After a few days of snow, McMurdo looked like a winter wonderland. The ice and snow had been slowly melting over the last month, but now everything was once again coated in white. Eventually the weather cleared though, and with the blue skies came two new GPS hits. Both our seals were out enjoying the nice weather, and we quickly geared up and headed out to camp. Chewbacca the seal was first again, and we soon had the data downloaded and Chewy started on his final deployment in hole 2. Seal-o Ren continued to cooperate with us, and after a quick check of the water level in the RAC tent, he was on his way. Our last deployments of the season were done! Now we just needed to wait and hope we could retrieve the instruments one last time.
Being so close to successfully finishing the season made the next 2 days seem like weeks. We kept busy by preparing the data and starting the initial analysis, but our minds kept wandering out to our volunteers under the ice. Finally, we headed out to open the holes for the last time. The weather was nice, but we still didn’t know what to expect. Would Chewy and Seal-o come right out or make us wait? As we drove back into town we kept expecting a GPS hit to turn us around, but by the time we pulled up to the lab we still hadn’t heard anything.
The next day Chewy kept up the pattern by hauling out first. He was done and ready to return our instruments! We removed the instruments and took him back over to ice edge along the peninsula where we found him. The ice itself had been scoured clean of snow by the winds, and he quickly found an opening to the water below. We had 4 full data sets now and were just waiting for Seal-o Ren.
It was another day before he surfaced, but we were ready. We had already been planning to head out to re-clear the outside hole when the GPS hit came in, and within minutes we were on our way. There was always a chance he could change his mind and drop back into the water, so we wanted to take advantage while we could. When we finally arrived at camp though, he was clearly uninterested in anything besides taking a nap. Our lazy seal had gone back to being lazy and we soon had our instruments removed and Seal-o Ren dropped off back at Tent Island. All our instruments had been recovered and we had 5 full sets of data for the second phase of the season. We were done!