December 14, 2009, South Pole Station –
My time at the South Pole passed by much too fast. We had a busy schedule of tank installation and commissioning. It was never boring and we enjoyed working together in a friendly atmosphere, feeling responsible for the science project and for each other, helping the others when necessary and all of us were concerned to do things right because we want to have a good detector. I liked the way we were comradely working together and I think the others did so too. When we had our little farewell party, all agreed that we had a good and productive time and smiled into the camera when the last team photo was taken (see left picture below).
Top: Farewell party the evening before I left, with James, myself, Casey, and Chris. Bottom: We were three IceCubers which left the South Pole Station on that day: Karen, Steven and myself. In the background the C-130 turboprop machine on skis which brought us to the McMurdo coast station. Photos were taken by Karen Andeen and Jim Haugen, both with my camera.
For the departure, colleagues usually come to say bye-bye and the last South Pole photos are taken (see right picture above). During the flight from South Pole to McMurdo, we enjoyed the spectacular views on the mountains and glaciers when crossing the Transantarctic Mountains (see left picture below). The plane landed on “Pegasus Field” on the ice shelf near McMurdo. On the way to the station, a group of penguins (see picture) crossed our road -- the first penguins I saw in Antarctica although it was the fourth time in McMurdo. Penguins are rarely seen near the station because most of the time there is no open water nearby. Is it just curiosity that makes penguins walk around?
Left: View from the cockpit of the C-130 on the Transantarctic Mountains.
Coming from the South Pole to McMurdo is as if you come from a rural into an industrial metropolitan area. McMurdo station has more than 1,000 inhabitants and is correspondingly busy. Besides that, its appearance is that of a frontier mining town, with black volcanic stone and ashes around it. Without any biological green, this makes it look a bit dirty. Those coming from the South Pole confirmed to each other how much nicer life and atmosphere at the Pole is. Adding to this impression is the fact that the transit passengers have to spend the nights in a 30-man room (for the women it was somewhat better).
Fortunately we had to stay only one night in McMurdo. The next day we were brought by a C-17 jet machine to Christchurch, New Zealand. What does one feel coming back from a cold, white desert with no fauna and flora? I had nearly forgotten that it becomes dark at night (we arrived in the evening, see left picture below). You have to readjust to the green trees and the flowers (right picture below), the bustling life on the streets, and to comfortably warm evenings in street restaurants, parks, and beer gardens.
Left: Beautiful sky when we arrived at the Christchurch airport. Right: Cathedral Square in Christchurch.