Over and Out
Jan 15, 2009
I’m DONE with the rad van!! Aaaaah, happy dance! Ok, so I don’t mean to be overly dramatic about it, but I spent a lot of time in there and it feels good to be done and have some time to hang around outside for a while. The day that I finished my research was particularly sunny and a few people had set up lawn chairs on the deck, so I sat out in the sun for a while to breathe some fresh air and celebrate my reintroduction to society. (It just seems strange to lounge on a lawn chair while wearing your coat/gloves/jacket.) A few days ago we had our last ice station, and a group of minke whales gathered in front of the boat (apparently they’d been following our path of broken ice) and hung out there for two days, so it was really cool to see them directly ~9 meters above. (AND it was the first time I saw whales on the trip, so now I’ve finally seen them.) There were six of them in front of the ship in a relatively small enclosure of open water, so it was a good opportunity to really see them up close. I’ll write a minke whale post shortly, but in the mean time, here are a few photos of the whales-
–Can you see HOW close the wildlife get to us on the ice? In between the two researchers, a few Adelies run around, while a curious Minke whale swims to the ice edge to get a view of us on the surface.
To celebrate the last ice station some of the crew set up a volleyball court and we played out on the ice for a while, which is definitely a unique experience. A few penguins waddled up to the makeshift court, too, so we stopped play every once in a while to be sure not to run into them offsides. It’s good to have some free time in the last few days so that I can come away from this trip remembering things like volleyball on the ice rather than just recounting the 112th hour spent in the rad van. Granted, I know the rad van is why I’m here, but the lighter side of things is important too. I just wish I someone had taken a picture of me drilling ice cores because since I took most of the photos, very few of them include me.
Now that we’re done the only thing really left to do is pack, so everybody’s running around the ship with crates/boxes/hazard bags and trying to remember what goes where. For me I needed to decide what I want to take with me to New Zealand, where we will fly from the coastal Antarctic base McMurdo, and what I want to leave on the ship to be shipped back. I’d like to spend a few days exploring New Zealand but I don’t want to carry everything with me and anything I ship home to the US will take 2-3 months to arrive. Today’s the last day of sea ice work and the ship will head towards McMurdo tomorrow morning. It’s a bittersweet feeling- I’m definitely going to miss this experience and some of the people I met, but at the same time I did what I came here to do and now I know I have to go home. I’m only going to have a few days to explore McMurdo, the large American station on Ross Island in Antarctica where up to 900 scientists live during the austral summer season. It should be nice to explore and also exciting to meet NEW PEOPLE for the first time in quite a while. McMurdo has an airport with occasional science flights to New Zealand, so whenever the next plane lands in Antarctica we’ll catch the return flight back to civilization.
So, after this crazy trip, here are a few things I’ve done…
1)Taken about 1700 pictures
2)Learned where the bow, stern, port and starboard side of a ship are (I’ve never been on a ship before, so this was new to me)
3)Used an ice corer
4)Heard a penguin sneeze
5) Fallen through sea ice
6)Eaten more potatoes than I probably have in the rest of my life, because they’re quite common in Swedish food
7)Played volleyball on Antarctic sea ice
8)Used 832 of my sample bottles to collect sea water, ice core, and brine samples and study their chemical composition
9)Added entirely too many locations to my ‘Places to Visit’ list by talking to the world-travelers here
10)Not seen night sky or stars in 46 days since we passed below the Antarctic circle
…and I could go on. It’s going to be so weird to see a darker sky in New Zealand in a few days! (And it’ll be weird to have a room to myself, to see greenery and vegetation again, and not to have to shield my eyes immediately from any window when I’m not wearing sunglasses.) We’re currently very close to Ross Island, where McMurdo is, and the view of the volcano Mt. Erebus is impressive. We went from crossing through a horizon of ice all the time to all of a sudden having mountainous views two days ago, and it helps to show a sense of distance on the ship because we can see the mountains getting closer whereas you can’t get that sense of perspective crossing through an endless treadmill of ice.