Sunday morning was a rare day to sleep in. Knowing we were in the home stretch made us all both excited and anxious. So far, we had been incredibly lucky in retrieving our instruments and data. We were excited at the prospect of going home with 5 full sets of data, but anxious that our luck might not hold. Would we be able to successfully complete 4 more deployments? On Monday, we took the first step to finding out by opening hole 1 for Chewy. As we returned to the station though, he didn’t seem in any rush to come out.
As we waited, we were very conscious of the changing temperatures and weather. While 24 hours of daylight and warm weather were helping to entice the seals out quickly, they were also having a visible effect on the sea ice. The transitions between town and the ice were starting to deteriorate and large cracks were starting to appear. Even more concerning was the impact we saw in camp. The RAC tent had been set up and heated for almost 3 months now and was sitting noticeably lower in relation to the water level. Weekly clearing of the snow around the tent had helped to remove excess weight, but the water level in the hole was still inching closer to the floor of the tent. With our and the animal’s safety always being the primary concern, we knew time was starting to run out on our season.
By Tuesday morning Chewy still hadn’t come out, but it was time to open hole 2 for Seal-o Ren. Apparently, it was a more attractive day for Chewy as well. Within hours of opening hole 2, both seals were on the surface and waiting for us. Our luck was holding so far! Chewy was first to be redeployed and he was soon off and swimming in hole 3. Seal-o Ren was much more interested in swimming this time, and dove into the hole within minutes of arriving at hole 1. Both seals were on their second deployment and we were back to waiting.
Time was flying by and before long we were opening the holes again. The weather was turning though. A front came in bringing cold(er) weather and snow. Antarctica is a desert, so the sight of snow actually falling instead of just blowing in was a surprise. With Thanksgiving approaching and everyone preparing for the holidays back home, it felt like a little bit of the holidays had come to McMurdo.