1.    Getting to NZ
After about 40 hours of travel, I finally reached my destination, Christchurch, New Zealand. The purpose of my travel is to join an expedition to Antarctica onboard a research vessel. We are going to the Bellingshausen Sea, southwest of the Antarctic Peninsula, to collect sediment samples and map the seafloor. We want to reconstruct paleoenvironmental changes in the Antarctic continental shelf and also investigate how ice has retreated in that area. I will be joining a Korean team from the Korea Polar Research Institute (KOPRI) and colleagues from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.
2.     Around Christchurch
Christchurch is located in the South Island of New Zealand and it is a popular venue for researchers going to Antarctica. In fact, the US Antarctic Program manages a large facility near the Christchurch airport where scientists and technicians are deployed by flight to McMurdo Station in Antarctica.
Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island, with approximately 400,000 inhabitants. In 2011, the city was impacted by a large earthquake and we can still see some of the damaged structures, including the main cathedral.
3.    Meeting the Araon
The port of Christchurch is located in Lyttelton, just a few kilometers from the city center. Lyttelton harbor is the main port of the South Island. The Araon waited there for us.
The Araon is an ice breaker, specially designed for research in polar regions. From October to April operates in Antarctica while in July and August it operates in the Arctic region. The vessel is 111 m long and 19 m wide. The Araon can accommodate 25 crew members and 60 scientists.
Dr. Min Kyung Lee is the chief scientist of this project, and along with Dr. Sun Han Kim (both from KOPRI), we boarded the Araon on March 4th.
4.    Leaving port
We departed today, March 6th, at noon. We are headed towards the Bellingshausen Sea, but it will take us about 12 days to get there. The ship usually travels at 10 knots, about 18 km/hr. We are all hoping to see the Aurora Australis on our way south.
When we were leaving Lyttelton, I noticed the Nathaniel B. Palmer was docked in the harbor. The Palmer is one of two ships the US Antarctic Program uses for research in Antarctica, and was probably back from another expedition in Antarctica.