Antarctica: Year on
Antarctica: Year on
Just over ten years ago, I walked away from my career as a space shuttle systems and launch pad technician, a job I actually loved, and many would say, crazy to leave. Shortly after, I flew 9000 miles by way of New Zealand, to the the 7th and most remote, unexplored continent-Antarctica. This for a much lower level job that would last less than 6 months. From a career progression point of view it was like driving down a steep mountain in my old 88 GMC pickup truck-the brakes would very likely fail! I was 40- not a particularly good point in life to just 'bail' on the job and the 401K- but then I had a Mission. It was, as Indiana Jones said, 'Adventure and glory kid..." well maybe not the 'glory' part, hasnt happened yet, but adventure? Yeah, Id say so. I had traveled quite a bit in life; as a kid, surfing trips with friends and courtesy of the US Army in which I proudly served. But I had always dreamed of going around the world solo, visiting places that no travel brochure had been written for, and those that had, and also because my Mom never got to see many of the places she had yearned to visit, and never would. Life is an open door, but it can close without warning. So it was time to 'Fish or cut bait' -as a close friend likes to say, and see the world she dreamed of through my eyes.
Three years before I had read a one page article in a copy of travel newletter 'Transitions Abroad"; about a woman who postponed the career to experience life beyond her personal comfort zone by going to Antarctica. I dont remember the title or author, but reading it cracked open a window to a world that called me out. I pulled the plug on the 'normal' life and looked South. To get there I would have to work for it, be part of it. Hitting the Florida lotto and just sailing the world would maybe be a better option but then how likely was that?
So I left the east coast of Florida-my home always, and stepped off a C141 military transport onto a frozen ocean, at the 'Gateway to Antarctica' -Mcmurdo Station. And so began a new life of sorts, on this dramatic, desolate and socially intriging continent. A place once called the 'Great Alone' --and not far beyond the drab, corrigated, ramshackle mess that is Mcmurdo-- it still is. Hard work, well here its a neccesity, but when you get to play, its a pretty cool backyard! The Cold? - isnt the hard part, you adapt to it, dont think about it after a while. But daily life can be a challenge: endless sun or endless night, trouble sleeping, cramped quarters, isolation... But the rewards are many, both on and off the place we call 'The Ice' Having spent a cumulative 3 years on this rock now, Ive seen things I cant truly describe: thousands of stars that look like holographs, category 5 snowstorms, polar Necreous clouds that turn the entire sky into a glowing river of colors, city-sized icebergs drifting on the horizon, thousands of penguins sqaulking, squeeling , stinking -overloading all of your senses. Ive teared up more than once looking across a stark, stunning and yet beautifull landscape that is difficult to comprehend, and met a collection of characters that you could only encounter literaly at the end of the Earth-the bottom end. Here they, we, I? -have filtered down through the lattitudes and collected at the bottom like coffee grounds. Many can be called friends, some not. Think of the cantina scene at Mos Eisley Spaceport from 'Star Wars', not really a big stretch from 'Mac-Town' -Its just life on the Ice. My comrades all have their own reasons for being here, I just like to say Im down here counting penguins.
After each of my seasons on the Ice, Ive traveled on around the world afterward, completely blowing my newly fluffy-fied bank account- against any rational judgement- and yet having my eyes opened even wider with each journey. You cant buy those experiences on Amazon, Craigs List, or on sale at Target, you cant get them on your Wii or X-Box, or your HDTV, you have to put your pack on and your boots on the ground and walk that Road. Ride with a chicken on your lap and a goat in the aisle. Fly on some sketchy airline where everyone clutches their Koran in prayer and doesnt breathe until the wheels touch the ground. Good or bad its like living within an Imax movie, true, raw travel for 360 degrees-you may know what Im talking about. Ive visited every continent, exploring by every conveyance, meeting poor, rich and in the middle; friendly and dangerous, been robbed and rewarded, made friends for life or just a few hours; and stoked my passion of surfing all over the world. Ive met many many fellow travelers doing just the same-Im not unique, or lucky, -just a small part of a subculture of those who need to see things 'out there' and willing to give up much to do it. I never take my travel for granted, as there is a price: the inevitable pain of missing home, family, friends, lasting relationships and the financial strain of an ATM fueled vaporization of your cash and credit! As an old TV Ad back home used to say "It aint funny when youre short of money!" You have the bucks to travel around the world, and then your broke-again. Its an addiction, requiring a fix now and then. So pushing 52 as I write, and after 40+ countries, Im at it again. The economy sucks, and I needed the work, or then maybe its just a chronic midlife crisis that just wont heal? At some point I hope to go back to working in the world of rockets , when and if the times right. The Ultimate travel experience awaits there for another generation, and Id like to help them get there. But although America seems to have lost its passion for science and exploration, I havent, and so until that time comes along , I will just keep on 'Truckin On'....hey, I am a child of the 70s....
Anyway, this my first attempt at a blog, I hope those who read it enjoy it, feel free to comment if you dont but please be constructive. I may do another one of my previous trips but just a thought. I hope to travel once my time on the Ice is done later this year, as they say 'Stay tuned', aloha!