Have you ever been on a flight home and dreamed of yourself, collecting your baggage, purchasing a new ticket, and flying back to where you just came from? Well, that is what I really wanted to do. But, you cannot do that when you are coming home from McMurdo station, I checked.
McMurdo station provided such a unique community; it is the best adult summer science camp in the world!
First, in the words of Mike Lucibella, editor of the Antarctic Sun, “You can’t describe anyone as being nice here, because everyone is nice!” Everyone on base was genuinely a nice person; you could start up a conversation with anyone and if you needed help or had a question people would jump in to assist you.
Second, it was acceptable to be excited about science at all times. My students asked what we did for fun and I responded, “Well on Sunday and Wednesday nights different teams would give science talks about their research.” It was not just researchers that were talking science either, it was the entire base. One day at lunch I was sitting with men from the shuttles, fuels, and spill cleanup departments, and we had a 30-minute conversation on the function of mitochondria in the cell.
Third, researchers can truly focus on their projects. The support staff at McMurdo station is truly amazing. I heard that there were between 8-12 staff members per researcher living on base; electricians, mechanics, lab managers, cooks, and so many more. There is an immense amount of gratitude for every position on the base, without these individuals' help scientists would not be able to accomplish their missions.
Fourth, Elaine Hood, her title is Contractor for Antarctic Support Contract (ASC) Communications, but she goes well above and beyond this title. Have a question before, during or after your expedition, ask Elaine. Interested in the history of Antarctica or McMurdo Station, ask Elaine. Who knows everyone on base, their position, and personal details? Elaine Hood! This woman is truly amazing. Over the last two years she has become vital to my participation in the PolarTREC program; answering countless questions, personally greeting me and showing me around the station when I arrived, meal companion, and even gave my team a personal tour of Discovery Hut. I have no idea how she manages to complete everything she does in a day.
Fifth, the research teams are eager to share. Beyond the science talks every Sunday and Wednesday evenings the researchers answered any questions in the halls of Crary lab or during meals in the galley. I frequently spent time with members of other teams, they always were excited to share and just relax, play board games, or celebrate a birthday.
Sixth, I became a member of the Growing Up on Ice research team. I was so unbelievably lucky to be a part of this team composed of amazingly strong and intelligent women. I am so grateful that each member took me under their wing and taught me how I could contribute to our team.
At baggage claim as the contraband dog was sniffing my snow bibs, loving the remnants of the seal smell, someone said to me “Oh, you are on the seal team. It’s amazing how close you all are. Your team works so intensely all day every day and then you are all laughing and smiling in the galley, it’s really great!” It is an honor for me to be classified as a member of this team.
The McMurdo Station community is truly incredible and I still cannot believe that I was provided this amazing experience. Every day I woke up with excitement to see what the day would bring. When I headed to Antarctica to join the Growing Up on Ice Team I was not sure of what my role would be. Now I say with confidence, I am on research team Bravo - 030, I am a data collector, a mom watcher, a PistenBully and Ski-doo driver, a junior veterinarian; a research scientist studying Weddell Seals!