Mr. Pastirik's Daily Log 6 December 2005Epilogue; 12/6/05
I left McMurdo on one of the last flights by the U.S. of the season on the sea ice runway. Soon, the ice will develop large cracks and decay enough to make it unable to hold the weight of the C-130s. Nearly every day, I walked the transition (the area not made of pure rock, and not pure sea ice) and I have watched cracks develop, deepen, and widen. It was not a comforting sight. The Kiwis will tempt fate and use the airstrip until December 15th. I wish them well. The U.S. flights move to Willie Field, or more remote Pegasus. Each of these fields is on the Ice Shelf which is much thicker than the frozen sea ice.
The C-130s upon which we made our delayed exit looked large in their proximity, but when viewed from afar, appeared insignificant in the foreground of Mt. Erebus. Still, the planes are sturdy, and versatile. Pilots that fly them are proud of the capability of the plane to land and take off in cramped spaces. We were left in the cold as the plane fueled. Upon entry, we were buckled into our tightly-packed, knee touching web seats that faced one another. During pre-flight, we were told the plane was going to descend to 2000 feet in altitude enabling a biologist to get a photographic record or census of the Adelie penguins. To do this, the doors in the rear would need to be opened. Not many of my fellow passengers believed this was going to happen. Well, the doors did open, and scientists (strapped in) leaned out the plane photographing away. The rest of us scurried to the safety of our seats, and seat belt restraints. Now, I take Kiwis at their word and assume that they mean what they say. I move much faster too. The Adelies are much smaller than Emperors, so at two thousand feet, there couldnít have been much to see except for little blobs or specks. Still, it has to be a trill to be outside the protection of the plane.
We arrived in Christchurch, NZ and went our separate ways. I returned to the Devon, a Bed and Breakfast run by Sandy. It is charming, well-kept, and Sandy is a gracious, wonderful host. The evening found me in a Tavern listening to a solo guitar player doing a good rendition of largely American Folks songs. For the good of everyone, I didnít sing. After a good breakfast at the Devon, I walked to Christchurch Botanical Gardens (free, but with a suggested donation of $5 Kiwi). The gardens are sprawling, beautiful, and much worth a visit. At 2 pm, I caught the shuttle that took me to the airport. A largely uneventful (which is good on an airplane flying at 37,000 feet), but long flight to Los Angeles ensued. Two shorter domestic flights followed, first to Dallas, TX and then home to Atlanta, GA. Not including delays (normal and otherwise), layovers, etc., I was in the air 29 hours in less than two days.
I have always admired people who can sum it all up. I am not one of those people. However, mates, I will give it a go. No worries, it wonít stretch on.
I am very thankful for the opportunity that I was afforded. For me, the obvious lesson is education matters. Without it, I would not have been considered. Finding good people is important. I was fortuitous enough to interact with great people at all levels. In effect, each allowed me into their world, and from there, to learn from them. This student-to- teacher, or mentoring relationship is important.
Antarctica is a harsh, unforgiving land. Its beauty is stark, surreal at times, and intoxicating. People come to the continent as visitors, and only then with a long and strong supply chain. It sits at the bottom of a beautiful, life-sustaining planet. Antarctica, large as it is, can be overwhelmed by the crush of humanity. So, can the rest of Planet Earth. I would like to think that practices used on Antarctica can be generalized to the entire planet. It is possible.
Take care of one another. mp