I apologize for not keeping up for the past few day. Good news; the helicopter was able to pick us up with our gear and get us back to McMurdo.
The last two days have been very busy packing up the lab and running errands. Since we were running so far behind, most of the departments were things needed to be inventoried were nice enough to do it for us. This break gave us enough extra time to finish processing samples and pack them up for shipping.
After everything was done, Hilary and I went outside to conduct an interview for the short movie that we are putting together about diving in Antarctica. The interview was fun and took about an hour. This night in particular, it was -10 out and there was a very strong breeze working. After an hour of answering questions and not moving, I was chilled to the bone. I decided to head to a small hang out place called the Coffee House. A bunch of our friends from different groups were all in town and it was great to see them and catch up on stories that happened throughout the season. Most of the groups were preparing for the flight back to New Zealand like we were.
Soon after we had our bag drag. This is when we take all our stuff to be weighed for the flight back. Our suit cases are palleted and we hang on to one small carry on. Then then stick us on the scale and weigh us in our Antarctic clothing. The good news is that I weigh the exact same now as I did when I first arrived in Antarctica. That night we stayed up and said good bye to the friends that we had met during the season. It was sad to say good bye to both them and Antarctica in general. I felt that I had really developed a bond with the continent while I was there and it has definitely left a mark. Just after midnight, we piled into Ivan, the transport bus, and started the hour and a half drive down to the ice runway.
Once we boarded the plane, I was utterly exhausted. Within 15 minutes, I was fast asleep in my big red. I slept for the entire 6 hour flight. Once we arrived in New Zealand, we collected our bags and made our way through customs. After we headed back to the Antarctic Clothing Distribution Center, from where we had taken off from 71 days before, and returned our Antarctic gear. It was sad to say good bye to Big Red. That jacket and I had been through a lot together.
After everything was returned, we jumped in a shuttle and headed to our hotel room. By this time, we were exhausted and starving. A small group of us headed to a little coffee house around the corner from the hotel. After a very satisfying burger, I went back to the hotel room and slept all afternoon. This trip, while very rewarding, was very physically and mentally exhausting.
Tomorrow I head back to Honolulu via Sydney. I am so excited to be heading home. I can’t wait to see palm trees and surf again. Mostly I’m excited to see Jamey. It has been just under four months since I saw him last. I cannot wait to be back home with him again. After a few days in the islands, I plan on heading to California for Christmas to see my friends and family there. Throughout this trip, everyone has been so supportive and excited for me. Thank you to everyone who got me here and has supported me while I was on the ice. This trip has really helped me grow and mature in a scientific way and has also helped me decide where I plan to take my life next. Where I’m going will be a whole new adventure.
For the past two days, we have been packing and waiting for a helicopter to pick us up and fly us to McMurdo. However, yesterday visibility dropped and helicopters were canceled for the day. This morning we awoke to a fresh layer of snow, and helicopters postponed again.
Sam has instructed us to pack a tooth brush, our wallet, and our passport into our big red coats and be ready to hop on a helicopter without any other personal possessions. This “rescue” helicopter will hopefully come today and be able to retrieve our personal bags before we depart the ice for New Zealand on Tuesday. Unfortunately the weather looks like it is going to hold until Saturday and helicopters don’t fly on Sunday. Monday is all we have left to get our stuff.
I may end up coming home with a small backpack, a tooth brush, my passport, and the same cloths that I’ve been wearing for the past three months. Oh how Antarctica can still surprise me!
Well it is the end of the season. The ice is melting, the sun is always up, and Christmas is right around the corner. Time to head back home.
Yesterday was our final dive. We dove a recently opened hole called the Stockton hole. It was named for a researcher named Bill Stockton who did a lot of work down here in the 1970’s. He was one of the first people to document the scallops here and make note of their abundance. The reason for diving the Stockton hole was also to count scallops. This was a side project that Sam assigned me. Over the last few years, a colleague of Sam’s has been collecting live scallops for her research. As this is Sam’s last season, he wanted to see if there were any differences in the abundance of scallops here in explorers cove. Until the numbers are more directly analyzed, we are not completely sure.
After I collected scallop counts, Hilary and I headed up the fast ice. At this particular spot, there is a very shallow mound that is only about 15 feet deep. It was so beautiful because there was lots of fast ice under us and brine channels hanging down. It really felt like swimming through an ice cave. Once we got to the far edge, the bottom sloped away dramatically to greater than 100ft. This may be a place where water from the moat breaks through and rushes into the ocean. We got to see this out at Salmon Bay.
Our moat is filling up quickly. The Wales stream that pours off the Wales glacier has finally connected with the moat. This brings down warm (relatively), fresh water that fills up the moat. This is when we really start falling through the ice. In order to get our gear off the ice, Sam and I put on these old waders and walked out through the moat, and broke away parts of the ice and carried all our gear across. It was a lot of work, and pretty cold. The waders that I had were made for someone much bigger than me. The feet stuck out about 4 inches past my toes and I had to bunch up all the extra material on my thighs and rubber band it to stay. To lighten the mood, Sam decided that we need to talk like hill-billies and go “gater huntin’” out in the ice. It definitely lightened the mood. We have all been working so hard and everyone is really tired.
Over the past few days, we have been staging everything to be picked up by the helicopters. A lot of the stuff is put in nets and the slung under the helicopter. Today was pretty cool because I got to hook up a sling load that was a snowmobile. Not too many people can say they did that today. We have also been working hard at packing up the dive locker and trying to get everything ready to head back to McMurdo. Once we get there we get to unload and wash everything that we send back.
These next 10 days are going to be very physically demanding, but I’m really looking forward to closing out the season and heading back home. It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed my time in Antarctica, it has been the trip of a life time, but 10 weeks is a long time, I have seen so much, and now it’s time to head home. I miss the warm ocean and slippers (sandals). Mostly I miss not having to take off 4 layers just to pee. I am looking forward to getting home, but there is still a lot to do between now and then.
Until next time…