Delays? Of course there are.
Our plane was scheduled to leave New Zealand this morning at 9:00. In typical Antarctic fashion we woke up to a four hour weather delay. At 1:00 PM there was another delay rumored to be mechanical in nature. Around 2:45 PM we finally received word that the plane had left Christchurch. Four hours later we loaded onto the Kress for the hour-long drive to the new Phoenix Airfield. There was a lot of enthusiasm on board the Kress; people are excited to be going home after a long field season that for many started in October.
The C-17 is massive! We pulled up to the runway just as it landed. Phoenix Airfield is located on the Ross Ice Shelf like Willy Field. At Phoenix the snow has been packed in a way that makes it suitable for landing wheeled jets in addition to the LC-130s which have skis. The C-17 is much larger and faster than the LC-130. Our return trip to Christchurch was more than two hours faster than our trip to the ice on the LC-130.
Back to Christchurch
We landed in Christchurch at about 3:00 AM. When they opened the door, I could see out into a dark night sky for the first time in a month. As I stepped off the plane you notice the smell. There is a strong background odor of organic matter that just isn't there in Antarctica. It all felt a little bit surreal. We collected our bags and passed through customs relatively quickly. We walked over to the CDC(abbreviation) Clothing Distribution Center (or Centre as they spell it in New Zealand) (Clothing Distribution Center) to return our ECW(abbreviation) Extreme Cold Weather clothing gear and then to our hotel for a short night's sleep.