It’s been hard to put into words a final entry wrapping up what I learned and experienced and otherwise savor from my little journey to a slice of Antarctica. Not just because business has taken over my “normal” life back in the northern hemisphere. But also because I’ve been so wistful, and maybe resisting the fact that I’m so far away now. Which is to say Antarctica—in particular Palmer Station, its human and non-human residents, and the majestic vastness and personality of its landscape, stoke my heart.
I’ll let photos do most of the talking (a few here, but more are in the photo gallery on my website). You can also read several science stories/blog entries I wrote for OnEarth magazine, at www.onearth.org/author/smoran.
A few memories and reflections:
* Yes, I did take the “polar plunge” into the 31-degrees F Southern Ocean one night, after asking whether anyone had ever died or suffered a heart attack from jumping in (“no” and “no”). It sucked the air right out of me. I never would have done it if not for the outdoor hot tub we all jumped in right after.
* The sight and sound of brash ice covering Arthur Harbor near Palmer Station.
* The silence at the top of the Marr Ice Piedmont glacier, and with it the feeling of being at the edge of this world and the Great Beyond.
* Elephant seals belching like there’s no tomorrow (scroll down to my Dec. 10 entry to watch a short).
* A zooplankton I’d never heard of before: a salp (read my final entry for OnEarth to learn more about them). And no, it's not a jellyfish. Photo by Dr. Joe Warren of Stony Brook University and his research team.
* The fragility and interconnectedness of ecosystems. Along the Western Antarctica Peninsula, climate change-related sea ice loss and temperature rises are wreaking havoc on Adelie penguins and krill, yet gentoos penguins are benefiting. And the nurturing instinct of the penguins.
* How scientists have so much patience, attention to detail, and, as one at Palmer put it, “a high tolerance for failure.” Thank you, all the scientists and students who taught me so much, and who are doing such important work for our planet. I sure don’t have your patience and bench smarts, but I'm so glad you do.