Listening to an episode of Science Friday recently about efforts to save corals made me cry. I guess you could say my emotions are sitting very close to the surface in the early days of this new decade. Like a lot of people, I usually spend some of this time around the turn of the calendar in reflection. While there is always pressure to celebrate and set goals and aspirations for making life better in the coming year – or coming decade – this particular New Year’s has left me much more contemplative than happy. We have so much work we need to do to sustain this planet and ourselves in the coming years, and the enormity of it all has hit me on an emotional level.
As I write this, the fourth Homeward Bound cohort – 100 women from 33 countries – are exploring the Antarctic Peninsula as they work toward empowering themselves and each other to take on leadership roles in this world as it undergoes rapid transformation. Since my own journey to Antarctica last January, I’ve been posting stories here about our trip. The past few weeks I’ve been prompted to relive my experience by updates from Homeward Bound and friends in my HB cohort. I realized I still have a few photos and stories to share from our journey. Today, let me take you to the post office.
By the time we anchored near Danco Island in the Gerlache Strait on January 12th, we had been on the ship for four days straight. We were itching to move after a series of cancelled landings. The steady hum of the ship had started to seep into our bones and we had become accustomed to occasional rocking of the world beneath our feet. On Danco Island, we were promised a hike.
Last week I had an article published in UNC Magazine about our experience on Danco Island, so if you’d like to read the details, please follow this link to the online version of the article. Below are some photos and bits of the story that were not published.
I haven’t posted in awhile – but don’t think I’m done with Antarctica! This is simply what happens in March and April. This time of the year is the equivalent of Christmas holidays in the academic world. There’s a race to wrap-up old work, the year-end meetings, reference letters, student advising, drafts of papers to read. And, at the same time, the weather is shifting: color returns to the world as the grass becomes green and tulips push their way up through piles of autumn leaves that still litter the backyard. There are warm days that pull me outdoors for long-awaited bike rides, followed immediately by two inches of snow and brief returns to winter.
With this post, I want to carry you with me down the icy waterway of memory lane, and share some of my favorite photos of our meanderings along the Antarctic Peninsula.
The smell was thing I wasn’t quite prepared for. I didn’t realize Antarctica would smell like the end of a fishing pier, where gulls spend their days fighting over rotting fish guts as clouds of seal breath waft up from the water below. Although, I should have expected it. Penguins are not much different from gulls. If their biology allowed it, I’m sure they would be perfectly happy to be trash birds. They certainly don’t mind wallowing in their poop. Continue reading
I think there are a lot of Gen-Xers like me who probably imagined growing up to live on the frontier of outer space. We were born in an era of space exploration and the flood of sci-fi movies and books into 70’s and 80’s culture fueled our fantasies. But at some point, not long after I started college, I realized that I’m deeply prone to motion sickness and have a low tolerance for very much time in confined spaces. Traveling and living in space was probably not the best life option. So I ended up on a ship to Antarctica instead.
How often do you lose track of what happened between leaving home and arriving somewhere else? Or, how often are you aware of the space that encompasses that moment between one year and the next? Or that space between breathing in and breathing out again? Today, I’m fascinated by those spaces in between, those spaces of transition. In part, that’s because I feel like I’m still in that space right now. That space between my journey with Homeward Bound in Antarctica and my gradual transition back to daily life in Colorado and my work as a professor.
I have so much to share with you over the next few weeks. In some ways, visiting Antarctica gives you a sense of what it must feel like to visit another planet. I have penguin and iceberg photos galore – stories of shipboard life, new friends and experiences, our work in understanding each other and ourselves. But every journey has those ‘in-between’ spaces at the beginning and at the end. It’s in that space where you shed something from your old life and take on something new – often, without fully being aware of what’s happening.
Wherever you start your journey, a trip to the end of the Earth is never an easy one. Ushuaia, Argentina markets itself as the ‘end of the world’ – and given how long it takes to get here, you feel like you’ve traveled the Earth over. But this is just the launching point for what I think will feel like a trip to another planet.
I’ve spent the past week in Ushuaia. For part of that, I was sitting around at a cozy AirBnB with a bedroom view over the Beagle Channel. I watched the sky change from blue and grey as it spits hail or rain – to shades I associate with summer: peach and vermillion. Each day the sun circles to the north, then lights up the southern horizon in a slim line of pink during each short night.
After more than a year of anticipation, the clock is ticking down. On New Year’s Eve I set sail for Antarctica from Ushuaia, Argentina with 80+ women from around the world! Over the past year, we’ve gotten to know each other – through video conferencing, lengthy Facebook threads, and a few in-person meet-ups. We’ve shared stories about our lives, our passions, and our hopes for this world. We’ve been prompted to delve deep into our own stories – the stories we tell ourselves about what we can do, and what’s holding us back. And we’ve been exploring questions about our role in this world – a world that has been tumbling through what is clearly becoming the largest mass extinction in 65 million years.
In all stories, either a hero goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town. Sometimes the stranger sends the hero out on a journey. The stranger doesn’t have to be human. It can be a meteor hurtling toward earth, a tornado roaring across an open prairie, or a bear stalking a house. But it can be even more elusive than that. It could be an idea – one that flitters around until it settles on a host, then spreads like a virus.
We are all in the midst of a story right now – set on a global stage. The stranger is much more elusive than we could ever have thought. He flitters around the edge of our day-to-day consciousness. Some people see him clearly. Some deny that he could exist. He infiltrates our daily lives just beneath our consciousness, gradually unthreading the balance of the world we’ve built our lives on.