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Departing the Station

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Not long after we returned, I ran into a problem with this website creating posts. It was displaying a preprocessing error that took me over a week to correct. Sorry for the delay.

I left off just as we had decided that we would have to leave the hab at that same time as Olivia and Andrew instead of the original plan for me, Caleb, and Terry to stay a little longer out of sim. The good weather we had been experiencing was also good for the pilots and businesses of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. The pilots had been sent out on high priority flights and had reached their flight hour limits sooner. This caused future flights that had low revenue, like ours, to be canceled. For all the travel infrastructure we have these days, this is still how things work in the North. We would have had to stay on the island until, well, I would have returned to Seattle today if we tried to stay. We did have enough food if we wanted to stay, but it would have extended the expedition later into the summer than we had planned. We could already see drastic changes in the snowmelt level in the streams.

On the 30th: the items we need to complete now included completely closing up the hab before the plane arrives. Everything that is outside that cannot handle the winter will have to come inside or be covered. The generators will go into the shed and the wind turbine will go inside the hab on the lower level. We decided the Starlink system and the Anker battery pack will be kept inside the hab in their original packaging over the winter. The unused stuff that could have been be brought out to Resolute will have to go back in the hab because now there will be 5 people and their gear on board so we wont be able to take out as much as we originally planned. This causes us to have to do a lot of lifting and carrying. Much of the items we sorted through over the first 5 days now have to get inside. I am very sore already, but now we just have to grind this out, there’s no way to avoid it. The rest of the day is arduous.

I had a relatively late start in the morning and began some packing after a breakfast of eggs, beans, cereal, and coffee. Caleb and I set off to disassemble the wind turbine. It is not rated for Arctic operation, no home kit wind turbine is as far as I know, so we will store it inside. It’s quite heavy at 50 kgs/110lbs. It takes over an hour to disassemble and move inside. We decide to keep the base tower up to see how it handles the winter and try to make it easier for the next crew.

I test a dozen desk lamps that we had wanted to remove. Most of them worked and I trashed the others. Although now the metal trash that can’t be burned will have to stay in the hab, so we move the bagged trash inside. It bothers us greatly to do this, but at least we know it’s already organized and bagged for an easy cleanup next time. The tool room is done and very organized to my satisfaction, and it starts to accumulate things that will stay the winter. I didn’t half-ass the cabinets like I said I would. I cleaned and inventoried them, mostly batteries and small electronic equipment. I can tell there is more equipment and materials than tools in the hab, by mass and volume. The space inside the tool room is adequate for the tools, but the rest of the space for storage consists of just one shelf unit with 5 shelves and a couple cabinets. I did my best to organize it while I was moving stuff around but that could have used another few hours to get it right. It is overloaded with items.

I helped Andrew with lunch which was reheated lentils and soup from the night before and we talk about the plan. It’s not ideal.

The two best days for wind turbine operation are the day we set it up and the day we took it down. The wind is steady and strong. It carries our voices and makes it really difficult to work with the tarps as we cover the ATVs. Everything that isn’t heavy can get blown around, so we have to work diligently to make sure everything is secure. The evening sneaks up on us like it always has. The shadows are getting longer. Despite 24 hours of daylight, the sun low in the sky is at eye-level and makes it difficult to see to the North.

Everything seems to be stowed. I run back inside to take one last look around. I see the letter that Andrew wrote for the next inhabitants in the upper level. The windows are covered, everything is turned off and put away. All the rooms are cleared out. As I descend the ladder for the last time, I get a high view of the lower level. It is cluttered and looks nothing like how we found it or how we’ve been keeping it. It doesn’t matter because I can hear the roar of the Twin Otter as it buzzes the hab and lands on the landing strip. We aren’t done, and I deliver this news to the pilots along with a load of gear. I disassemble and bring in the wind sock after confirming with the pilot that he no longer needs it. The barrels are plugged, the generators are put away, the ATVs are covered, all the outside items are now inside. Andrew ensures he is the last one to seal the hab, and we end the 15th expedition to the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station at 8:40PM local time. We are told our accomplishments are many, but we can’t help but feel short changed from our quick departure.

My Last photo of the hab as we head toward the awaiting Twin Otter.

The nighttime sun shines down on the clouds below us as we climb above and away from Devon Island. I’ve seen a lot of clouds from above but I’m always surprised at how different they can look, and here they are indeed unique. You can tell they are made from fast-moving air being pushed up by the topography of the island. Due to the clouds, the pilots have to fly much higher than they did last time. This flight doesn’t compare with the discovery and joy of the flight in, but it also doesn’t let us feel a sense of finality because we are off-plan, and the next week is still unknown. I am battered and bruised and hungry. We didn’t eat dinner.

When we took off from the hill next to hab, we all searched out our windows for one last glimpse of the weird home we shared. Some of us kept our eyes out the window, maybe looking at the shapes of the barely-charted island, maybe thinking about what we could have seen if we had some more time, maybe taking mental notes about what to look for next time, but certainly knowing that whatever wasn’t finished was behind us permanently.

We are headed directly to Resolute again, and still another 4 days until we can get further South. I’ll follow up soon with more from the final days together with my crew.

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