I don’t know that I can really explain it, but Skyping with the OSU class while I was at McMurdo was an amazing experience for me. It was a reality check, a reminder of how amazing and unique my experience truly was. It’s easy to forget when you’re in town surrounded around fellow Antarctic travelers, that being on the ice isn’t a “normal” event. It’s funny, since being back in the states I’ve had several people ask me “Why would you ever want to go to Antarctica?” and the truth is, I don’t even know how to answer that question. For me, the endless yearning to pick up and leave on a life altering, once in a life time opportunity isn’t something I can describe to someone that doesn’t already feel the same. A lot of people have obligations and an established life that they can’t abandon. I’m a 21 year old single woman, in and out of college, this is the best time for me to live this lifestyle. For me the question can never be “Why would I want to go to Antarctica?” the question will always be “Why WOULDN’T I want to go to Antarctica?”
Part of my internship was education and outreach, with things like my blog and this Skype session. I loved this aspect of my internship, if I can help even one student or future student dream a little bigger or help motivate them enough to reach out and grab a hold of an amazing opportunity awaiting them, I’ll be happy.
A large part of my work on the ice, especially later in the season, was recording data while we were in the field. We had data sheets that we filled out for every time we interacted with a seal.
Markus and I in front of our skidoos – on the hunt for prospective seals.
This is a photo of us weighing a seal. It takes the entire team doing various tasks to get the seal up in the harness and on the tripod to achieve a weight. We also need all hands standing by in case they are needed to step in.
Bottom left to right: Allyson Hindle, Jo-Ann Mellish, Markus Horning
This is what it looked like when we set up our equipment to work on a seal. The Piston Bully (PB) is the large track vehicle on the right, which kept the temperature sensitive equipment warm. There is a skidoo with a sled, used to carry other equipment, to the right of the PB. The mountain range on the far right is the main continent of Antarctica. “The onion”, our amazing shelter, is to the left. The tripod, which is used for determining weight of the seals is in the center, and in the foreground are the beginnings of several cracks.
In a “white out”.
In survival camp there is an exercise they make you do, where you get a white bucket placed over your head, a rope tied around your body, and you’re kicked you out of the shelter to see if you can navigate your way to the nearby outhouse. Essentially, you can’t see anything and have no concept of depth perception or where the horizon lies. When the weather deteriorates to white out conditions in Antarctica, you can be completely disoriented. We got a little sample of that kind of weather one day while out on the sea ice and I snapped this photo of myself.
In a nearby fish hut, in front of a fishing hole. Scientists fish in a hut like this and then drive their collected specimens over to the Crary Lab via skidoo where the scientific group that collected the fish conduct their experiments.
Me, Allyson, and Markus hiking from the helicopter to one of our tagged seals. Later in the season, there were some seals that were close to, or on the ice edge. We were running out of time before we had to leave Antarctica, and it can be safer to land a helo than to drive skidoos over cracks to the ice edge. Rather than risk frightening a seal and having them disappear back into a hole and the ocean, we often landed the helo a conservative distance away and “hiked” (or maybe it just felt like we hiked) our way to the seal.
In this photo, we are working in side of “the onion”. Markus and Roger are on the left attaching the telemetry equipment and Jo and Allyson are on the right doing ultrasounds to determine blubber depth. Rachel is watching the animal while administering medication when necessary at the back of the animal.
I am on the right lifting up a towel covering up the seals eyes, to check for eye movement and awareness. These checks are good indicators for Rachel to determine how long to wait between “top ups” of the anesthesia medication.