The next day, the traverse had an open house. Originally, they had planned on moving on by then, but needed to spend some time making repairs. We took a tour through the housing and generator modules and looked at the tractors. It was all very impressive. There are only 10 people total on the traverse. Eight drive the big tractors, and two drive a smaller machine that goes in front with the ground penetrating radar.
I did get a special treat at the end of the flight. Two of us got invited up into the cockpit for landing at the Pegasus airfield in McMurdo. We even got to wear headphones and listen to the pilots. It was amazing to see the plane banking and turning with respect to the ground from the front (as opposed to just feeling it while riding in the back). The Pegasus airfield is about an hour away from McMurdo and is now in use because the Sea Ice Runway is too thin. Pegasus is surrounded by mountains, and the view from the cockpit was breathtaking as we were coming in. The first thing I noticed coming from the South Pole is how much there is to look at around McMurdo. At the pole, you get used to the vast nothing and flatness to the horizon. Here there are mountains, different colors of rocks, dirt, pressure ridges in the ice, many more buildings, animals, and tons of people. The second thing I noticed is how warm it is! The temperature has been around 1 degree C (34 F). We got into town a little before 3 am, so I've spent the past day just relaxing and catching up on sleep.
I did manage to catch a ride out to the Long Duration Balloon Facility yesterday to see the EBEX experiment. EBEX is another telescope that is trying to observe the polarization of the Cosmic Microwave Background. They are flying their telescope on a long duration balloon (it will last about 2 weeks) to get above the atmosphere. If you're interested in reading more about EBEX and seeing some pictures check out the EBEX blog: http://ebexinflight.blogspot.com/.
My flight to Christchurch is scheduled for tomorrow at 10 am. If all goes as planned, I'll be home in a couple days.