20 June, 2000

Conclusion: Reflections on Arctic Dreams

Dear Everyone,

I'm in our yard plucking the last of the faded once brilliant vermilion blooms from one of many rhododendrons when someone drops by for a drink on the porch. "You must be happy to be back home. It's so beautiful here," are the words that greet me. It's nearly 80 F

and is a sunny, gorgeous Northwest day. The warmest one yet of our spring.

I stumble for a reply. I'm thinking of the USCGC Healy, how I miss it, the fine people and the icy spellbinding tranquil beauty of the Arctic. "The Arctic is beautiful, too," I reply, "It's simply different."

I see the polar bear standing to pause on his stroll across an ice floe, I see the narwhals spray between floes as they come to the surface, I see thousands of puffins illuminated by the low and lingering Arctic sunset as they scoot and scatter across the lead in front of the ship, and I see the ice I have come to love--the parade of icebergs, the diversity and pure beauty of ice, the array of the floes and circuitous leads. I see and feel the sunlight streaming through the bridge windows and I am calmed by the sense of embracing serenity in the bridge late at night while gazing at the vastness of ice.

Invariably, comments are made about my lost luggage on my flights to meet the Healy in Nuuk, Greenland. How did I ever manage, I'm frequently asked, about my near month-long voyage with only my carry-on bag. With laughter, I reply that my only regret is all the time I wasted shopping and packing. I could have thrown a few items in my carry-on and packed in only ten minutes. I'm thinking of the stress I could have spared myself.

After the space of a couple days on the ship, it finally occurs to me that when I wear someone's clothing or borrow something, it results

in friendly commentary and a bonding within the group. Not to mention the simplicity of living.

My near empty locker is easy to maintain. Not having to search for items nor make choices, dressing is simple in the morning. Color combinations become quite interesting; I simply wear whatever is clean. I realize how fortunate I am not to be encumbered by things, of the amazing ways doors opened for me in Iceland, Greenland, and on the ship because my luggage did not arrive.

Whatever happened to my lost luggage? It went to Nuuk, Greenland and back to Seattle, Washington. It was waiting for me intact when I arrived home. The little stuffed polar bears that a couple classrooms sent with me were safely inside. Although they didn't make it to the USCGC Healy, they did cross the Arctic Circle and are now official polar bears.

Arctic ship life has its similarities to my other remote living experiences at the Amundson-Scott South Pole Station, Antarctica, and Kinshasa, Congo (ex-Zaire). "No TV, no way!" students exclaim before I can even mention the dearth of telephones. Limited availability of certain foods, of course, can be an issue for some people with the disguised blessing of scarcity of junk foods.

I observe the groups and the whole as its members interrelate and the coping skills that unfold. Events mark the passage of time and celebrations build cohesion. Yes, even the Blue Nose Initiation fulfilled a valuable function. Teamwork is defined.

Nowhere else have I experienced the reality of the interconnectedness of all peoples as vividly as I have living in remote and isolated conditions. Our survival, our well being, our happiness hinge upon the roles of individuals as they connect to the goals and purposes of the existence of the larger group.

What is the USCGC Healy's impact on me? Perhaps you can see it more clearly than I can from your objective reading of my journals. It's there. And it' s evolving.

Thank you for coming with me on my journey to the top of the world.

Best regards, Sandra Kolb

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