29 January, 1999
A final (?) hello from McMurdo!!
Today I helped Drew and Adam finish packing and returning the vast amount of things that are required to support a field party. It seemed like and endless task, but all three of us worked hard and managed to get almost all of it finished by 4 pm. This included washing all the dishes and stoves that we used in the field. Let me just say that in the yellow glow of a Scott tent nothing appears as dirty as it is!
This afternoon I took a walk with a woman that I met when I first arrived in McMurdo. Effie Jarrett worked at Siple dome as a computer specialist. We went to Hut Point - the same place I went yesterday- but today we saw several Killer Whales nearby.
Well it looks like the plane may come tomorrow - at least we had bag drag tonight. If you have been reading the other teacher's journals you will know about this. For those of you who have not read about bag drag - well it means that you can literally drag yourself and all your possessions that need to go back to New Zealand up the hill to be checked in at the MCC (Movement Control Center). The heritage of McMurdo as a military base really shows in the anacronyms used for buildings. None of the buildings are really labelled with a name - they have numbers, but they are not numbered sequentially, so sometimes it is difficult to know where to go. I, however opted to call Shuttle Opps and get a ride up the hill. One advantage to bag drag is that it forces you to pack ahead of time. I often wait until the very last moment to pack.
To attend bag drag, you must wear all of your ECW gear and show your passport. You are weighed and then each of your bags are weighed. One new twist this time was that our carry on had to fit in the same little box that is used in the US.
If the plane shows up tomorrow I will be leaving in the early afternoon, but have to report at 11am. These planes hold about 120 people, so it takes some time to transport everyone out to Pegasus Field. If these planes come in then they must take off, they may not stay overnight. C141's are too heavy to spend the night on the ice!
I have really mixed feelings about leaving. But if I leave later I will not have time in New Zealand with Dr. Denton. I know that New Zealand will smell wonderful, but I am wondering how I will adjust to darkness. I have enjoyed having light for 24 hours - sunlight makes my mood much brighter. I will meet Dr. Denton on the 2nd at the Franz Joseph Glacier. He and an international group are trying to tease out the whys and hows of climate change.
One question that comes up for many people that come to Antarctica is "How are you changed?" everyone that I have asked has looked at me and just replied that is a change that is nonverbal. I feel different inside - and I think that part of this comes from the hugeness of the place, the timelessness and the fact that Antarctica rules. The weather, the harshness and its isolation make it essentially a continent devoid of people. There is the absolute possibility for solitude here that is not really possible anywhere else.
I know it may take me quite some time to process all that happened here. I also know that my students will benefit from this for the rest of my teaching career.
For most of my time in New Zealand, I again will not have computer access. I will write to you from Christchurch and let you in on any adventures I have there. I may have to tell you about the Franz Joseph Glacier work when I return to the US.
I want to take some time to thank the many people that made it possible for me to be here and made my stay here so memorable.
Thanks to the Science Department at Niles North High School- many of whom took care of some small part of my life while I was away. Tom Smith, Dale Vogler and David Schusteff all deserve a special thanks. And of course Mike Sullivan who is endlessly supportive.
Next grateful hugs to NSF, Wayne Sukow and Stephanie Shipp for making such a wonderful opportunity possible. This chance to realize a dearly held dream and then pass it on to students is something I will always treasure. To the field team - the Wizzard, the Irishman, Shack and the Monkey Boy - a big thanks from Pilar. In McMurdo thanks to Greg Leibert for all his helo expertise and Robin Abbott for arrangements. And of course to George Denton and David Sugden I send amazed appreciation for the opportunity to visit the Valleys, to fly home along the ice edge, and for the whales, penguins and seals.
Remember: "Everyone has an Antarctic."
You do too. Hold on to your dreams; you never know when the opportunity to grab one will jump right in front of you.
Goodnight from McMurdo.
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