September 4, 2008
Today is our last full day on the Healy, and the excitement of going home that I suppose everyone feels is tinged with regret about leaving this amazing place. Since finishing the final dredge site last night (which, by the way, yielded many hundreds of pounds of rock), we have moved into full speed transit mode, cruising at 16 knots to get to Barrow by tomorrow morning. Overnight, we said goodbye to the ice and woke up to open water. There is now a gentle rocking of the ship as we move through the swells, which were noticeably absent when we were back in the pack ice. It was kind of sad to wake up and see the ice gone, and I wonder if I will ever have the good fortune to return to the Arctic to witness this unique environment again. I feel very lucky to have been given the opportunity to come to a place that so few are able to see. In so many ways I have been enriched by this experience, both on a personal level and on a professional level. I'm still trying to sort it all out.
Most of today was spent preparing for the return home: packing, cleaning, and organizing of gear, a briefing about procedures for the helicopter transfers out tomorrow, and sharing of photos and e-mails so we can stay in touch. There was also a gathering out on the flight deck (referred to as "quarters") for most of the ship's crew and the science team, the first time I've seen the whole crew gathered together in one place. The Captain gave a few awards and certificates to crewmembers, and I enjoyed seeing the respect and seriousness with which all present conducted themselves during this event.
I've begun to get a few e-mails from my students, asking questions about the Arctic, so that helps shift my mind toward the classroom which I will be jumping back into on Monday morning (yikes!). I've gotten so many pictures and photos, and I've been working these last few days on trying to find ways to "package" it so it will be both informative and interesting to my students, staff, and family back home. To everyone back home in Seattle, and to all my students back at Meadowdale Middle School, I look forward to sharing stories and images with you next week. See you then!