1 November 2011
After having spent a day and a half in Singapore, it was time to fly to Diego Garcia on 25 Oct for the main part of my Indian Ocean adventure! I met up at the hotel in Singapore with Rachel & Adam, the two Colorado State University atmospheric science grad students who are on Diego with me, and we took a taxi to the Singapore military airport at Paya Lebar. The cabbie didn’t know where exactly to drop us off, and neither did we. Rachel & Adam had a hand-drawn map that someone had emailed them, but it apparently didn’t contain enough info for our cab driver (or even a military guy at a bus stop who we asked for help) to understand what it was a map of. Oh well! Eventually we got to the right place. Obviously no pictures were allowed because it was a military airport.
At the terminal we met Heather, the NCAR technician who’s here as our supervisor on the island. She was supposed to fly out the day before, but the DC-8 was on the fritz (she still had to wait for 6 hours at the airport the day before, though), so instead she wound up flying out the same day as us. After about 2-3 hours of waiting in the small terminal we boarded a bus that drove us out on the tarmac to where the C-17 was sitting. The safety briefing about the plane seemed pretty standard, until the guy at the microphone got to the part about lifejackets. Then he paused for a bit, clearly trying to figure out what to say next, and then simply said, “Umm, the lifejackets are pretty self-explanatory, you all know how to put one on.” I thought that was pretty funny, and not “by the book” like you’d expect the military to be.
The flight itself wasn’t as wasn’t freezing cold like we were warned it would be. I had on jeans and a t-shirt, and if anything, I was too warm during the flight because of the heat vent right above my seat. So the long sleeve shirt, hoodie, hat, and gloves that I packed are all useless until I land in Colorado in late November. However, the plane was pretty loud. When I had my earplugs in the flight sounded about as loud as a normal commercial jet, but I could barely hear the person next to me, so they were definitely doing their job. Also, the seats were quite uncomfortable, mainly because of the lifejacket that served as a “lumbar support.” During takeoff and a bout of turbulence mid-flight I was also really wishing there were windows to look out of while we were seated (each side had only two or three small windows in the entire main cabin). Here are some photos from the flight:
In the top right photo, my seat was next to the guy in the foreground at the bottom left corner (I sat to his right), so my view was staring at the boxes in the foreground. Scenic!
Eventually we landed in Diego Garcia at night, and got a cool stamp in our passports for British Indian Ocean Territory. There was even a British diplomat of some sort on the plane, and he was excited to get a BIOT passport stamp. We got a ride to our hotel from one of the students that we were replacing, and then Heather, Rachel and I walked down to the Ship’s Store (the general store) to buy a beer or two to celebrate that we actually landed on this remote tropical island. It was exciting to be here at long last.
Next time: some photos and stories from our first couple days on Diego! I’m going to try to make the posts about the island more bite-sized and frequent, rather than infrequent and novella-sized.