A hint of sadness…

http://thehistoryhacker.com/2013/01/22/three-extremely-belated-alternatives-to-the-civil-war/?replytocom=275  There is a hint of sadness in the air in the mess tent this evening as we have just farewelled our fearless leader John on the helicopter – back to civilization, his wonderful wife, and the joys of office work. We’d been watching the cloud level all day and then, in the whirl of helicopter wings he was gone and in place we were left with some boxes of food and some empty rock boxes. The tent is now somewhat quieter but also noticeably more spacious. As we sit down to eat our spaghetti bolognaise John will be looking forward to dinner at MacTown before heading to NZ on Wednesday. It’s just started snowing again so despite the MacTown menu, he’ll be glad that he got out when he could. Speak soon John!

Since our last post we’ve only been able to spend one day out in the field because of the weather. We had a more relaxed day back over above the Roaring Valley which was memorable for the insipid stagnant cold. Low cloud blocked out all rays of sunlight and the temperature hung between -4o to -7o C without any wind. As we wandered back across the moraine at the end of the day, the cloud lowered and the snowflakes started, and by the time we had ridden back to camp the visibility was poor and our tents were white. Home just in time! With the anticipation of a 5 year old, Graham frequently checked outside the tent as dinner cooked, with the hope of a snow day the following day.

Snowy camp

Graham’s childlike excitement was rewarded as the snowflakes were still falling when we woke and we couldn’t see much past 50m around the camp. Back to sleep until mid-morning before a late breakfast and numerous cups of tea – John and Jo teaching Bryan and Graham the ancient mountaineering art of the ‘pit day’. Graham started reminiscing about ‘sticky buns’ of his childhood and after discovering we had most of the necessary ingredients embarked on his first ever baking mission. Mom – you’ll be proud – he did a great job, they were cooked to perfection and delicious (see photo). The rest of the day was spent reading geological papers (Bryan), fantasy novels (Graham), or mountaineering stories (Jo), calling family on the satellite phone, and undertaking domestic tasks (see photos of Jo being the good nanny that she is – sewing up Graham’s jacket and sweeping the floor). Dinner was pizza made in the frying pan and we weren’t long out of bed. Not much to do and despite little change in the weather we were aiming for an early start for John’s flight out.

Graham and his baking
Jo sewing Graham’s jacket

When we stuck our heads out of the tents this morning the clouds had a grey tinge (different from the white of yesterday) and we took this as a good sign. By midday the cloud still hadn’t lifted and the chances of John getting out were looking slim. More tea drinking and more reading (but no more baking for today). Mid afternoon the cloud base started to lift and after making a call to the Heli Ops crew at MacTown we were given 40mins to before the chopper was due. A final rush of sorting and packing of gear, rocks, and waste to be flown out, the chopper arrived on time and John was gone. In the quiet of the tent we excitedly sorted through our resupply of mostly snacks. Oh the excitement – we’ve only been away for 10 days, imagine what it will be like in a months’ time! We’ve decided to divvy up the Bumper Bar and chocolate bar supplies – for two reasons 1) to ensure we can each choose how we consume our supply over the next 6 weeks and 2) to introduce the potential for a novel bartering system when supplies run low – ‘I’ll swap you one Apricot Bumper Bar if you do the dishes for the next week’. The third reason is that it provides Jo ‘the Nanny’ with increased powers of coercion should the boys decide to misbehave in the weeks to come. We’ll keep you updated on how this plan actually works out. But for now, it’s time to melt some snow and get the dinner on…

Descending a lava flow