First Day of Winter

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February 26th 2005
Published: February 26th 2005
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The last flight of the summer season departed Mactown yesterday. A small group of well wishes gathered at Building 140 to bid farewell to the final 71 summer people as they departed for Pegasus Airfield. A couple hours later the plane made a pass close to town as most of the winter overs stood on the deck of the Chalet and toasted it with champagne. Their flight north was on a USAF C-17 cargo plane.

For those of us standing on the deck, it’s an interesting mix of emotions as the plane flies away. For those of you wanting to take your own photos from the deck of the Chalet as the last flight flies by, remember it will cost you at least six months of your life to get that photo.

With the departure of the flight yesterday, the winter season officially began. Barring the dreaded M Word, the next flight to our town will occur around 20 August, a day after the first sunrise of spring. (The dreaded M Word is MEDEVAC… medical evacuation and only happens in matters of life and death.) The only strangers we will see are the 19 Kiwi’s wintering at Scott Base, two miles from McMurdo. Soon however they will be our friends too, eating in our Galley, playing on our sports teams and inviting us over to their base on Thursday evening for American Night.

Also departing with yesterday’s flight was our final batch of postcards and letters. We wrote many in haste the night before at midnight. Many of them also serve as Christmas cards as we sent none this past holiday season.

The McMurdo winter over population is 241 people. I think it’s the largest winter population since the Navy left town years ago. We are also the most populous station on the continent.

Town is very quiet today as people move into their winter rooms and settle into winter routines. Some people might even be thinking of friends who left the station during the past few weeks and are now vacationing in warm, humid climates such as New Zealand or Fiji. Others are discreetly checking out the other 240 people on station and wondering if wintering in Antarctica was the best decision they have ever made! But the first day of winter sees us having beautiful weather. The skies are clear; the sun is low in the sky but shining brightly. The expected high temperature is 30F with light winds. Sunrise this morning was at 4:47 AM and sunset is 11:17 PM. Tomorrow the sun rises 10 minutes later and sets minutes 10 earlier. Final sunset is around 25 April. Everything considered, the next few weeks will be a great time on station with mild weather and hours of pink light on the mountains as the sun heads towards it final sunset.

With the sun low in the sky, mirages, known has Fata Morgana, are a common sight when looking across the sea ice. It’s the horizontal bank through the middle of the photo containing vertical bands. (If you Google “Fata Morgan” you will find better photos.) The black animals in the foreground are seals, likely Weddells.

I also added a photo of a Skua, which is a large nasty seagull like bird. They will head north as winter approaches and the open water freezes.

Additional photos below
Photos: 11, Displayed: 11


Chalet DeckChalet Deck
Chalet Deck

Winterovers gathered on the Deck of the Chalet for the champagne toast to the last flight of the 2004/2005 summer season.

The last plane flies by McMurdo on its way to Christchurch, NZ
Zoe with champagne glassesZoe with champagne glasses
Zoe with champagne glasses

Zoe with Champagne glasses
Fata MorganaFata Morgana
Fata Morgana

Fata Morgana is a mirage. It's visible as the horzontal band across the middle of the photo containing vertical lines. Weddell Seals lay on the ice a few hundred yards away.

There are two species of Skuas in Antarctica: Brown and South Polar. I don't know which species this one is.

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