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LAFAYETTE, COLORADO– I’m back home in Colorado after having been away a bit more than 6 weeks for our Antarctic project. As I mentioned in my last post, our flight from Antarctica was delayed from 30 September to 3 October, due to mechanical problems with the C17 plane. Once the plane was fixed it arrived as scheduled on Saturday October 3rd, despite some windy weather with blowing snow overnight Friday night into early Saturday morning. The flight from Antarctica to New Zealand is usually the main obstacle to returning home in a timely fashion, so it is always a relief to watch the C17 land at Pegasus runway and know that in a little while you’ll be on board flying north to New Zealand.

C17 at Pegasus runway.

We landed in Christchurch at 9:30PM on Saturday night. Once we landed we needed to clear New Zealand customs and then return the cold weather gear we’d been given prior to going to Antarctica.

I flew home to Colorado on Sunday afternoon, but spent Sunday morning walking around Christchurch enjoying the warm weather and the sight of trees, grass, flowers, birds, and lots of other people. After 5.5 weeks in Antarctica it can be quite a shock to see all of the activity in Christchurch, and I’m sure it was an even bigger shock for some of my fellow travelers on the C17 flight, that had spent the past 7 or more months wintering over in McMurdo.

The locals I spoke with in Christchurch, while walking around town on Sunday morning, all complained about the cold, rainy weather. A southerly change (the local name for a cold front, which in the Southern hemisphere is accompanied by a change to a wind direction from the south) had moved through on Saturday, causing the temperature to drop from highs in the 70s on Friday to a high in the 40s F on Sunday. To me temperatures in the 40s F felt pretty mild after 37 days where the low temperature was never warmer than -6 F and the warmest temperature I’d experienced was +19 F. In fact, during my time in Antarctica the daily high temperature was above 0 deg F on only 13 of the 37 days I was on the ice.

As I walked through the Christchurch botanic gardens I enjoyed the feel of a breeze that didn’t threaten frostbite and hypothermia as the bitter cold winds of Antarctica did. The smell of spring flowers blooming was something that you never smell in Antarctica, and almost don’t realize missing until you get off of the ice.

Flowers in Christchurch botanic gardens.

Flowers in Christchurch botanic gardens.

My flight home on Sunday afternoon was a comfortable one. We flew from Christchurch to Auckland, New Zealand. From Auckland we flew across the Pacific Ocean to San Francisco, and from there on to Denver. The long flight across the Pacific wasn’t very crowded, which always helps make spending 12 hours on the plane more tolerable. My flight landed in Denver at 6:30PM on Sunday night. The arrival time may seem a bit surprising, given that my flight left Christchurch at 4:30PM on Sunday afternoon, but of course we’d gained a day when we flew from west to east across the International Date Line. I was happy to see my wife and 7.5 month old daughter waiting for me when I arrived at Denver International Airport. The 6 weeks I’d been away was the longest time I’d been away from my daughter, Sabrina, and she didn’t quite know what to make of me at first, but after a minute of studying me remembered that I was Daddy and gave me a big smile.

My actual travel time, from when I left my hotel in Christchurch until I’d walked into my home in Colorado was 25 hours, and it had taken 49 hours total to get from Antarctica back to Colorado. Given that the early Antarctic explorers would spend years in transit to and from Antarctica this didn’t seem like a lot of time to travel home from the opposite side of the world.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about our research project and life in Antarctica on this blog. It was great to see all of your comments about my posts. I don’t have any Antarctic fieldwork planned for the rest of this year or for next field season, but hope to be back in Antarctica during the 2011-12 field season working on the Antarctic automatic weather station project. My collaborators and I will also likely seek additional funding to conduct more UAV observations in the Antarctic. I’ll be sure to start a new blog series when I return to the ice.

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4 Responses »

  1. Welcome home, John!

  2. Welcome home!Thanks for all the cool pictures and the blog.

  3. Have enjoyed reading your blogs!! Welcome home! I leave for the Ice in 19 days!!!

  4. thanks for the great pics and blogs. Glad you finally made it home to Liz and your precious little baby Sabrina. Hope to see you sometime soon.