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26 December, 2001

Question of the day: Why is the airfield for McMurdo Station moved from a sea ice field to a regular ice field every December? (Answer appears at the end of this journal entry.)

"Leaving the Field"

My last day in the field. My time was up, and I was scheduled to leave the field for McMurdo Station at 10:30am. Of course, nothing happens as planned. Two flights were needed to retrieve John and Duck and their provisions from Finger Ridge. Then, it was lunchtime, so Jaime made hot cheese and turkey sandwiches for everyone. Finally, at 1:30pm, it was time to leave.

It was a tearful good-bye. Not only was I leaving, but Ralph, our PI, was also returning home to his family. Hugs, waves, and more hugs all around. Then it was time to board the twin otter and head for McMurdo. The flight was over miles of snow covered mountains, hillsides, ridges, and valleys. The day was overcast, so it was difficult to tell clouds from snow. There was some turbulence over Mt. Discovery (rather scary in a small plane), but, otherwise, the flight fine.

We landed in Willie Field. In our absence the landing field had been moved to a regular ice field farther away from McMurdo Station (as opposed to the sea ice field nearer to McMurdo). Our cargo was unloaded into a wooden cargo box and fork-lifted away. Our ride into McMurdo was upon an ice-covered "freeway" that was marked with flags--green flags for the right side, red for the left.

Speed was limited to "very slow" to preventing skidding.

After unloading hand-carry and checking-in, we were assigned new dorm rooms. Fortunately, once again I was assigned Bldg. 155. As Ralph says: "I'm able to walk to breakfast in my stocking feet!" (The cafeteria is also in Bldg. 155.) Ralph is assigned to a PI suite. That's ok, he has further to go for breakfast!

My first "luxury" is a long shower. It's been three weeks! Definitely, a luxury. Next, was a hot cooked meal in the galley (lamb chops!). I miss the field, but these "luxuries" aren't bad either!

Answer to today's "Question of the day": December is considered mid-summer in Antarctica. It is usually the warmest time of the year. The sea ice field is used only during the colder parts of the year when it is about 15-20 feet thick. In the summer, the sea ice starts to thin and can no longer safely hold the weight of C-150 Hercs. So, although Willie Field is further away from McMurdo Station, the airfield is moved there during the warmest summer months because the ice can be up to 300 feet thick.


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