Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Wednesday morning. The third time is a charm. At our 8 am call to Helo Ops, we learn that, even though we are scheduled for the afternoon, they are launching in an hour (9 am), and we should be ready. Although they don't say this, they are making a special effort to get us out today.
This is very welcome news on many fronts, especially as we contemplate our dwindling food supply. Most of what we have left is quasi-emergency rations - a variety of freeze-dried foods that are definitely not like Mom used to make.
That said, here's no way that we can take down camp in an hour, much less build a sling load. Fortunately, they realize this, and the helo will wait while the Josh (the helo tech) leads us through building the slings. This is much appreciated, on many fronts.
By around 9:45, as we are still frantically trying to unbury the "deadman" anchors, break the ice away from the sides of the tens, and pack everything, neatly divided for the helicopter and the sling load), the helo is on the radio
They are approaching, but warn us that weather conditions are not great - it is cloudy, so surface definition is not great and a landing is not assured. This instantly brings work to a standstill - it would not be fun to set up camp again.
It makes one approach, decides the weather is OK, and comes back to land. This time, it spends what seems like a considerable time (at least many seconds) hovering just a few feet off the ground, while we lie on our bags, to keep things from blowing away. Finally, it settles down. Although the photo above is from when the sling load was delivered, it's a pretty good representation of things.
From there, it's all uphill. It takes another hour and a quarter to pack up our gear and make the sling load. Because of the weather, they will not pick up the sling load today.
Then, we climbed aboard and take off and watch the station recede into the distance, obscured by clouds of snow blown up by the helicopter rotors.
On our arrival, we were met by a truck which ferried us and our gear up to Berg Field Camp. At this point, it was noon, and the galley was serving lunch for another hour. Since there were some things that absolutely had to be done, this left us with a dilemma: showers first, and risk missing lunch, or lunch? My apologies to anyone who sat near us during lunch.
Coming back to McMurdo has required some adjustments. Besides the masses of people, there are the conveniences - flush toilets, sinks with running water, rooms that can be dark, etc. It's nice to be able to be indoors again.
Posted by Spencer Klein at 1:18 AM