14 December, 1999
Castle Rock, Ross Island, Antarctica
Only two days left to our stay on this wild continent! The weather was superb today! Little wind and high temperatures greeted us this morning. We decided that today we would walk the Castle Rock Loop.
The loop is only about 7 miles, but the people at the firehouse told us to expect the walk to take 6 hours! I suppose this is because the first part of the walk is uphill and the middle part of the walk is over ice! The last part of the walk is down a very steep, snowy slope upon which are placed several black flags indicating the presence of crevasses!
Bess, Mark, and I set out at 2:30 p.m. We climbed the road up to the path that would head towards Mount Erebus. The walk was strenuous and my legs ached! We arrived at Castle Rock at 4:30 p.m. only 2 hours after our start! The rock is a huge outcrop that doesn't seem to fit with the rest of the white, smooth landscape. We diverted from the path a bit and climbed higher to see the view of the Erebus Tongue, a glacier that originates near Mount Erebus. Climbing up a very steep, very icy hillside was not easy! One false step would have sent us sliding down the hillside into an area that was off limits! It was very scary and I nearly fell several times, but the view at the top was worth the treachery! You could see for miles! Erebus was smoking! The sea ice sparkled. Much of the snow that once blanketed the sea ice has melted and so the sun truly glistens on the ice! In the distance, the Transantarctic Mountains gave no hint at the Dry Valleys that were just beyond. What a spectacle!
On the way down the hill, Maite and Julie caught up to us on their skis. They zoomed ahead of us! We continued on our trek until we reached Scott Base and there we caught the shuttle back to McMurdo. The entire walk took us 4 and 1/2 hours! Even though we made the walk in record time, I still missed supper and had to resort to cereal for my evening meal.
In the evening, after all of our packing was nearly complete, we celebrated our pending departure with Kiwi cargo, our dear friends for the last 5 weeks. It was a somewhat emotional evening. Saying goodbye is never easy.
Tomorrow is our last day at the bottom of the world. Tomorrow we will leave Antarctica for summer in New Zealand. All of us look forward to warm weather and not wearing long underwear for a bit. Our skin and hair has taken a beating in this harsh, dry climate. We need a little rest to gather our wits and continue on towards home. I cannot wait to see my son again! And perhaps I'll finally be able to spot the Southern Cross while I am in New Zealand!
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