After over 3 months on the ice, it was almost hard to believe we were done with data collection. We had completed two separate projects and collected almost 20 deployments worth of data. By any metric it had been a very successful season!
Even though data collection was done there was still a lot of work to do before we headed home. All 3 camps needed to be broken down, with all equipment and waste brought back to McMurdo Station. Nothing can be left on the ice to contaminate the environment. It took 4 days to bring everything in, making multiple trips with both the Mattrack and Pisten Bully, but when we were done the camps were completely emptied and ready to be disassembled and dragged back to town. We were all looking forward to getting home, but it was still bittersweet to pack up our second home for the last 3 months.
Once everything was back in town, we began the process of returning gear and preparing equipment to be shipped home. By the time we were finally done it was the day before Thanksgiving back home. While that made it Thursday for us, we weren’t actually celebrating Thanksgiving until Saturday at McMurdo. Our flights out were already scheduled, and now we had a week to enjoy Thanksgiving and check up on our seals.
Since we were already out we made a small detour to see the original huts left behind by Sir Ernest Shackleton and Robert Falcon Scott. Everything in the huts have been kept exactly as they were left almost 100 years ago. Newspapers, food supplies, cots, and clothing all remain, preserved by the cold. Compared to our room back in town and the quick trip out on the skidoos, it was a stark reminder of how much easier it is for us now, and how incredible those early explorers were.
Our last week flew by quickly, and after a last hike up Ob hill, it was time to pack our bags, clean our rooms, and start the long trip home. Over the coming months we will dig into the data to see what our incredible volunteers can teach us. It had been an incredible season filled with both challenges and successes. As eager as we were to get home, it was hard not to pause as we boarded the plane. Antarctica is a beautiful and awe-inspiring place filled with incredible animals, and it has left its mark on all of us.