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27 December, 2000

Today is to be a travel day. I will be flying to McMurdo on a New York Air National Guard LC-130. The New York Air Guard does most of the flying to the American bases in Antarctica. There are other planes that are used on the continent, like the DC-3 Skytrain that I mentioned in an earlier journal entry. The only other airplane that I have seen here at Pole besides the LC-130's and the DC-3, was this Otter. This plane brought in four tourists that spent $25,000 each just to spend a couple of hours at the Pole. I can't imagine spending that much money for such a short experience.

The LC-130 may not be a comfortable as an Otter but at least it will get me closer to home in a very few short hours. The flight from Pole to Mac Town takes about three hours if everything goes as planned. I am hopeful that the weather in McMurdo and at Pole will continue to hold. I am torn! I am excited about returning to the "Real World" and I am also sad to be leaving this unique and wonderful place. It is with some disappointment that I leave the highest, driest, coldest, windiest and southernmost continent. I feel that I could easily spend more time doing the science that I came here to do. But beyond this place I have a family that I miss very much, so I will say good bye to the South Pole... I hope not forever.

I made a smart comment yesterday that all our new building need was a couple of life rings and it would really look like a houseboat or a barge. Well guess what? One of the carpenters overheard me and low and behold we have life rings on the front rail of the "SS SPARCLE"! The people here are so great and will do almost anything to make their stay more fun. I couldn't resist taking a picture of the "Sailors" on the good ship SPARCLE for everyone to see. It is amazing how something as trivial as making life rings can really boost the moral of the folks that are working here. On the right is "Captain" Steve Warren. In the middle is "AB" Mike Town, our winter-over. On the left is "XO" Von Walden.

After some confusion as to if my plane was coming today, it did, I boarded a New York Air Guard LC-130 as expected at about 3 PM Pole time.

Shortly after taking to the sky, I asked the crew chief if I might get a chance to go up to the cockpit to take some pictures. I asked since this is probably one of the last chances I get to ride in a LC-130 and since there were only four PAX on this flight.

After getting up to the cockpit I could literally see for a hundred miles or more. The Chief had invited me up while we were over the Trans Antarctic Mountains.

I was really taken aback by the stark contrast of the mountains again the blinding white of the Ice. I probably was even more impressed with the beauty of the environment after living for so many weeks in the monochromatic environment that is the South Pole.

I also was very impressed with the detail of the various structures that could be seen for the altitude that we were flying. The great Crevasse Field on the top of a glacier was plainly evident. Seeing those fractures in such detail made me think of the misery that the early explorers went through to get to the Pole.

I feel very fortunate to be riding in relative warmth and comfort, supported by four throbbing turboprop engines for a three hour trip. Rather than dragging a sled for months and months in the cold expanse that lies beneath. I realize that I am not made of the same fibre as the likes of Shackelton, Scott, and Amundsen.

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