sarah & Mike had rented a house on the coast at Seaside and invited us to join them for the weekend. Our mutual friend Shannon came down from Alaska and Sarah's Brothers Brad & Joe joined us as well as one of her college friends and her two children.

Here are Brad & Dave with Lily & Gunnar as Sarah reads the kids a bedtime story. Shannon at the house in Seaside
Dave & ShannonDave sharing Gunnar's pacifier. He had just woken up from a nap and wasn't so sure about sharing.Mike, Shannon, Ellen, Kelly & DaveHaving dinner Saturday night.
On the way to Seaside we dropped off the truck in The Dalles with our friends Chris & Natalie. That way we only had to take one vehicle to the coast as we were heading to Mom & Dad Cheeks in Selah afterwards.
Here is Dave holding Amalie, Chris & Natalie's new baby.
Natalie, Chris & Amalie

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Dave's Pre-50th Birthday Party

Since we'll be back in Antarctica when Dave turns 50 on October 6th, we decided to have a birthday party here so we could celebrate with our friends who won't be with us on the Ice. It was also pretty much the last chance we'll get to see some of our friends before we leave.

We spent most of Saturday getting ready for the party, buying food, prepping food and getting it all set out before the first guests arrived. Here's the spread of finger food we had on the dining room table. Kelly made made chocolate/peanut butter & lemon cupcakes, both of which were fantastic!
Here's Norman, Rex & Eddie.
Allen & Vicki
Tom, Val, Jacques, Luis & Jason
Paul & Evan
Pat, Eddie & Stef
Dave, Kelly, Jason & Luis
Eddie, Norman & Dave White
Lynette & Evan
Stef & Dave