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11 February, 2003

Tomís Little Journal Installment

Introduction: I have just spent the last six weeks with a wonderful group of individuals. Many of you have read my interpretations and reflections of Antarctica in this journal. I though it would be nice to hear from some other people I have had the genuine pleasure to work with here on the Ice. Todayís entry comes from my British friend Thomas Whittaker, a graduate student at the University of Maine in Orono.

Tomís Little Journal Installment Ė by Thomas Whittaker

Welcome to my little installment. Mary Ann asked me if I wouldnít mind hijacking her daily journal so that I may give you my impression of the whole experience. I have to say that I begin this without really knowing where to begin, but suffice to say that Mary Ann asked so nicely, and made me feel so honoured that I couldnít possibly refuse.

I found out that I might make this trip in early March of last year. It came as quite the surprise. I had applied for a graduate position at the University of Maine earlier in the year with the intention of working with a professor Iíd worked with there previously during a year-abroad option I had taken two years ago. Unfortunately the plans fell through at the last minute, and I was left high and dry. However Brenda rescued me the next day when she called and offered me the position I currently have. And some rescue it has turned out to be!! I began my preparations while I was still at home in England. I really didnít know where to begin or what to do, but I had a smile on my face a mile wide and that seemed good enough for a while. Once I got to Maine, and met Brenda for the first time, things really got going, and the semester just flew by as I awaited the big trip.

I think the best thing that has happened since this trip began is that everyone has bonded so well. Those of us from Maine had met each other on only a handful of occasions before leaving. I hadnít even seen a picture of Mary Ann let alone meet her until we met at Boston Logan on our journey south. And Chris, Jake and Sarah were complete unknowns to me until we met up in Christchurch. The fact that everyone was instantly comfortable around everyone else (some might say too comfortable, given the non-discretion of some folks when it came to bodily functions), made this Antarctic experience so much fun, and, to me, really special. I have shared some fantastic moments with everyone at some point along the way on this trip. The hike to the summit of the Friis Hills with Jake and Sean is definitely up there with the best. Our tri-nation, 7hr, attack on the 1750m summit was extremely rewarding, in terms of both unparalleled scenic majesty and of building great friendships.

Other things that stick are; the evenings in the Enduro (Lemon) tent trading stories, telling jokes, playing card games and just making fun. Who needs television?! And everyone doing the rumpus on many occasions at various locations, and often for different reasons. People probably think weíve lost the plot somewhere, and all I have to say is that we had more fun after we lost it.

Perhaps the crowning moment of the trip for me was on our return to Lake Fryxell. Brenda let me share a little of the responsibility, as I got to choose our campsite, and also how and where we would core on the lake. The burden felt heavy on my shoulders, as I knew there was significant apprehension about going back onto the ice there. However, things turned out well and we had perhaps our most successful stint of coring. After a month in the valleys I guess we had developed into a well-oiled machine when it came to doing the work. I canít thank people enough for the intense effort that went into those few days, ostensibly to help me accumulate material for my thesis. I would like to conclude here though with a message for those that I worked with over the last five weeks. Itís been absolutely amazing. The time of my life. Despite not knowing anyone to any great degree before being here, I now count you among the best friends I have.

Thank you.

Tom, hanging out with Tux in the cooktent, doing his now famous impersonation of Sean Connery.

Tom at Lake Fryxell.

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