Christchurch: A City in Waiting

Only spending a few days in a place evinces only a mood, rather than the true nature of the city. Still this ambiance has lasting effect on me. Berlin is a somber, but artistic city, deeply aware of its place in history and how it is ever evolving. Chicago oozes soul in a friendly way. Christchurch is a city on the edge of something great, or maybe it's already there.

A series of earthquakes devastated the city center in 2011. Others from the USAP (United States Antarctic Program) who have traveled through the city before tell me that the city centered around the Cathedral, a cathedral that half-stands, half-crumbles in the middle of the city. Places where views of the cathedral were obscured now have a clear view to the church, and everywhere you turn a construction crew is still taking down a building, three years after the last of the earthquakes.


What do you do when the heart of your city no longer exists? You make a new one. Christchurch is embracing ideas of creative reuse and public art that give character to the city as it waits to be rebuilt. An island nation receives a lot of goods in sea containers. Why not make a mall out of them? Or a cathedral? The once vibrant Cathedral square is now decorated with a dozen art projects. I'm excited to see what happens over the next decade.



Because of all this, I feel that this city is the perfect place to wait for the weather to be clear enough to fly to McMurdo. I was scheduled to fly from Christchurch to McMurdo Station yesterday, but the night before I received a series of notices. The first note slipped under my door indicated that my flight had been pushed back an hour and I was to report at 0900 hours. The next note, sent an hour later, said that I should report at 0800 hours. A phone call in the middle of the night reported that my flight had been delayed 24 hours. Oh and that the hotel was all booked up, so I would be moved to other accommodations the next day. Last night I received another notice that my flight had been delayed yet another 24 hours. At this point, I'm hoping to get to the ice by my birthday, Halloween.

Weather in Antarctic is notoriously difficult to predict, and typically forecasts are only made for the next 24-48 hours. It's not uncommon for a flight to leave Christchurch, make it some fraction of the way there, and have to turn around. It even has a name--a Boomerang flight--and two days ago, I had to pack a Boomerang bag. In the event of a Boomerang flight, the only luggage I will get back is my Boomerang bag, and I have to live out of that until I finally make it to the ice.

I'm not going to lie---I'm antsy. I want to get to Antarctica soon, but find it comforting to be in this city in transition from the rubble to something big.