So, it comes to this. I finished work a couple days ago and put my kitchen shoes in storage. I mailed things to myself in the States. I got together all the random things I’m handing over to Natalie, my last-summer roommate who is flying in for another summer on the same c-17 that’s coming to fetch me and a few dozen other WinterOvers back to civilization. I’ve cleaned my room. I’ve packed my suitcases…
Okay, that’s a lie. I’m mostly packed. I’ve, uhm, thought about packing. I made a list. I even wrote out the list on graph paper to make it look all serious and stuff. Then I spent an hour trying to decide where best to put the list so that I did not lose it and could not ignore it. Then I was distracted by something bright and shiny… packing? What’s packing, precious?
Tomorrow morning we’ll bag drag–haul our luggage up the hill to the ATO building and hand it over to be”palletized” for easy loading onto the plane. Tomorrow afternoon, inshallah and weather permitting, the C-17 from Christchurch will land and drop off Natalie and 77 other souls and their bags, then stay on the ground just long enough for us to board.
(An interesting aside: I learned last year that C-17s don’t stay on the ground here more than an hour because, if they do, things that should not freeze begin to freeze and that would be very, very bad. Think about it… if the plane breaks down here, how the hell do they get it back to New Zealand? It’s not like it’s got a tow hitch. Anyway, I learned today that during the brief time the C-17 is on the ground, it changes location frequently based on the recommendations of guys standing around it on the runway measuring the sea ice beneath it. Apparently it does not take very long at all for the weight of the bigass plane to compress the sea ice (which is only six to eight feet thick) and cause bowing and possible structural issues, as in cracking. It’s reassuring facts like this that I wish I did not know.)
Weather gods willing (always a question mark here, especially since there’s a front moving in tomorrow afternoon right as we’re supposed to be leaving), 36 hours from now I will be fast asleep in a queen-size hotel bed in Christchurch, having bathed long enough to become utterly prunish. 48 hours from now I will be terribly ill, having eaten my weight in mangos, sashimi and raw spinach.
Early this morning, with the clocking ticking down, I realized I’d forgotten to do something very important: take a photo of Karl here on the Ice.
My longtime readers will remember Karl, my loyal Kiwi companion who posed for photos from one end of New Zealand to the other while I lived there. Yes, Karl came to the Ice with me (he is a well-traveled mini-plush, I’ll say that) and accompanied me on many hikes. But somehow, in 14 months, I never took a photo of him.
It’s partly the fact that I was distracted by nacreous clouds, Weddell seals, pressure ridges, auroras, penguins and other Antarctic attractions. But I’ve also become rather protective of Karl following his near-death experience of falling into Milford Sound. I worried that the wind would whip him out of my fingers, or that a skua would mistake him for a plump hamburger bun and divebomb me with disastrous consequences. So Karl stayed warm and safe in my pocket.
This morning, however, despite some serious wind, I took Karl out in a deathgrip to make sure his trip to Antarctica was documented.
I like this shot: it reminds me of all the portraits and statues of explorers like Scott and Shackleton and Killjoy Amundsen. They’re always posing with chins up, looking off into the distance.
Another task on my to-do list that I finished earlier today: my video scrapbook. It’s not fancy. It has no storyline. It does have some pretty cool music (well, I think so). It’s basically just a collection of my favorite photos and videos and memories, arranged in roughly chronological order, summing up the past 14 months of adventures and new experiences. It’s up at YouTube if you’d like to check it out. It’s about ten minutes long, though it could have been much longer thanks to all the amazing gifts Antarctica has given me.
Enjoy. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to look at my list of things I have to pack for a couple minutes before deciding to put it off because I have plenty of time and really want to watch The Lord of the Rings instead…