Sunday, February 26, 2006
posted 2/26/2006 02:24:00 PM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time

My last day in Mactown, and likely the last posting from the ice

Mixed emotions about leaving, the possibility of coming back someday, getting ready to go traveling with friends, and leaving other friends behind. The station feels really quiet to me today, although there's a lot happening on an individual level for most of us here. It's a Sunday with a bit of a storm going on outside. Everyone within thousands of miles except for the 85 of us who will be leaving on the C-17 tomorrow is wintering over, and many of the winterovers are busy getting settled into their new rooms. Those of us who are leaving are getting our last packing done, trickling through the MCC (Movement Control Center) doing bag drag, and saying generally quiet goodbyes to our winterover friends who we won't be seeing until August at the very earliest, or never again at the latest.

Practically speaking, the redeployment process begins with your last day of work. Depending on what your job is down here, you will have to return some tools, make some notes for your replacement, or take care of special tasks possibly. Generally speaking, the last day of work will be a couple days before your flight back to New Zealand, but in some cases (as in cargo, where the last people out sometimes load their own plane) you can actually end up working to get your own flight home back to where it's going. Next, you'll usually have at least one day off to pack up your stuff and get ready to go. First, you'll have to "bag drag," which is a process where you gather all your stuff that you'll be taking back, put it on your body or into baggage, and haul everything up to MCC to get it weighed and checked in. We're required to wear ECW (extreme cold weather - basically the red parka, some warm pants, and our issue (bunny or FDX) boots) gear on the flight home, so you've got to have that on for bag drag, and you're allowed a carryon (and additional laptop bag if you've got a lappy,) and checked baggage totaling no more than 75 pounds (more for winterovers.) At bag drag, you will be weighed in along with all your gear, which is necessary for calculating fuel loads and such for the airplane. Checked bags will be left at MCC, where the cargo folks will put them on pallets and net them down, then transport the pallet(s) of baggage out to the airstrip and load it into the plane before it leaves. It's important to remember to keep a change of regular clothes and anything else that you'll need in your carryon bag because if the flight is delayed for whatever reason, you won't get your checked bags back unless the delay will be a couple days! Around the same time that bag drag is going on, the housing department will send a person around who inspects your room to verify that it's clean and ready for a new occupant. On the same day as bag drag, you head over to the finance office (in building 155, where the galley is) and pick up your travel fund, which is $200 USD in either cash or traveler's checks. Once all this stuff is done, you take care of any little errands and spend your last evening in McMurdo! The next morning, you keep an eye on "the scroll," which is a closed circuit TV channel with important information, including when "transport time" (the time to show up at MCC for the shuttle to the airfield) for your flight is. You get to MCC before your transport time wearing ECW gear and carrying your carryon bag, wait around for a while, then head out of the building through a crowd of people saying goodbye, climb into a vehicle (Ivan the terrabus, a PAX delta, an airporter, or a van most likely,) ride out to the airfield (Pegasus for C17s,) load into the plane, and you're off! In Christchurch you'll go through NZ customs as usual, get a ride from the airport to the CDC (clothing distribution center - epicenter of the USAP in chch) where you'll return all your issue clothing (except for my 5 pairs of totally worn out gloves that I threw out instead of carrying them back;) ,) maybe pick up any items you left for safekeeping, catch a shuttle to your room for the night, drop off your stuff, then head out for a made-to-order meal and some fresh smells and faces!

So, at this point I've packed up all my stuff that's leaving, and put a few other things into skua (take a penny/leave a penny, but for general stuff) and left a few items in the fuels barn in case I end up back down here at some point, with instructions to put them in skua at a certain date if they're still around. I've made some phone calls home to talk with family, written some emails, picked up my travel fund, written this post, and cleaned up my room. My bag drag time is in 45 minutes or so, then I'll be hanging out with friends, heading off to dinner, then to a (raging, most likely) going away party at Hotel California. It's storming a little bit outside, I suppose there's a chance that the flight will be delayed tomorrow, so we might all be spending anything between a few more hours to a few more days in McMurdo, we'll see what happens!

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