Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The sweet smell of freedom

Greetings from Christchurch, New Zealand!  Made it in late last night local time (around 11pm).  After the madness of the previous night, it was pretty much hurry up and wait mode Monday. 
Probably one of the cooler and most uncommon passport stamps in my collection
After checking out, dropping off / returning all my gear in and around the station, we hopped on "Ivan" (below) and proceeded out to Pegasus to await our chariot.

After about 45 minutes, the long awaited C-17 flew into view, circled to land and arrived with a fresh load of winter personnel and pick us up.  It landed, used most of the 10,000' runway to get stopped and taxied right up to where we were waiting.  Engines still running we were cleared on once all the folks being delivered and picked up were out of the plane. 

400,000 lbs of metal on ice moving at 140 knots trying to stop.

Slowed down to taxi speed....made it.
So as soon as everyone was on, we closed up and taxied out, off we went in about a 30 minute turn.  Very efficient process I might add.  The planned flight was about 5 hours to get back.  True to word, it was and we landed around 9:30pm local.  We flew across West Antarctica on the way home, the last peaks of Victoria Land waving goodbye as we passed over them at 32,000'.   About 4 hrs later we were treated to something new for everyone departing--a sunset over the South Pacific--and on into the night we flew.
Victoria Land, West Antarctica

100 of my stinky fellow passengers
We landed and then had to go about clearing customs and wait for our bags.  The immediate shock were the smells and the heat.  Smells I took for granted overwhelmed what I thought was a stuffy nose--simple smells like grass, trees, farms, etc.  You forget there is nothing to smell in Antarctica and the influx of warmer air, humidity and the local flora was amazing.  Also, granted it was around 15C out (roughly 60F) but that was about 60-70 degrees warmer than earlier--enough to shock the system a bit.  After an hour or so we cleared, collected our gear and hiked over to the CDC or clothing distribution center where the US Antarctic Program office issued all our gear out of last month.  The process was much easier as we threw all our junk into a mountain of stinking winter wear.  There is a nice blend of sweat, jet fuel and penguin dung in the air. Glad I don't have to sort through that.

Today I am relaxing.  Walking around the Botanical Gardens to continue enjoying the smells and lovely weather.  Its in the 60's and sunny--a lovely summer day and near end to my journey home.  Now off to Boise it is tomorrow.  Well tomorrow and the next day as it is around a 26 hr adventure.  Can't wait, wish I could just click my heels 3 times....

Talk to everyone soon.  Hope all is well and can't wait to share the stories. Cheers!

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