The plane did not come last night, but is supposed to lift off at 9 a.m. today. We have started digging out the Endurance tent, which has become almost completely buried in snow.
After waiting up most of the last two nights for news that the planes were coning, I had gotten off my sleeping schedule and was doing most of my sleeping during the day. I was walking across from the kitchen tent toward the Endurance tent with the idea of helping with the digging when Comandante Mora came running after me to insist that I go to his tent to get some sleep. I must have been showing signs of exhaustion, without realizing it. I was reluctant, but finally agreed after Bufalo joined in. The Comandante had a small Polarhaven shelter with a wooden floor, a carpet (!) and two bunk beds. I did not actually feel too bad about imposing because his tent already had been a haven for two other members of our group: Capitan Christian Puebla, who had had persistent stomach problems and Nicholas Vandapel, whose daily schedule was to work without sleep until he was exhausted and then sit around the kitchen tent dozing until he could summon the energy to start working again. The Comandante had ordered him to sleep in his tent on more than one occasion. I slept for about 3 1/2 hours, and so missed out completely on digging out the Endurance tent.
Our plane finally left Punta Arenas at 3 p.m., so we pulled down the Endurance tent and hustled it down to the runway, marveling at the size of the hole in the snow that was left behind. The cooks put on a special couple of meals for us that were much appreciated; we all joined the Chilenos outside for many photos and started saying our goodbyes. This involved handshaking, abrazos (hugs) and more handshaking. Some of us walked over to the ANI camp to say goodbye to our friends from the previous season and thence down to the runway. The C-130 arrived at 9:30 and landed in a 25 knot crosswind and a cloud of snow, appearing to skid around a bit during deceleration. There was hectic period during which we loaded Nomad aboard under its own power and followed with all our crates and personal baggage; finally climbing aboard ourselves for the flight to the relatively less harsh climate of Punta Arenas. We arrived at 5:30 a.m., with dawn imminent, after a fast trip of 5 hours and 20 minutes and a nice tail wind. There is a freezer we can use to store our meteorites conveniently located in the Air Force hangar, so that will not be a problem.