Going Back in Time

August 19th, 2016 by Roísín Commane

As the DC-8 flies around the world for the ATom project, we are crossing many time zones and occasionally loosing and gaining days! For most of the first half of the project, I didn’t really notice these time changes. I gained the most time leaving Boston for California and had one to two hourly stretches in the evening after that. This has meant that getting up for 4 a.m. pre-flights has actually been do-able! I thought I was doing great — for a night owl. We lost time last week when flying from American Samoa on Monday morning and arriving into New Zealand on Tuesday afternoon. But I had already lost track of the day of the week so that didn’t really have any impact on my routine. In New Zealand, I finally had the time to take a whole day off (for the first time in over 2 weeks!) so we explored Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park for a few hours.

Snow blowing from the mountains onto the glacier in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, New Zealand. Credit: Róisín Commane

Snow blowing from the mountains onto the glacier in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, New Zealand. Credit: Róisín Commane

And then there was the flight from Christchurch, New Zealand to Punta Arenas, Chile.

We gained back the lost day and more as we flew 10 hours from Christchurch on Saturday morning to arrive in Chile at 4 a.m. on Saturday morning. My poor body clock has no idea which way is up! On the plus side, maybe this body clock mayhem will make the 3:30 a.m. wake up call for our pre-flight tomorrow slightly less ruthless? Wishful thinking perhaps.

But at least the flight from New Zealand was worth all the effort! We flew south from New Zealand to 65 degrees S, profiling from the top to the bottom of the atmosphere as much as we could. We saw Antarctic sea ice, lots of sea salt particles and not at lot of CO at the low altitudes, while at the highest altitudes we saw the Polar vortex and its -70 degrees C temperatures. We also saw CO2 over 401 parts per million (ppm) for most of the flight.

Watching the sun set mid-way through our flight from New Zealand to Punta Arenas, Chile. Credit: Róisín Commane

Watching the sun set mid-way through our flight from New Zealand to Punta Arenas, Chile. Credit: Róisín Commane

There is a wonderful exhibit in our hotel here in Punta Arenas about Shackleton’s Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914-1917) from Chile to Antarctica, which included the great Irish-man Tom Crean. Disaster befell the expedition in Antarctic waters and resulted in five men (including Crean and Shackleton) sailing a 20-foot boat across 700 plus miles of Southern ocean to get help. After seeing the choppy seas of the Southern Ocean on our last flight, I have no idea how they found the island of South Georgia. But hopefully we will have just as good luck as they did when we venture east again to find Ascension Island in the middle of the South Atlantic tomorrow.

Our first sunset in Punta Arenas, Chile. Credit: Róisín Commane

Our first sunset in Punta Arenas, Chile. Credit: Róisín Commane

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One Response to “Going Back in Time”

  1. Richard Swann says:

    In WW2 there were frequent flights across the South Atlantic. The aircraft had to refuel on Ascension; there was a grim little couplet: “If you miss Ascension, your wife gets a pension”.

Notes from the Field