Landscape: Antarctica Fly-Away

Even though I’m now safely back in the U.S., my mind still wanders back to the frozen continent I left just little over a month ago: Antarctica. The wackiness of life at McMurdo Station, gliding over the ice shelf on skate skis, working with scientists at an exciting job with supercool people…I could go on about the things I love. But Antarctica is no human’s permanent home. Leaving this place is bittersweet, and I wanted to share some of the sweetness here in these images of my flight back to New Zealand. I always get choked up on the plane when I leave a place I love, so imagine me taking these photos from the plane window with watery eyes. When I flew from Christchurch, NZ to McMurdo Station in late-September, the ocean was completely frozen, so it was pretty cool to see the deep blue open water here spotted with icebergs.

The ice tongues also stuck out, white against the dark water:

This one below, the Drygalski Glacier Tongue, has been studied by scientists at McMurdo. It’s huge—stretching over 40 miles out into the sea—and it’s thought to be around 4,000 years old.

Of course, I’m always wowed by mountains whenever I see them, especially ones like these—frozen, socked in by snow and ice:

And from a plane, it’s easier to see how impressive Antarctica’s massive streaming glaciers are, cutting their way through mountain ranges and then cascading into the sea:

Once we landed back in Christchurch, it was dusk. I hadn’t see a night sky in nearly five months. I smelled the humidity and the trees in the air. After two days of nice coffees, good food, and good fun, I again boarded a plane—this time from Christchurch, New Zealand to Los Angeles, where melon morning skies (and a bit of smog) greeted me.

At a stopover in Auckland, I heard news of the Christchurch earthquake…but didn’t know how devastating it was until I landed in LA. I saw pictures of flattened buildings on the same block where I had stayed the night before. I escaped the earthquake by a mere two hours. The experience affected me greatly—as CHC has become a special place to me over the years. Isn’t this mingling of beauty and terror what the Romantics call sublime? Maybe so, but when nature destroys places and lives, it still makes me sad.

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