January 23, 2009
I am back in McMurdo Station (offline for a couple days while breaking camp).
Yesterday morning, a helicopter touched down at Cape Crozier just long enough for us to load several hundred pounds of gear, and we were off! As I caught a last glimpse of our hut from the air, looking very small indeed as it receded against a large snowfield, it was hard to comprehend I’d just spent two and a half months living there. The helo pilots chatted about icebergs and gnarly winds while the four of us sat quietly in back, jammed between cargo nets and piles of boxes, for the 45-minute ride back to McMurdo.
As soon as we landed and threw our gear in the lab, to be sorted over the next week, it was off to the showers to strip two months’ grime and penguin poo. My shower had no hot water, I forgot soap and shampoo, the paper towels were out, and all I had to dry was a 12×12″ swimmer’s towel, but it was one of the better showers of my life! After finding my room and putting linens on the bed, all the work of the past few days finally caught up, and I fell asleep there, in clean jeans and a T-shirt, nose pressed against the Tide-scented sheets like some TV commercial.
Speaking of TV, well, the world is still out there, even if we haven’t really been living in it for the past months. I guess we have a new president or something (ha!). Some plane crash landed in the Hudson River. And, uh, that’s still about all I know of current news. I was interested to learn that it was a Thursday yesterday when we got back to station – days of the week haven’t mattered much.
Besides a shower and a soft bed, the other real luxury of re-entry was food: McMurdo Station’s huge, all-you-can-eat, four meals daily cafeteria was like some kind of guilt-inducing free-for-all, and I soaked up every bit of it. Fresh pizza, cake, bread, orange juice, and custom-made burritos were nice, but as soon as I saw a bowl of plain lettuce, that was it: pour some dressing on it, and call it a salad – paradise!
I haven’t quite seen the last of penguins, though. We’re scheduled to make two helicopter day-trips from McMurdo later this week to Cape Royds and back to Cape Crozier for a few hours of banding and assessing chick condition one last time. I hope the weather holds; right now it’s beautiful, with sunshine, above-freezing temperatures, and calm winds. For the next three days, I’ll be packing, sorting, and cleaning gear in McMurdo Station, but I’ll keep this up to date until I leave Antarctica in another week. It ain’t over yet!