My nephews were right: flying on a military cargo plane is actually completely thrilling. Everyone can take turns sitting in the cockpit, and the more intrepid (or excitable) of us ran around the plane examining the switches, lights, levers, hatches. Even the usual safety talk as the plane taxied down the runway wasn’t about seat belts or pamphlets, but about the giant yellow plastic sack that we put over our heads in a case of fire.
Cargo planes are dotted with only a few tiny porthole windows, so it’s like riding in a two story industrial cavern; when we landed and the plane door first opened, the whitest, brightest light poured through, and in my personal level of excitement about coming here it is not hyperbolic to say I felt I was about step into nirvana. There is no language, no photography, and no video that can ever render what it is like to step onto the frozen sea ice and be in Antarctica. It is far vaster, far whiter, far more expansive and humungous than any photo can ever show. It’s the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, and I stood there dazzled until someone yelled out that I was A. blocking the plane “runway” and B. had not put on my hat, balaclava or safety glasses. I was so overwhelmed that I didn’t even notice how cold it was until we got on the vehicle that would drive us to our new home, McMurdo Station.