Leaving for Antarctica

By Kimberley Rain Miner

I would rather sleep in.

Photo Credit: Joe Mastroianni, National Science Foundation

It’s the day after Christmas and I roll over to kiss my boyfriend on the forehead, while patting the bed for the dog to jump in to cuddle. It’s the same thing we do every morning, but this morning is different. I won’t make coffee and bring it to bed because we have to get an early start on the 2 hour drive south to the airport. Today, the 6 months of medical and dental exams, one year of networking and skill development, and 2 months of buying clothing and extra toiletries come to fruition.  I’m boarding a plane to leave for the southernmost region of Patagonian Chile, to board a research vessel to Antarctica the next day.

I am embarking on a trip of a lifetime to Antarctica, a continent still largely unexplored.  I am a scientist aboard a National Science Foundation vessel, the ARSV Laurence M. Gould, mapping the changing ecosystem of Antarctica. In order to qualify for this trip to one of the most remote climates in the world, I had to undergo days of medical tests: EKGs, blood work-ups, breathing tests and my least favorite, dental exams. Also, it is really difficult to pack for a trip to one of the most extreme environments, but between my government packing list and gifts from my family, my expedition bag slowly filled. My mom bought me mittens and a hat made of warm alpaca wool and my boyfriend gave me three pounds of fancy chocolate. I brought enough toiletries and pharmaceuticals for the six-week voyage, and some sea sickness medicine in case of rough seas. The government issues us cold weather gear, sheets and blankets, but there is a certain comfort to having your things from home on a journey to the land of ice. So the afternoon after Christmas, I kissed my boyfriend and our dog at the airport in Portland, Maine and began my trip. Five airplanes and 28 hours of travel later, I would arrive in Punta Arenas alongside German hikers, rich young explorers, and fellow scientists.

It seems to me that scientists have become the last great explorers; pushing horizons and searching for boundaries as few modern people do. Paid little, but full of heart, determination and a hidden drive that could be mistaken for neurosis, we head towards the edge of a flat, open sea. Unsure of what we will find or how things have changed, we move forward slowly, relying entirely on each other in a wide blue world.


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