We ended up stranded at the South Pole for a week after finishing all our work. An unfortunate combination of bad weather and mechanical issues meant flights were cancelled daily. The South Pole may sound like a great place to be stuck, but cabin fever sets in rather quickly with no work to do. The NSF finally pulled together support and got a Basler to retrieve 12 of us who had been waiting for a while.
The Basler is smaller than a C-130 but much roomier than the Twin Otter, especially without all the extra camping equipment. The best part is that the windows are plenty big.
The first couple hours of flying looked like the South Pole, just a whole lot of flat white horizon. Eventually we came upon the Trans-Antarctic mountains.
The Basler doesn’t fly over the mountains very well so instead it navigates a pass through the mountains. Before long we were looking out the window directly at rock faces.
This went on for more than an hour before we got through the pass and past the range. Before we got out of the mountains, the clouds started to roll in.
The clouds made for incredible photos but proved to be an issue when we got close to McMurdo and wanted to land. The pilots had to wait for the clouds to clear up so we circled the area for about half an hour. We had plenty of fuel so there was nothing to worry about except keeping ourselves occupied.
Once the clouds cleared we got a good view of the base before coming in for final approach. We landed safely a little over a month after we left for the South Pole. There is 12 hours before the next C-130 leaves for New Zealand, so our time here is short.
I better get out and look for penguins, I don’t have much time left!
Until next time…