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Friday, November 9, 2007: Packing to return to McMurdo
Tomorrow we are scheduled to return to base, so today we need to re-pack our 2500 lbs of stuff into helicopter-sized boxes and loads. We also need to prepare the big items – the snowmobiles, the ATV, the Siglin sleds, the fuel barrels and propane bottles, and of course the Hotsy and generator – for sling loading under the helo. And of course clean up and secure the camp for the year. It seems like it was just yesterday that we unpacked all this. At least most of the food is gone…

Rigging a snowmobile to fly!


We gradually pulled in and shut down the various sites…first the farthest away at Deep, where we had such a wonderful success with finding Dayton’s old experiments, then Sideshow, which we mapped so thoroughly, and then leaving just the minimum at the Explorers Cove site, where Amy Moran will be bringing her group for a day visit in a few days. Closing down the PolarPalooza at Circus took a bit longer, because it included lots of things like putting the “wings” on the snowmobiles that stabilize them when they are being flown back, and removing the hotfinger heat coil from the Hotsy and packing it in its separate case, and making a “sandwich” of our two Siglin sleds with the Scott tent and the drill bits in the middle.

Making a Siglin Sandwich.

Once we had everything back at the main camp, we started building the sling loads. First you spread a huge cargo net, then you put a pallet on top of that, and then you fight the worlds largest cardboard box into position. These boxes, or triwalls, are triple thick and very sturdy, and the big size is 4 x 4 x 8 ft. The contents included tables, banana sleds, jerry cans, generators, drills, chainsaws, heaters, shovels, spill kits, containment berms, fire extinguishers, tents, and a lot of smaller stuff. The box weighed 800 lbs when we were done. Then you realize you forgot to put the cargo straps around it. Fortunately, there is space in the pallet to lace them, if you crawl around in the snow.
Readying the packed triwall as a sling load.

After most of our outdoor chores were done, we started packing up the indoors stuff – our dive gear and lab equipment from the lab, and the electronics and tools and camp gear from the main building. Somehow this last little bit always takes ten times as long as everything else. But eventually we finished, had everything weighed and tagged, and I could send the Helicopter Operations manager Liz a final list of our cargo.
A small part of our food wall before we ate most of it and packed the rest.

But it was only 4 pm! A whole evening free stretched in front of us – our first out here. Going for a walk had been the incentive that had kept us working quickly through the day, so that is what we did. Gearing up with our radios, food, water, pee bottles, and layers of clothing, we carefully set off over the ice and snow for a glimpse of a glacier. We passed rocks that have been carved by the constant blowing of the wind and abraded by sand – ventifacts. There were areas where sand and dirt had blown onto the surface of the snow, and the dark surface warmed enough to melt slightly, causing beautiful patterns. And finally, there was the Commonwealth Glacier. What a beautiful reward for our hard work!
The Commonwealth Glacier

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This material is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. ANT-0619622 ( Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.