Well, I'm safely back in McMurdo, despite the best attempts of the airplanes of Antarctica.
After breaking the golden rule on Wednesday evening, and NOT getting on a plane that landed at Byrd, I was pleased to see clear blue skies as I crawled out of my tent on Thursday morning. Time to squeeze a day of work before heading back to McMurdo.
I headed out on the Twin Otter to install the GPS site at Toney Mountain - yippee, finally, my first GPS install. We stopped off at fuel cache I-189 to fill up. This is not, as you might be picturing, a gas station in the middle of the ice sheet, but a collection of fuel drums buried in the ice, marked by a few flags. After spending half an hour digging up several empty drums we were glad to finally find some full ones!
We headed onto Toney Mountain, but as we took off there were some strange noises, and some juddering. A glance out the left windows revealed that one of the propellers did not seem to be rotating. Hmm, that doesn't seem right. Eric had the headset on and was listening in to the pilots' conversation, and soon relayed the information that we had engine failure and were heading bck to Byrd. The pilots seemed to be pretty calm about the situation so we could get on with being upset at not getting to Toney Mountain rather than worrying about the fact that we were now in a 'single' Otter!
Landing back at Byrd was very smooth, but then the main problem arose: you cannot taxi a Twin Otter in a straight line when only one engine is working! So we zig-zagged along the skiway, looking now like a drunk Otter, occasionally pulling a full circle to line us up again and 'slingshot' in the right direction.
They fixed the problem pretty quickly, but there was no time to head back out, so I contented myself with offering my services to the camp staff, and spent an enjoyable afternoon putting up christmas decorations and shovelling snow (my new training regime - great core workout).
My flight for McMurdo was due in at 10pm, but late in the day we heard we were due an 8pm flight too, so I altered my plans to jump on this one. However, 20 minutes later we heard that this plane was heading back to McMurdo due to fire on board! Maybe I was cursed due to not getting on Wednesday's plane? But all was fine, soon after 10pm the plane was announced over the radio as being 25 miles out, so I said my goodbyes and jumped on a snowmobile out to the skiway.
The flight was mainly a cargo flight, and I was the only passenger, so got to sit in the cockpit the whole way back to McMurdo. I think this beats Duncan's upgrade on his latest transatlantic flight?!?
Photos to follow...
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