"I get by with a little help from my friends" -The Beatles, 1967
In the Southern Ocean, the wind-driven Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) that swirls west to east around Antarctica is the only current that travels around the globe. The path of this current passes by the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans and is the meeting place where the water from these oceans mix. This mixing includes an exchange of heat, salinity, and nutrients resulting in the ACC contributing to the regulation of global ocean temperature and flow. Since the Southern Ocean is so close to the south pole it experiences extreme weather conditions, including ocean temperatures ranging from negative (-)1.5 degrees to 4 degrees Celsius. The temperature in the Southern Ocean affects the climate on much of the earth. Due to the Antarctic Circumpolar current and its proximity to the south pole, the Southern Ocean is a harsh environment with storm force winds and waves, sea ice, and huge icebergs that are natural hazards for ships.
Right now, I feel like the Southern Ocean swirled by the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. I'm in constant motion and everything seems to be swirling very fast. I have to-do lists in a notebook, in the notes section of my phone, and scribbled on pieces of paper. I toss and turn at night as future journal entries and what I need to pack and still need to do swirl in my mind. And, physically, I feel like I have been in constant motion. Over the past three months I've packed up and moved out of my house, finished up the administrative role I held at NatureBridge and prepared for an educator position at NatureBridge, shoved most of my stuff in my car or stashed it in houses of friends and family as I prepared for a roadtrip to do PolarTREC outreach and to attend and officiate weddings, and I spent time in Ohio with my mom.
Of all of the things I wanted and needed to do before I left for Antarctica, this time with my mom was the most important of all and I feel very fortunate that I had the time and means to get to her. On September 11th, my mom passed away. This, as you might expect, resulted in an entirely new emotional piece to all of the transitions in my recent life and my journey to Antarctica. Her passing has been the largest iceberg, the steepest wave, and the harshest wind I've encountered in the current that is my life. (Stay tuned for a future entry about the gifts my mom gave me that have prepared me for an expedition as big as Antarctica.)
Fortunately, for ships on the Southern Ocean there are several ports and harbors to find shelter from the harsh conditions of the sea. Three of the main ports on the continent of Antarctica are Mawson Station, Palmer Station, and Rothera Station. For me, friends and family have been my main ports for the past month. I have depended upon my friends and family to provide shelter at a time when the oceans of sadness and grief and those of excitement and joy seem to have merged into a fast moving and, at times, extremely harsh current.
So, a quick thanks to those who have provided shelter and light and made the swirling current of life feel a bit slower and manageable. The words below cannot even begin to express my gratitude:
To Karli who, as soon as I heard that my mom passed away, took me to breakfast and helped me talk through what my next steps were, ranking how important they each were...get a plane ticket; re-arrange a road trip that included PolarTREC outreach events; figure out how to get my car to Denver because I would need it later to get to a wedding in New Mexico and outreach and a friend visit in Flagstaff Arizona and then to LA to catch my flight to Antarctica; grab the things I needed for 3 weeks in Ohio out of my already-packed-up-for-a-roadtrip car; figure out where to stash some of my other stuff. Eat food. Breathe!
To all of my Headlandia friends including:
Reyna who provided good hugs and a place in the Headlands, along with her housemate Alvaro, to stash my stuff
Miho and Karen and Brian who all provided a place for me to rest my head for a bit.
Jake, Karli, Miho, and Deeps who moved my car around during road construction in the Marin Headlands.
My amazing supervisor Jennie who always provides comfort and understanding.
Emily, Pete, and Jessen who helped me celebrate my mom with a sunset paddle and swim in the San Francisco Bay right before I hopped on a plane to Ohio.
Mallory and Scotty who provided some good friend time and a ride to the airport.
To Steve who flew from Alaska to California to drive my car from San Francisco to Denver and then hopped on another plane to be there for my mom's memorial service. To Lori who, in addition to stashing the stuff I am taking to Antarctica, flew to Ohio early and helped with any and all things that me and my family needed to stay fed, move people around, and prepare to honor my mom. To Mike who created a wonderful program for my mom's service and provided the time and support for Lori to come to Ohio for several days. To Carol who provided a place for the out of towners to stay and company at times when things felt lonely. To Merritt who, as soon as she heard my mom had passed away, immediately drove to our hometown of Marietta, Ohio to provide breaks from the swirling.
To Kenny, Molly, and Ben for understanding why I couldn't make it to their classrooms in Bend, Oregon and Colorado and to Alyson Tornes and the 3rd graders at Harmar Elementary for welcoming me into your classroom at the last minute!
To all of those in my hometown of Marietta, Ohio who provided food, comfort, and kind words. To people who texted and called and wrote, sorry I haven't responded to you all yet. I'll get there. To Judy and Janet at PolarTREC who checked in with me regularly to see how I was doing. To Elizabeth who hopped in for a Colorado to L.A. road trip that included stops in Santa Fe and Flagstaff.
Most of all to friends and family who came from far and wide to celebrate a precious life well lived. And finally to my sister-in-law, Tara, my brother, their 3 kids Addie, Evie, and Rowan, and my dad. We are all in this boat together no matter how far apart we are. Here's to good adventures and a lot of love.
As always, feel free to ask questions below and I'll answer them in my next blog. Four more days until I fly to New Zealand! Eight more days until the ice!
Sawe, Benjamin Elisha. "10 Important Facts About The Southern Ocean." WorldAtlas, Sept. 7, 2017, worldatlas.com/articles/10-important-facts-you-must-remember-about-the-southern-ocean.html.
Alder, Viviana et al. United Nations report 2016, Chapter 36H. Southern Ocean https://www.un.org › Depts › los › global_reporting › WOA_RPROC