October 22, 2011 Leaving on a Jet Plane
Departing McMurdo Station is usually a day of mixed emotions. Some people are thrilled to be leaving. Often, they are thinking of the family and friends that they are returning to. Others are sad to be leaving. Often, they are thinking of the family and friends that they are leaving behind on the ice.
For me, it's both. I am really excited to be returning to my family and my students. I am also really sad to be leaving my friends who remain on the ice. They will continue on the important scientific work, and continue making new memories without me. Just as with Dr. Stacy Kim and Dr. Adam Marsh before me, it is a bittersweet parting. Soon after my departure, Stephanie and Annamarie will leave the ice, and so will conclude our field work.
One thing I will really miss about working in Antarctica is my excuse to eat whatever I want. Here was my huge final breakfast. It was really nice being able to eat so much and then have my body convert all those calories to heat energy.
Packing my bags, I participated in what is known as "bag drag". This is when you bring all of your bags to the passenger building. Your bags are checked in, weighed, and you get your instructions for departure. There are 26 passengers on my flight.
Loading the Plane
The C-17 that will carry us back to New Zealand is loaded on the sea ice runway, a runway that didn't exist 8 weeks ago. This is the runway built on the sea ice for MainBody. It's the reason that so many of the heavy equipment operators were flown into McMurdo Station. It's also so much closer to McMurdo - the reason that we save so much time and fuel.
The biggest member of our departing party, a giant container, being shipped back to New Zealand, aboard our flight.
Arriving in New Zealand
Once back in Christchurch, our pattern is the same as it was for our departure to Antarctica, but in reverse. We go back to the Clothing Distribution Center and turn back in all of our Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) Gear. Then it's off to our hotel and flights back to the USA. Luckily, I get to explore New Zealand a bit before my return home - an adventure I hope to share with you.