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12 February, 2003

Reflections - by Amber T. Hawkins

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. Today’s entry comes from Amber T. Hawkins, a senior in Geological Sciences at the University of Maine at Orono, and a native of Maine.

Reflections - by Amber T. Hawkins

Around the beginning of last year a flyer was posted in the department advertising a field assistant position to go to the Antarctic Dry Valleys with Dr. Brenda Hall. I had never met Professor Hall, nor had I heard of the Dry Valleys, but I knew it was something that I wanted to do. I had heard other students rave about their experiences in Antarctica, and it was nearly my senior year and I had yet to study overseas, so I put in my resume—along with half the department! I hoped that my high academic ranking and reputation for being a hard worker would earn me the job. Near the end of the semester it leaked out that the pool was narrowed to two students, myself and my friend Katie, a girl a year below me who also had a high ranking in her class.

One day in late May, Katie came by my apartment to pick me up for an excursion to the mall. She came in and said, “So what do you think?” I looked at her with a blank expression on my face; I didn’t know to what she was referring. She realized this and said, “You don’t know do you? You’re going, you got chosen to go to Antarctica!” I was stunned. I was going to the Dry Valleys!!

So here I am sitting at a computer in Crary Lab at McMurdo Station, Antarctica, writing about my experiences for Mary Ann. The trip was unbelievable for me. I had never flown on a commercial flight, and off I went halfway across the world. The day I left I watched the sun rise over the Atlantic and the sun set into the Pacific. I spent Christmas morning on a plane. Arriving in Antarctica was a whirlwind of motion. We stepped out of the plane into a storm. A few days later we were at Lake Fryxell. The trip was hard right off the bat. It was exhausting just to walk in bunny boots! We were all new to the environment and to the work. Coring with Chris Hendy was a series of troubleshooting sessions. The team really started to come together and brainstorm. Eventually, we were “Boring and Coring” machines! When we worked on the Jiffy auger (Jeffrey) I was ‘pit crew’ ready with the wrenches and the bolts. When we cored I was usually in charge of the support wire, but sometimes I would man the rope or the piston wire, wherever I was needed at the time. We all helped out where we could, lifting, fetching tools, pounding the hammer down with the rope, taking the tripod down and moving gear across the lake to new sites. Another job I had often was cooking dinner. It was quite the ballet trying to cook on a Coleman stove and a primus stove with a limited number of pots and a lot of hungry bellies! But I enjoyed it immensely, and I got quite a few compliments! Camp life was . . . different. The lack of showers was something to be dealt with everyday. I finally broke down while we were at Bonney Hut and, with pouring help from Sarah, I washed my hair, the one and only time on the trip. I usually wore bandanas to keep it tame. I became very attached to my pants, as I wore them everyday. My socks could stand up by themselves. I was happy to have the ugly hat that I bought special for the trip. My roommate made fun of me when I bought it, but it was very warm and comfortable! I lived in two pairs of long johns. I was cold most of the time. At the end of the trip the nights were so cold that I never warmed up! My contacts froze in their case! But in all, it was always a beautiful, interesting day in Antarctica. The surroundings were exquisite.

Soon I will be heading off to New Zealand and, I think, a well-deserved vacation. Thanks everyone for following our journey and wishing us well.

Introducing Antarctic Adventurer, Amber T. Hawkins.

Amber takes a break to enjoy the sereneness of the Dry Valleys.

Amber on helicopter as we leave the Dry Valleys to return to McMurdo.

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