Shackleton Camp: The Return

View from Tent City with the evening sun shining warm and proud.

It seems like only yesterday we were here at Shackleton Glacier Camp (SHG) waiting to be put in to our Mt. Wisting field site. Four weeks later the same calm wind, strong sun, and friendly faces greeted us on our return.

One again it took us four Twin Otter flights to get moved due to the capacity to carry only one skidoo at a time. The winds died down somewhat this morning from the 40 KTs it was blowing around 03:00. The Twin Otter arrived around 09:15 and was quickly loaded up with one skidoo, all our remaining fuel, and as much cargo as would fit. Two hours later, the process was repeated.
With the plane inbound for the third flight, the winds subsided completely. We shed layers and got to work taking down John and Ioannis’ tent. John was the lone Team B passenger on the third flight in order to get things in order SHG side. No sooner than the plane doors were closed, the wind picked up and John was away.
We had around 60-90 minutes of downtime before the final flight. James, Ioannis, and I all crammed into our Scott tent which had been cleared out except for the floor foam pads prior. Around 15:00 we got a call informing us the plane would arrive 15:30. All three of us shot into action and no sooner than we got the tent down and in the bag our bird touched down. Amundsen Glacier saw us off with some pretty blustery winds but I don’t think I’d have wanted it any other way.
The flight back was incredibly scenic. With the three of us crammed in the back of the plane on the right side, we had a stunning view of the mountains on our flight back to SHG. To decrease travel time, the flight crew hugged the ground the whole way back, taking advantage of the strong katabatic tail wind. As we got close to SHG, the plane made a few banking turns, hugging the terrain, as the pilots maneuvered us back to camp with surgical precision. It was exhilarating and a joy to watch from the window.
The crew at SHG made quick work unloading the plane, including Sparky who was requested to be on the final flight by the pilot so he could get a sense of wind direction and strength on his low pass prior to landing. All the crew at camp gave us a warm welcome back. I could make a joke to the effect that SHG offers the best accommodations within 100 miles. But the truth is, between the crew, the weather, and the facilities, it really is a wonderful, comfortable, site.
Our arrival around 16:45 meant we could get our tents organized (an Arctic Oven for each of us, it even feels bigger now after sharing a Scott tent with all the necessary amenities down the middle for the last four weeks) with time to spare before dinner. I even had a “Dude Wipe Shower” (basically washing yourself with unscented baby wipes but by being called Dude Wipes your manliness will not be called into question… immediately) and a wholesale change of clothes. Seeing other faces besides the pilots stuns you a bit but everyone is exceptionally friendly and makes the transition back to civilization much easier. It was a pleasant sensation washing your hands and sitting to eat at a hard surface. What’s this, no food residue on the dishes or debris in our water? This is not how real Antarctic meals are made!?! That being said, if given the chance, we’d all go back out into the field in a heartbeat.
This evening we attended an event in the science tent where two Antarctica-themed films were presented. Tomorrow (Friday) the plan is to stage some gear at next season’s field site and get everything in order prior to our LC-130 Hercules flight Saturday back to McMurdo.
I for one tonight will miss James’ wonderful singing as he sleeps. Though, I suspect the four of us will be sharing accommodations in McMurdo upon our arrival, so the nightly Spice Girls lullaby can be enjoyed once again.
Posted by Scott from Shackleton Tent City on 2018-01-11 at 21:30.