The weather had started to make some serious changes during mid February. Last year I had left on the 8th of February and had missed seeing a lot of the change. We had a lot of strong winds and the temperature dropped to around zero (F). We had some days with -50F wind chills, which help to remind me why it might be a good time to fly north...
The wind also moved a lot of the ice out of the sound. Our work center became beachfront property, and a really foreign sound appeared. Water lapping against the shore!
The last few days before I left we started to see the sound begin to ice over again. It wouldn't be long before winter really started to set in. We technically had a couple of sunsets before I left, but they only lasted a couple of hours, and it didn't get very dark during the 'night'. I didn't stay up to watch them (the sun went down at 1:30 in the morning the first one). But with the sun a lot lower in the sky it made for some interesting light.
About the last 10 days I was on base we had a half dozen Penguins that had taken up residence just down the road from us. They had come ashore to molt, and were unable to swim or eat, during that process. After the first few days they tried to get out of the wind behind the rock.
The day before I left, we were walking out of the shop, and Bob Zook startled penguin that was standing next to the building. He was behind the truck so we were a little delayed in getting to lunch waiting for him to move. Of course that provided a great photo opportunity. This guy was just about done molting, but still had just a few feathers to loose on his head and neck.
Well the last flights out were a constant change. I had been scheduled to fly out on the last plane, a LC-130 on Thursday the 24th. Then after the ship off load had been completed they changed the schedule and were going to close the station a day early, so I was scheduled on the last LC-130 on Wednesday the 23rd. Then a flight was missed late the week before due to weather at McMurdo, so things started to change again, and they looked at doing two C-141 flights in the same day, and I was scheduled onto a 141 on Wednesday. They had mechanical problems with the 141 on Tuesday, after a boom a rang on Monday due to the Weather. Lots of other aircraft problems with the LC-130s, and the schedule changed a few more times. There were about 200 of us still on station at the end and the winterovers were ready to see us leave. When it was all said and done the people that had been delayed almost a week (due out on the previous Friday) ended up on the LC-130s, and I ended up on a 141, but not back in Christchurch until almost 11pm. There was one final LC-130 flight that didn't get out until the following day, as it needed parts that had to be flown back down on Friday. The winterovers had the big station closing party on Saturday Night.
Even though the ride was rather uncomfortable, the 141 looked good to see. I was ready to get back to Christchurch.
It was good to be back into Christchurch. It was about 70 Degrees (F) and very high humidity when we arrived. And IT WAS DARK! Stars were a odd sight to see after the four months of daylight. It was good to be back among the civilized world.
Of course it's only fitting to end up with one last hero shot, taken a couple of days before I left McMurdo.
At least for now, it's hard to say if I'll be back. Last year I left saying I wouldn't be back and here I was. This year I left planning on coming back for one more season...
I'm planning on building a web photo album. Be sure to check the start page if you haven't been there in a while.