Getting off the ice turned out to be smoother than getting on the ice. There was some concern about whether we would leave on time. Normally C-17’s (LARGE military cargo aircraft) are used at the beginning and end of season to transport large quantities of people and supplies to and from the ice. During the middle of the season, the weather is typically too warm and the skiway too soft to support them.
Unfortunately, this year the skiway was still too warm in early February to support the C-17’s, so C-130’s were doing all the transport. This means flights were backed up since the C-130’s were also being used for other transportation around the continent. They were also more weight limited, to the point where passengers would sometimes get bumped from their flights at the last minute due to the aircraft otherwise being too heavy to take off. Luckily, our scheduled flight went off without a hitch.
One of the last things to do before leaving McMurdo is to sort our trash. Because all trash needs to be removed from the continent, it has to be carefully sorted. Here’s an example of a sorting station. There are 14 different bins here, all for different types of material. An even bigger variety of bins can be found outside. They range from food waste to aluminum cans to glass to mixed paper to light metal to cardboard…the list goes on.
There’s even a bin for “skua”, named after the scavenging birds that linger outside the galley waiting to dive bomb people who walk out holding food. It’s a place to throw unwanted yet perfectly usable personal items like clothes, shoes, and half-empty bottles of shampoo. People looking for such items can then go take a look for what they may need.
Once I was packed and the trash was sorted it was time to say goodbye to McMurdo.
Then head over to the Movement Control Center (usually just called Building 140) where would got on Ivan the Terrabus to blast into space. Or just to get a ride to the skiway to board our herc.
The flight back was very cool. I got some good pictures of the sea ice breaking up as we flew over.
I was happy to have gotten a seat by the window.
It was an 8-hour trip, my longest in a C-130, but it was pretty comfortable and didn’t even get too cold. Most people managed at least a little sleep on the way.
We landed in McMurdo with no problem and after clearing NZ customs, we returned to the Clothing Distribution Center to return our Extreme Cold Weather gear. Then a shuttle delivered us to our hotel for the evening and we were officially back in civilization.
I had forgotten that we would be stepping off the plane into summer. It was overcast, but there was a wonderful warm breeze. I was glad to be back in Christchurch with the flowers and grass.