Farewell, Antarctica

Julie Allen, a Carson High School graduate, is on her way home from Antarctica after conducting research and experiments. Sierra Pacific Power Co. provided a fellowship through the University of Nevada, Reno's graduate program to enable her to make the trip. This is the third of Julie's letters to appear in the Nevada Appeal.

Since my last letter I have not only left Lake Fryxell and finished the season in Antarctica but am now thawing in the beautiful green country of New Zealand.

Our season ended at Lake Fryxell on Feb. 8, after exactly a month spent gathering data in the field.

I stayed in the field until the very end, finishing up last-minute experiments, collecting more samples to bring back to the lab as well as closing camp.

All of the lab equipment and field gear we used throughout the season had to be packed up and sent back to McMurdo by helicopter.

Once our science group was ready to leave camp, another group from McMurdo came out to close camp. This consists of taking inventory of unused lab materials left in the field over winter, packing extra food and boarding up all the windows and doors.

This is to ensure that camp will remain unscathed throughout the harsh winter.

The flight back to McMurdo from the field was incredible. Not only was I excited to return to "civilization" at that point, but I also saw some amazing wildlife.

The temporary sea ice had completely broken up, leaving an edge of permanent ice to the south and open ocean to the north.

The edge of the ice shelf is where the Orcas come to feed this time of year, and we saw quite a few of them. We were also fortunate enough to see a large group of 30 bottlenose whales, which I was told were rare to see.

Two days after returning from the field my advisor and I went back to Lake Fryxell for a day of sampling.

The flight back to McMurdo that day was even more spectacular than the first. Because we were in a much smaller helicopter, the pilot was able to hover over the water longer and even sit the helo on the ice for a better view of the pods of killer whales passing by. They were everywhere along the edge of the ice.

I even got a great opportunity to photograph some Emperor penguins.

During my last few days in McMurdo I ran a few more experiments in the lab as well as made sure all equipment was returned and the lab was clean and ready for the next season. By the time my name appeared on the manifest list for the flight off the ice, I was ready!

I and 135 other anxious passengers were shuttled to the ice runway on our day of departure.

After six intense hours of waiting for a mechanical problem to be fixed, we all piled into the C-141, four rows of people all facing each other and sitting knee to knee. We arrived in Christchurch at about 11 p.m. in complete darkness, the first I had seen in two months.

After going through customs and returning my cold weather gear, I finally checked into my room at 2 a.m. What a shock to wake up in the morning, open my curtains and see green trees and beautiful purple flowers!

I am looking forward to spending the next few days with my family here in New Zealand.


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