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20 December, 2003

Adjusting To Life Off The Ice

Just as it took a bit of getting used to living in Antarctica, I'm finding it just as odd to adjust after returning. Who would have thought that only after being there a little over a month, the "regular" world could seem so foreign.

The first thing one notices upon landing is the increased awareness of all your senses. After not smelling much of anything, your nose is stimulated with the earthy aroma of dirt and sweet smell of flowers. It's spring/summer in Christchurch. The flowers are in full bloom, creating a delightful welcome for anyone who has just left the ice. After seeing only white and brown, it is refreshing to see green plants and bright colors. It was also great to see and hear wildlife. I took notice of the chirping birds, melted at the sight of a wagging tailed dog, and paid close attention to an insect crawling across the concrete. While there are many things that have been a delight to experience other things have been slightly unnerving.

Although the warm air was refreshing, Barb and I trouble thermo-regulating. One minute we were hot, the next minute cold. The Antarctic temperature does not seem to fluctuate as often as the warm days and cool nights of Christchurch. The increase in humidity is also a major factor. I observed darkness for the first time in thirty-six days. While I first found it odd to be greeted with sunshine after a late evening of working in the lab, I had now come to expect it. As I watched dusk turn into darkness I became a little restless not wanting the sun to disappear. I can't imagine how my over-wintering McMurdo friends adjust to the sun slowing disappearing as the Antarctic fall slides into winter.

After a month of no traffic, TV, ringing phones, news, deadlines, commercials etc, the world now seems a bit chaotic and noisy. I found myself wanting to turn off radios and tell the noisy bar hoppers outside my hotel window to quiet down. In our trainings, they warned us of the need to decompress after leaving the ice and I now understand why. The US Antarctic Program requires that that all employees have at least a 90 day break between two consecutive winters, and no one is allowed to stay for a more than a period of18 months. I guess they too understand the dangers of living too long in a bubble.

Do you think the US Antarctic program should have this requirement, why or why not? Discuss this with your classmates.

1. The sundial on the footbridge to Crary. What time is it in this picture? Compare the number of hours of daylight at various latitudes through out the year. What is the relationship between number of hours of daylight and latitude? (Note: photo was borrowed from TEA teacher Andy Sajor) --

2. Barb enjoying the cool air of our shuttle bus's air conditioner. Besides temperature, what other major atmospheric condition has increased dramatically and is contributing to us feeling so hot? (Hint: when this increases, less moisture from our body can evaporate resulting in us feeling warmer) --

3. New Zealand sheep seen grazing. As you can see they have just been sheered. Why would this be done during this time of year? (Hint: what season is it in Christchurch? --

4. Barb and I took a gondola ride to the summit of Port Hills to see the city of Lyttelton Harbour. Isn't it beautiful? --

5. A New Zealand vineyard. New Zealand is known for it's fine wines. Look up the latitude of Christchurch and compare it with areas of similar latitude in the Northern hemisphere that are also known for making wine. Compare the soil and climate of these areas. --

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