6 September, 2001
September 6, 2001
The Top Story
We did it! Around 11:00 am this morning, the USCGC Healy arrived at the North Pole in an historic first. As a passenger on the only US icebreaker to ever break it's own way to the North Pole, I felt an overwhelming sense of astonishment. It was truly an amazing feeling.
As we neared our destination of 90* N, members of the science party and crew excitedly prepared a souvenir project. The decision was made to use the wax corer (normally used to bring up glassy rock from the ocean floor) to collect North Pole mud. This mud will be placed in vials for each person as a souvenir of our triumphant accomplishment. We also decorated styrofoam cups and placed them in nets that were attached to the wire on the wax corer. These cups were placed under a huge amount pressure as the journeyed down deep into the ocean water. The great pressure caused the cups to shrink down to less than one quarter of their original size.
Upon our arrival, the brow was lowered and we disembarked. My first stop on the frozen ice was the North Pole itself. Of course a striped red pole was made and implanted in the ice at the famous spot and picture taking ensued for an hour. A banner was also made to publicize all of the scientists' affiliations, including "Berkeley County Schools, WV" and "TEA". We then walked to the German Polarstern, which had recently arrived and joined together in festivities. They prepared a barbeque feast and we enjoyed their hospitality.
The idea of a dip in the Arctic Ocean at the North Pole was one that many people couldn't resist. About 25 people, including both scientists and Coast Guard crew, lined up to jump in one at a time. They did this in their bathing suits only, and the most common reaction upon entering the water was to quickly jump out and scream in agony. They then stood in bare feet on the snowy ice and tried to dry off before being frozen stiff. These brave souls are now referred to as members of the "Polar Bear Club". I prefered to remain a nonmember, but enjoyed watching the initiation.
Other activities involved the Coast Guard divers doing a dive along an edge where the ice met the open water, and several bicycles were dusted off and brought out for a ride.
Today was not only a historic day, but also one of the most unique of my life. The experience of being at the top of the planet will remain with me always, and today I was truly "on top of the world", both physically and emotionally!
**An interesting side note on technology: While at the North Pole, 12 e-mails arrived to my "Inbox". I also called home on an Iridium phone to tell my family of our accomplishment. The communication at the pole was quite impressive to me!
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