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16 December, 2000

Leaving Antarctica

My last day in Antarctica dawned clear and sunny, good flying weather. Our departure to New Zealand was delayed just two hours. It was the first time one of our flights actually left on the day it was originally scheduled.

Since the runway at Willy Field on the ice shelf can only accommodate aircraft with skis, we flew on an LC-130. The 3800 km (2400mi) flight took just over eight hours. It was loud but not uncomfortable. Out a small porthole, I was able to watch the sun set for the first time in thirty-eight days. Even before landing I could feel and smell the increased humidity.

Most of the people in the airport appeared to be on their summer break, many wearing shorts and sandals. So we got some interesting looks as we walked in wearing big red parkas, wind overalls, and snow boots.

After clearing customs at about midnight, we walked over to the Antarctic Centre and turned in our cold weather gear at the Clothing Distribution Center. I was a bit amazed that I still had all fifty-six items that I had been issued six weeks before. I was handed my plane ticket for the flight home and I walked out the door, my Antarctic experience officially over.

Back in the land of mild weather and flowers after a successful Antarctic season. The members of project 171 are Gary Clow, Rolf Tremblay, Ryan Bay, and Bob Hawley.

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