I have landed safely in Christchurch, New Zealand. This marks the end of the first portion of the journey. I will spend a couple days here getting prepared (and enjoying some summer weather) before I head down to McMurdo.
Check out this photo I took as we were flying over New Zealand near Christchurch. It's a beautiful country!
The river that you see running through the middle is called a "braided river". It's a series of smaller channels of water that twist together and are separated by sand bars. This type of river is found in areas where the ground is easily eroded to create a lot of sediment (which creates the sand bars) and where there are rapid changes in the amount of water flowing in the river. The mountains in the background are geologically young, and easily erode to create that sediment.
Braided rivers are common here in New Zealand, but also in Antarctica. Here's a photo I took a few years ago when I was flying over the Onyx River in the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica, where you see the same braided pattern:
(You'll notice one thing unique about Antarctica: there are no trees, roads, or houses to give you a sense of size, like you have in the New Zealand photo. This photo was taken from a helicopter pretty high up, but you wouldn't know that if I didn't tell you!)