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28 December, 2001

"Leaving McMurdo"

We make it out of McMurdo this time without a hitch. There are 32 of us because we stop at Scott Base to pick up a group of Kiwi scientists. Scott Base (the Kiwi base) is just over the hill from McMurdo Base (one of the American bases).

Because we had already completed our "bag drag" yesterday, we do not need to do it again. "Bag drag" required us to bring *everything* we planned on taking back home--2 packed bags that would be taken right away and 1 carry-on bag that we were allowed to keep until actual boarding of the plane. We were also required to appear in full ECW gear. It was much too hot with all that gear on! I now know I've lost weight because I weigh in (with gear and carry-on bag) at only 191 pounds--compared to 204 pounds when I left New Zealand.

At 10:30pm we are driven to a third landing strip, Pegasus, about 90 minutes away. It is a permanent ice field and always available, but it is a distance from McMurdo. Ivan, the Terra Bus, shuttles us there. This time we fly on a US C-130 Herc (as opposed to a Kiwi C-130). Our bag meal is more standard (meat & cheese on bread) than the pickle & mustard sandwich we had on the Kiwi flight in.

Once again, we are packed in like sardines among all the cargo. There is absolutely no room to move! When one person gets up, it affects the whole group. We are told to stay in our seats during the 8 hour flight to New Zealand.

It actually gets dark on this 1am flight. Something we have not seen in almost a month. It's very eerie to wake up and see only red and blue shapes of US and Kiwi parkas and no faces--on black holes. Very strange.

All goes well on the flight.. We arrive in Christchurch, NZ at 9am--full of aches, but in one piece! It's good to be back, yet I miss the rest of the team already.


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