Moai on Easter Island

Moai on Easter Island

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Last Takeoff

Scott's Hut at Cape Evans with the frozen starfish.
Two days ago I watched the C-17 take off from McMurdo's sea ice runway.  It was the first, last and only time that I’ll see it leave Antarctica this year.  The takeoff seems to happen in slow motion.  The plane starts to creep forward as a huge cloud of blowing snow builds behind it.  The giant machine doesn’t seem to gain much speed as it leaves the ground using only a short section of the runway.  Even in the air it doesn't appear to be moving very fast.  It seems to be suspended on an invisible string while banking a turn and heads north toward New Zealand.  While gaining altitude it doesn't take much time for the plane to disappear into the light blue Antarctic sky.

I’ve waited over a year to fly on the C-17 and the next time it takes off from Antarctica I will be on it. 

Part of the wall inside the Cape Evans Hut is made from old provisions boxes.
Iceberg frozen into the sea ice in McMurdo Sound.

The whole plan of staying in Antarctica until November 22 recently got thrown out the window.  Thanks to certain people in congress most of the US Antarctic Program is shutting down.  The stations go into “caretaker” mode and are only allowed functions that support life and property.  This means that hundreds of us loose our jobs and are being sent home.  But more importantly it means that almost all the scientific projects that are worked on down here are cancelled for the year.  Many of these research projects have been going on for 40+ years and a full season of missing data is catastrophic.  Some of the projects are only funded for a year or two so missing a year of data completely ruins that project.  But I won't rant anymore because I am only doing one of two things there: preaching to the choir of people who didn’t elect the few that are holding up congress moving forward or I’m speaking to those few complete idiots who did elect them they could not care less about science and the people they are supposed to be representing anyway.

If the current bad weather clears by I will land in Christchurch tomorrow night.  I can't wait to smell new smells and eat real food.  I am, however, terrified at the thought of going into a grocery store or ordering food at a restaurant.  I remember those things being tough during my R&R back in February after only four months down here.  Now I have an extra 8 1/2 months to recover from.