A Rushed Goodbye
With the possibility of good weather, our project director Patrick hoped that we would have two teams out in the field today pulling seismometers. Ideally, one team would go to a long distance station in the plane and the second would go to a closer station on the snowmobiles. Unfortunately, bad weather grounded our plane, so my team stayed back at Yesterday Camp tying down the cargo lines while the snowmobile team went on their planned mission. They returned successfully several hours later. We refueled the snowmobiles, and my team set off to another seismometer station close by. We pulled most of the equipment out of the snow, but as our designated return time loomed, we still hadn’t found the last piece. Since the day was getting late and there were new reports of significant wind on the way, we decided to flag the location and come back tomorrow. Mommem Ashleigh, Patrick and I tied down the equipment and headed back to camp. As we approached the camp, Cathy was waving her arms at me. When I pulled up next to her, she said that I needed to grab all my stuff and leave with the pilots immediately. They needed to get back to McMurdo before the storm hit. My other work prohibited another week’s stay at Yesterday Camp so I couldn’t risk getting stranded for several days. I handed off the snowmobile to Momme and ran to my tent. The team members that weren’t unloading seismometers helped me pull together my belongings and my equipment. There was a flourish of disappointingly short goodbyes. We promised to share photos and stay in touch, but we all knew that this brief moment didm’t come close to a sufficient farewell. I have known these people only a couple weeks, but the ice had forged new friendships. I was sad to leave them, knowing that they had another week or more ahead of them. I wished I could have stay longer.
I tossed my gear into the Twin Otter. We loaded up some other equipment that had to be returned to McMurdo and we got underway. As the small ski plane lifted off the snow surface, we flew through the thick fog for a couple of minutes that, for me, seemed more like an hour. My thoughts were with my friends at Yesterday Camp who would remain in the cloud for a while longer. The all-day sun was waiting for us as we broke through the cloud layer. I looked down to see a horizon of flat white clouds. The winds carved shallow waves on the cloud surface. The top of the cloud layer looked just like the surface of the ice I left behind minutes ago. As we approached McMurdo, the clouds over the Ross Ice Shelf began to gradually dissipate and it was difficult to see where the clouds ended and the snow-covered ice shelf began. The altitude that separated them did not matter. They are both made of water. They are simply two different expressions of the same essence that is the Ross Ice Shelf.