I've never experienced such contrasts. For two and a half months, our crew made Antarctica home, or at least as home as Antarctica would let us. The sea ice, where we worked, lived, and slept, became as familiar to us as my backyard in Idaho. The uninhibited white stretched before us everyday, as we went about our research amidst the groaning seals. We became accustomed to the cold temperatures (but did not complain when conditions got "tropical" by the end of the season). The immense Mt Erebus, steamingly eyeing us from above, although always awe-inspiring, became part of the backdrop. The things that were so striking and surprising when we first arrived, became part of the daily routine. It's as if we've only ever known daylight to be constant for 24 hours. To become comfortable in a place, is to make it home, at least for the vagabond biologist, and that's what the field camp at Big Razorback Island in Antarctica became.
|Post snow petrel flyby|
|Exploring the innards of a snow cave/ crevasse in the Erebus Glacier Tongue|
But suddenly, our crew found ourselves packing and cleaning, tearing down the field camp and moving to McMurdo in preparation to leave the great white of Antarctica. We took our last steps on the ice on Dec 16, boarded the C17. Five hours later, our feet found purchase on the wet asphalt on a warm and rainy New Zealand night. The smell of plants and soil wafted upon us, the dark night engulfed us. Our life of white and cold was quickly replaced by green and warm.
|Waiting to board the C17 (sniff, sniff)|
|In the belly of the whale|
|Note the dudes in the hammocks and camp chair|
|Green New Zealand (Akaroa in Banks Peninsula)|
|The obligatory sheep picture|
|Tui (too-ee) at Hinewai Reserve, Banks Peninsula (note band on leg--this bird was introduced to the Reserve a few years ago to try to reinstate native communities to the area)|
|"Bleh!" (translation: "Merry Christmas!")|