AP3 co-PI Kerin Claeson reminisces, comparing this week of 2017 with the same week exactly one year ago, when we set off for Antarctica aboard the Nathaniel B. Palmer.
One year plus one week ago: I was stuffing an excessive amount of long underwear and socks into my luggage. I managed to fit my Sorels and Carharts next to my rock hammer, maul, and chisels. I was equipped with enough Scopolamine to minimize my seasickness for two months straight and I guarded them like my life depended on it. My new ski mask with the built in camera was finally going to get used and i found a freeze proof, waterproof, sand proof point-and-shoot to take photos too. My GPS was charged and the maps were loaded. I packed extra hand warmers, good coffee, and chocolate. I pocketed the chapstick and hand cream my students bought me and Bob-the-Minion was tucked safely in my carryon at the request of my 3 year old nephew. The next morning, I was flying to Chile, to meet an international crew of scientists, some of whom I’d had the fortune to work with for years, others whom I’d meet for the first time. The AP3 was finally commencing, and I was ready. So much has happened since then, I can hardly believe it’s only been a year, but in truth it feels like yesterday. I’d forgotten about some of it until today, and I’m glad I stopped to remember.
One year plus six days ago: I called my credit card and phone companies from the airport to let them know I would be traveling. I called family to say goodbye and remind them to check the website for updates. I set up my away message for email which told people to write back in April after I returned from Antarctica. (I might still need to respond to some of those messages – yikes!) On the plane, I flipped through my conversational Spanish book and listened to some music. When I woke up, I’d be in South America again, so much closer to our target.
One year plus four days ago: I awoke to the phone ringing and answered in Spanish. I’m glad I recognized the voice, because I confused the caller. “Um, hello. Is Kerin in there?” said Pat. “Hi Pat, how are you?” “Good. Are you coming with us to the helicopter dunk training?” said Pat. “Yes, Abby and I set the alarm for 7. What time is it?” “7:45 – you’re late.” Abby and I brushed our teeth and got downstairs in time to grab some breakfast before hustling to the warehouses. I really wished I thought to wear layers that morning because the room we did our training in was COLD and it was the coldest I felt the entire trip.
Image: Dr. Kerin Claeson stands on the deck of the Nathaniel B. Palmer on February 6th, 2016.
Exactly one year ago: over the next few days we learned each other’s names, packed our sleep kits, divvied up so much candy, cereal, and hot sauce, built so many tents, and participated in a few ‘trust building’ exercises too. We sampled the local food and walked around Punta Arenas in our time off. Then the big day arrived, that’s right… the SUPERBOWL… also the day we actually moved on to the Nathaniel B. Palmer. And, exactly one year ago, I was a lone crazy soul standing on the bridge watching the plank be drawn in at 5AM. The departure was smooth and before I realized it, the NBP pushed off of the dock and we were off. Me, my Scopolamine, my AP3 colleagues and a couple dozen other people I would come to call my friends over the next six weeks.
Today: My life this week is distinctly different than the same week of last year. I have been working on a few collaborative projects on fossil fishes from Laurasia (e.g., USA, UK, and Italy) rather than Gondwana. I made plans to travel to Pittsburg to begin the next phase of the AP3. I met with my graduate student about her thesis project checking that she has more than enough data to analyze. I taught masters students about the gastrointestinal tract of humans, establishing a search image for pathology that will help them as they become allied health professionals. I met with the student president of the Wilderness Medicine Club and talked about how wilderness survival is not only for scientists in places like Antarctica, but also the homeless on the streets of Philadelphia. This week I walked those streets with my dog and we ran in the parks and played with puppies and decided to adopt one. Yes, this week has been distinctly different from the same week of last year, but just as busy and just as fulfilling.
Image: Dr. Claeson this week at her home institution, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, sitting next to a cabinet containing some of the specimens collected on the 2016 expedition.