The routine has been broken. Our typical McMurdo schedule of long days in the lab has come to a close. We spent a day and a half cleaning up the lab in preparation for lab checkout. The lab is now empty, all of the borrowed equipment has been returned to the stockroom, and the C-507 (C-507 is the soil team's event number) equipment has been placed back in the wood boxes to be transported back up to the "line". The "line" is the place where all of the station supplies and equipment are stored. It consists of many rows of containers on pallets and shipping containers and it is located on the hill above McMurdo. The lab had become a home away from home and now it is a strange and unfamiliar place without the mountains of Tri-Pour® beakers, the hum of refrigerators and vent fans, and the hustle and bustle of constant activity.
McMurdo is also changing. The cargo vessel, Ocean Giant, has arrived and large sections of town are blocked off with forklifts, tractors and trucks busily moving around like ants that have just found the remains of a picnic. The vessel is offloaded and then re-loaded within a few days. Nearly all of the supplies for the coming year came on the ship. I imagine there is a fair amount of stress involved in making that shopping list.
We were supposed to fly out of McMurdo today but our flight is delayed until tomorrow. The rumor is that they needed to do a few last minute things to prepare the new Phoenix runway. We are scheduled to fly out on a C-17. With little work left to do Ashley Shaw, Kelli Feeser and I decided to spend the day hiking (I skied) to Castle Rock. The rock is about three miles northeast of McMurdo.
The trail is well groomed, marked with flags and there are two safety huts along the route. The hike offers great views of Castle Rock, Ross GlacierA mass of ice that persists for many years and notably deforms and flows under the influence of gravity., Mount Erebus and Mount Terror. The final climb to the top of Castle Rock is steep and the route is roped for safety. It was a beautiful day and it felt good to be outside exploring Antarctica one last time.