Thank the stars above that they did not set up Willie Field this year and instead set up the ice runway. If we had all had to ride in Ivan the forty minutes or whatever it is back, we would have had a bunch more folks sick. The short 8ish minute ride from the ice runway was almost too much for us. I really really loathe McMurdo. It is a filthy filthy miner town. Cigarette butts everywhere, trash everywhere. It's dirty, in the literal sense. Filthy dirty snow everywhere. Now don't get me wrong, the natural area around there is still breathtaking.
To look across the frozen sea ice and see the mountain ranges and the incredible sky, is something to experience for sure. Coming off the ice runway (or back out onto it), to see Erebus with its giant vertical column of steam is worth whatever the costs are to get down here. But staying true to every visit I've had, the majority of the people there are arrogant and incredibly rude. I can't tell you how many times I had people just stop and turn right in front of me cutting me off without saying a word. I eventually just stopped trying to be nice and fell into the rude behavior. When someone was stepping in my way or cutting me off I simply pushed through them, bumping into them. I had just spent a year at the South Pole. I have no fuse, I get really ticked off really quickly. Putting up with rude, inconsiderate people was not going to happen this trip. I was really looking for a fight to be honest with you. Not the best idea, I know, but I was fed up with these people. While sitting in the galley the night we got in, there was a reasonable sized group of us Polies just talking and drinking coffee, etc. We ended up being there so late that many of us decided to wait for Midrats which was available to anyone after 12:30. While sitting there you could tell we were in some folks' usual spot. We were getting dirty looks and had people obviously talking about us -- further ticking me off. We had a group of helicopter pilots or medics, of which I am not sure, sitting at a table beside us staring and muttering about us. Now this isn't just a paranoid feeling I was having. At one point one of them stood up, looked over at our tables, and then went back and told his table, that we're not even eating (we were waiting for the allowed 12:30). That really ticked me off, and well, I won't tell you what I ended up saying to their table. Brian had to pat me on the back and tell me to "Calm down, Jeremy." He could see I was getting ready to explode. Though after that, we both were just staring at the other table, giving them dirty looks every time they stopped and glared at our table. I'm kind of glad Brian was there to keep reminding me to calm down. He's a great guy -- glad to have met him and had the pleasure of spending the winter at the pole with him.
We then shortly had to get ready to fly out.
We would have preferred some more time to spend with Sarah but were not going to stay there any longer. We tried to find her the night before but just kept missing each other. Thankfully we left when we did, because the folks who left the day after us from the pole got stuck down in mactown until supposedly Monday, due to a fuel leak in the C-17 that took us into CHC. Poor them.
It was soooo nice to have finally landed in CHC. My goodness it smelt wonderful. There was some sort of flowery bush around there that was just wonderful. And the humidity, oh my the humidity!! That felt good! I think we all had smiles from ear to ear while we were walking into the immigration/customs. I still had all my gear on while walking in there, not fun let me tell you. The smarter folks did what I had planned on doing, and that was taking all of their gear off while they were on the plane and just tossing it into the bag. I was too busy sleeping. Oh well, lesson learned.
Once we did get into the customs place, we found out that many of us did not apparently have our visa extensions completed and were given some trouble by the people at the counter. So some of us were freaking out because this was supposed to have all been taken care of while we were down on the ice. It seemingly wasn't. (As it turns out we were actually all taken care of and it was done electronically. It's just that the folks didn't see our stamps so they were freakin out. So we hit the CDC, dropped off all of our gear, picked up our South Pole t-shirts that I designed, then we were dropped off at our respective hotels.
We all met up at Bailies that night, a local Irish bar/pub. It was so nice to have fresh made food to order, a fresh pulled Guinness. And to sit outside in that wonderful fresh air. It was an amazing feeling.
And that about sums up our exodus; well, sort of...Krissie left her wallet at the South Pole, and I left my passport at the CDC...not the best start ;}
This will be my final "live" update to this blog. I will add one official final blog entry when I get back home in the states to sum up the adventure for the random folks coming across the blog looking for info about the pole. All future blogging about Krissie and my travels will be found here.
Thanks again for reading, I hope you enjoyed it!
Oh and I'm adding this cause it's cool. Took me five minutes to figure out the controls again, then another 5 or so to do this while I was waiting for stuff to print while still at the pole the day before I left.
Pretty sad that I couldn't spell Antarctica...stupid thing needs a spell checker.
On another happy note, Pip was freed, and finally able to see the pole.
There was a re-trial, and the key witness failed to show up. Hmm, too bad. My good friend Pip is once again among the free, enjoying the good life.