I took an LC-130 Hercules back from Byrd, just like I did to get there. We were a bit surprised when the plane landed at Byrd since there had been 5 days of scheduled flights to arrive, but all of them had been diverted to other places for priority or weather reasons.
As the plane was being refueled, the cargo was being loaded. The biggest and most important piece of cargo was this massive (and broken) Challenger tractor. A couple of mechanics had been sent to Byrd camp specifically to disassemble this thing and cargo people were sent specifically to package it up. Unfortunately the only thing available to put it on was a giant sled that articulated in the middle so that when another piece of equipment was used to push the sled toward the plane, the assembly would jackknife and refuse to go in a straight line.
It took over an hour to get this thing on the plane and ultimately the bulldozer pushing it on had to push the sled from the slide to get it lined up and then the loadmasters on the herc winched it on. But finally we were on our way.
I left a day earlier than scheduled because the team wanted me to be back in McMurdo when the Basler arrived, scheduled for the next day. 3 people were flying on the Basler itself and the other 3 of us were meant to take a Herc the same day, but Herc flights to Byrd were getting cancelled so frequently that it was decided to send me on the next flight so there was a prayer of me being in McMurdo to help with deconfiguring the Basler. That went right along with the Byrd Camp motto:
If a plane lands, get on it.
So off we went for the 3 hour flight back to McMurdo. Good thing, too, because another herc didn’t arrive for 4 more days.
About an hour in, I decided to go check out the cockpit because…why not? It was very cool up there and there were plenty of windows to make for a great view. It was much louder so it was more difficult to carry on a conversation, but I still asked lots of questions and the flight crew was nice enough to answer all of them. It’s quite an operation.
There were several extra seats in the cockpit so I stayed up there for the landing which was a cool experience. There wasn’t a lot to see since the skiway is, by definition, flat and white. But it was interesting to watch the pilots land the thing and then of course there’s the part where they lower the nose of the plane after we’ve stopped.
We left Byrd Camp about a week before it was scheduled to officially close down for the season. Here’s the sign over the Byrd Camp mailbox. As it got to be the end of January, more of the field camps were closing so more of these signs went up near the mail room.
I don’t have any work pictures from my last week in McMurdo, but we kept plenty busy deconfiguring the plane, inventorying our stuff, and repacking the cargo. I was the point of contact with the Science Cargo department and The Berg Field Center, so I also spent a lot of time filling out paperwork to get our stuff home and returning borrowed equipment.
There was a lot of heavy lifting (literally!) but the days were relatively short compared to when we were doing science. We finished the day before we left, mostly because we took all the time we had. In the end, everything got done and we were good to go by Friday afternoon.