October 29, Jennifer here.
We quickly broke down our tents and just as we were midway through, we could hear the helicopter on its way. We were only a 30-minute flight from McMurdo, but sound travels a long way on this silent continent and another 10 minutes or so later that we finally saw the bird coming to our rescue, or our chagrin, depending on whether you wanted to stay in the wild winter wonderland or return to the sounds of machinery and >1000 people in McMurdo.
|I awoke late (0800) at our camp near Cape Chocolate, and I didn’t hear a stir from any of the other tents, so I peered out the tent to see if anybody was up, and to my amazement it was snowing, all was still, and everything was coated with a thin fresh layer of white fluff. Thinking that we were marooned, because the helicopters don’t fly in low visibility weather, I crawled back into my icy sleeping bag and drifted into dreamland between my frozen breath waking me from snowing back onto the small area of my face that was exposed. I awoke to the sound of the radio chirping a couple tents down. Stacy had made contact with the helicopter pilots, and despite the diminished visibility, our 1300 pickup time was on schedule. So we staged the 5500 pounds of gear that we brought to camp and dive in potentially harsh weather conditions, and in the event that the helicopter couldn’t reach us, we kept our tents up, the stove and food out, and other essential survival gear at hand (e.g. chocolate and the first aid kit). We had almost completed packing up the non-essentials, the weather began to clear, and the next thing we knew the helicopter was scheduled to arrive in 45 minutes.
||Frost, sorry, no pictures of snow, we were all too cold.
| Tents up
|| Tents down, the rush to beat the helicopter
The flight was short and we were so crammed in there with all our gear that it was difficult to see out the window and sightsee, but I did notice that the long icicles that had formed on Mike’s beard were finally thawing.
We hit the tarmac running, because we had a lot of gear to wash and put away and because we only had 30 minutes before the galley closed for lunch (it’s important to have your priorities straight). We quickly stowed all the gear and ran to lunch. We were late, but the nice folks that work at the galley made us sandwiches and ladled us up some nice warm bowls of soup that were greatly appreciated.
Afterward, we washed gear and stowed everything properly at various places (the BFC, berg field center, the MEC, mechanical equipment center, the diver locker, and finally the lab). However, the duties did not end there...
A small sample of all the fun camping equipment at the BFC; tents, sleeping bags, water bottles and thermoses.
||When the helicopter arrived, we helped them carefully load our gear by weight (every item was individually weighed and tagged prior to the flight) and bulk (i.e. the generator and Hotsy, see Mike’s update on October 25th for an explanation of this ingenious piece of machinery, were be slung from the bird by a long metal cord). Then, after they let us perfect our pyramid (well, almost), we boarded, minus Stacy and one of the pilots who stayed there to prepare the remainder of the gear for the second trip.
|There are strict rules about camping in the deep field, and one of the most important ones is that what you bring in to camp, you bring out; which includes what you have eaten and then subsequently excreted. Unfortunately, Andrew was stuck with disposing of the “Human Waste”. After a few phone calls, and 30 minutes of getting lost on the 6 roads in town, he found the proper receptacle to dispose of our disposals. Thanks Andrew!