My last look before boarding the plane.
Shuttle Bob is the man. He was supervising some one's first trip drive out to Pegasus Airfield in a Delta and commandeered a spot in the cab for me with them. Normally, you have to ride in the back and just bounce along without being able to easily see outside. Sitting shotgun, you get to see everything. On the way out, I saw one of the largest fata morganas that I have ever seen. Thanks, Bob!
An almost empty C-17.
When I came to Antarctica, the plane was full with almost 125 people. There were more seats and all the seats down both sides were filled (comparison picture). On the way back, the plane was almost empty. It was weird. There were four McMurdo winterovers, maybe eight Kiwi winterovers, and then 20 grantees who were already on their way home. I can't imagine what coming down for such a short time is like.
Watching out the window.
The flight out was very similar to the flight in. Everyone gets up as soon as they can and walks around. They settle into music and reading. They look out the three port holes for one last look at Antarctica. The best views were early on in the flight when we were crossing the mountain ranges. In the second half of the flight, it was all clouds, water, or flat ice. People chose a different activity to pass the time - sleep.
Sleeping on the floor of the plane.
Having the extra space to spread out and sleep on the plane was great. I tossed my big red on the floor and zonked out for at least a couple hours to make up for the sleep I missed the night before. Some of the air crew, who are used to the long flight, rolled out beds for themselves. They had air mattresses and sleeping bags already to go. Great stuff. Sometime during the flight, a lot of people stripped out of their ECW so that they would be properly dressed for the weather when they got to CHC. I didn't remove all of mine because the floor where I was sleeping was cold and so was the seat where I was by the back door of the plane (thanks for the tip though, Atlas).
The Botanical Gardens in Christchurch.
I've already rambled about my first moments in Christchurch. Terrible smells. Great smells. Peace. Not so quiet. The next few days were glorious. I spent so many hours just strolling through the park. Great stuff. Hopefully, it will be the first of many steps to getting rid of the dark bags that seem to have been permanently under my eyes at McMurdo. However, that might have just been how pale I was. Either way, walking around in the sun will fix that too.
I'm tired. Time to go home.