42.2286° N, 71.5231° W
I am going to Antarctica. It is a phrase I have been retelling for the past six months to astonished friends, relatives, and various acquaintances along the way. If you are reading this, there is a good probability you are one of those people. I’ve been met with responses all over the spectrum, from enthusiastic congratulation and intrigue to questioning puzzlement at my apparent excitement (“So you think that’ll be fun?).
As the countdown to my departure turns to single digits I can honestly say my disbelieving and dazed attitude has quickly turned to a series of fluttering butterflies within the pit of my stomach. A dancer all my life, I compare it to the moment right before breaking from the curtain legs and stepping on stage. The moment where you say to yourself, “Here we go.”
I am excited. I am excited to be going to a place alien to the small town I grew up in and to see a world where ice is the norm, the sun stays up through the night, and funny tuxedoed birds are daily companions. But I am also excited to be a part of an ongoing research project that for the last 25 years has monitored the ongoing effects of climate change in Antarctica.
The Palmer LTER (Long Term Ecological Research) Network is based along the Palmer Basin of Antarctica, right offshore from the long arm of the continent that reaches up towards Chile. Teams of marine researchers aboard a 230 foot research vessel, the Laurence M. Gould, study everything from microscopic algae all the way to massive humpback
whales that feed on tiny krill (Think Finding Nemo and “Swim Away!”). I will be part of the zooplankton team, or the team that studies the tiny animals like krill that live suspended throughout the ocean water.
It’s pretty crazy that for the first two months of 2016 I will be living onboard the Gould off the coast of Antarctica with roughly 25 other researchers. Starting today I will be maintaining this blog periodically so that I may share the surprises, trials, rewards, and eccentricities involved in being a scientist onboard the Gould and hopefully share a bit of the science as well. For the intrigued and enthusiastic I recommend watching the documentary Antarctic Edge: 70 Degrees South, (which you can currently stream on Netflix) a documentary about the research project I will be working on.
My flight takes off December 31st. Stay tuned for more on krill, the Gould, and the answers to many questions like “How does one get to Antarctica?”