Antarctic Astronomy Diaries 2003/04

   

   
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21 January 2004

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Chc

Hi All,

well I'm off the ice! For the first time I had an uninterrupted journey from Pole to ChC. On Monday at Pole, I raced around saying goodbyes, surprised as usual at the amount of people I'd managed to meet. I always return to Antarctica for the unique people I get to know while there. The day was cold and clear, and the blowing snow formed lovely ice halos around the sun, echoes of my first leavetaking from Pole. I took this as a good omen for a return!

Ange and Kara, my carpenter mates, zoomed up to the skiway on a snowmobile to say goodbye just as I was chatting to Doug and Kevin - the two American PI's of our new project, so it was good to introduce them. I felt good about going this time, I have a strong feeling I will be back soon, and also I am eager to get back home and dig my teeth into the final stages of my PhD (I never thought I'd be saying that!).

The flight was uneventful, except upon landing where the Airforce loading crew had clearly assessed all our luggage (the only cargo) as 'nonfragile'. Seconds after landing, still zooming along the ice runway, they opened the back of the Hercules and shoved our cargo out onto the snow! Wumph. Straight onto the ice in a great cloud of snow. It is amazing to watch. I'd like to see the looks on passengers faces if Qantas started doing this, offloading pieces of luggage on the runway like Plane Droppings as it skidded along. Don't think it will be popular somehow.

McMurdo was Mudtown, as usual, though the channel forged by the icebreakers is clear of ice due to big winds, for the first time in two years. So the orcas are back! We went out to the bluff and watched the young killer whales glide into the new strait, seeking seals, breaching and lolling in the water. Stunning to watch. They are the most beautiful creatures. Also saw a few brazen seals lolling out of reach on the ice.

Yesterday and we were sent out to the runway at 11am. Fat lot of good this does us as we are allowed to board the plane at 3:30pm. I am convinced they do this only to reduce the number of people eating lunch by eighty. So four and a half hours on a skifield, you get a little inventive. Some stuffed penguins I had bought suddenly went on a photo essay journey, driving snowmobiles, wedged nastily in the tracks of a big tractor, being squished by the terrabus. I
became a little vindictive and saw people grinning at the new terrors I invented for the little guys. Then later I saw others taking the same photos with their own penguins. Ah flattery is the best form of imitation :)

Finally at 3:30pm I was off the ice! A five hour journey and we touched down in Christchurch to 10C weather (oh, the heat!) and a glorious light drizzle. Water, wow! I leave today back for Sydney - and hopefully my normal contact
details for all my neglected bosses, friends and family. Thanks to all for reading my diaries again this year. All I can say is it has been a satisfying and promising trip, and lets hope, not the last!

Big smiles
Jess

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