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Mike Leahy's Diary

mountains and lakeDay 1: Travel

What - No 13th?
As usual I celebrate my birthday with the Rough Science crew, but this time it is in an aircraft on my way to New Zealand. After two previous series there are certain themes that are all too familiar. One is the flight, and although much longer than the flights to Capraia or Carriacou this is a typical Rough Science journey with blind panic at check-in and transfers as we try to account for all the crew, luggage and filming gear. This is particularly fraught in Los Angeles.

By the time we arrived in Auckland in the North Island of New Zealand we can't work out whether I had just had a birthday at all because we had crossed the International Date Line just before landing. Auckland is very hectic because we have a very tight transfer. We run around like headless chickens as instructions are shouted loudly by the confident, rather than the knowledgeable. If it had been this tight in the US we would never have made the ongoing flight, but New Zealanders are so incredibly helpful that there was never really going to be a problem.

As usual I worry about the challenges. What possible use is a virologist in the basic conditions we are likely to find near a glacier in a remote area of New Zealand's South Island? I'm used to working in an extremely advanced lab with precision equipment. My only chance is to depend on common sense and the fact that I am a fair bit chunkier than the other scientists and maybe a little stronger. To prepare myself I go to the gym as soon as we get to our hotel for an overnight stop before moving on by minibus and helicopter to our final location. The results aren't good. I may be strong but after running five kilometres on a running machine it is all too evident that I am not vaguely fit. More to the point I seem to have contracted a chest infection of some sort on the flight and my asthma (which isn't normally a problem) is playing up. Bummer!

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