June 11, 2009
At about 6 a.m. this morning, Lisa and I awoke in our berthing van to the loud metal clanging of the Marine Techs removing equipment for the new generator to be installed on the ship. The engines were quiet and I knew we had arrived in Punta Arenas. How exciting and sad all at the same time! Arriving back almost two months from our departure with my newfound knowledge of icefish and whales, friendships with wonderful people from around the globe and incredible experiences in Antarctica that are once in a lifetime. I am so thankful to have photos and videos to share it with everyone at home. As I have flipped through my photos on my computer and see the spectacular images of ice, glaciers, icebergs, sunsets, seals, whales, fish, penguins, birds-I even have a hard time grasping the reality of it all.
Exploring Antarctica and its wonderful creatures to be able to share with students and colleagues is a dream come true for this science teacher from Alabama; a dream that would not have been possible without an entire support system. I give enormous appreciation to:
-National Science Foundation for funding scientific research opportunities and connecting classroom teachers to current research in the field, which empowers them to inspire future scientists
-Raytheon Polar Services and AGUNSA for organization of travel and equipment
-The ARMADA Project through the University of Rhode Island's Office of Marine Programs - Andrea Kecskes, Sara Hickox, Gail Scowcroft and Romy Pizziconi for all of the amazing opportunities you provide classroom teachers through field experiences, providing mentoring for new teachers and the chance to experience professional development at the National Science Teachers Conventions which has all contributed to teacher retention and experience!
-Kristin O'Brien (University of Alaska Fairbanks) and Bruce Sidell (University of Maine) for selecting me to accompany the expedition and teaching me so much about the incredibly unique icefish species
-Dr. Beverly Thomas, Fairhope High School, for not only allowing me to go follow my dream, but finding additional funds to make it happen
-Mr. Gene Bouchillon, Mrs. Pam Turner, Mr. Bob Callahan, Mr. Jeff Klaunch for their support from the most incredible community on the planet, Fairhope
-Mr. Marty McRae, Mrs. Stephany Hannon and Mrs. Anna Hardy for setting up my "Live from Antarctica" videoconference with the science classes at Fairhope High School
-Mrs. Rita Ayers for posting my journals on www.fairhopehs.com for my students, The Fish Team
-Dr. Kristin O'Brien, Dr. Bruce Sidell, Dr. Lisa Crockett, Irina Mueller, Jeff Grim, and Jody Beers for your expertise in Antarctic fish science and sharing it with me, increasing my dissection abilities, pipetting, ski pants, "gibbies", skiing the glacier, jumping in the Southern Ocean, midnight rats, good music in the lab, and incredible friendships
-The Whale Team - Doug Nowacek, Andy Read, Dave Johnson, Ari Friedlaender, Pat Halpin, Reny Tyson, Lindsey Peavey, Alison Stimpert, Elliott Hazen, Eletta Revelli, Collin Ware, Roland Arsenault, Boris Espinasse, Meng and Yiwu Zhu for all the phenomenal experiences of tagging and tracking some of the most majestic, enormous creatures on the planet, a close encounter with a minke whale, putting the importance of krill into perspective with its vital role to the entire marine ecosystem, and most of all for your energy and enthusiasm in your work and play
-Crew at Palmer Station - Ken Keenan for being such a great leader of the Palmer crew, Eric for sharing all your cooking expertise, Raydene for your organization and friendship, Jeff Otten, Jeff B & Beade for setting up my video conference with my students, Marin, Kris, Austin, Greg & Harry for your live music entertainment and great attitudes, Mark and Shawn for your humor and waste management skills (not necessarily together!), Craig for Irish Music, Pat for your helpfulness in the lab, Will Brubaker for your appreciation of "bizarre celebrations" and pirates, Neil for the tour of the absentee science projects, Webster for the first boat ever named after me, Tom for building fires in the stove in the galley, Sean for your awesome photography skills, Will W. for breakfasts and lunches, Ryan for yogadownload.com and including me on the giant petrel chick weighing and my first penguin sighting! You are all so great and made life good at Palmer Station!
-Laurence M. Gould Crew - Captain Joe and the engineer crew for running such a great ship, Rick, Ernest and Gene for tolerating us on the bridge all the time! Verna for yummy desserts, Jamee, Lindsey, Julie, Dan, Toby, Chance and Melissa for spreading joy through your upbeat attitudes and for being so helpful all the time with any project, for Charlie the Unicorn, Starfish loves you!, Meatloaf philosophy at breakfast & Bonnie Tyler.
-My yoga and horse riding crew at home - Thanks for the send offs, incredible friendships, gifts and for the emails from home! My Bay Breeze Yearbook Staff for your support, interest and prayers! Carol Smith for being a trooper substitute teacher! Stephany and the Hannon Family for following me on the ship tracking website, constant support, St. Brendan, updates from home and for helping with the aquascience dilemmas! Anderson and George for keeping up with me, your amazement with the phone availability and Trey's caution of sharks! Wayne for taking care of everything on the homestead front, for emails and sending me roses in Antarctica (even if they were just pictures, it was great to see greenery and flowers from home!), for unending encouragement, for having the heart doctor connection for my father (what a relief while I was so far away!) and for tomato plants when I get home! Suzanne, Caroline, Nancy, Vince, Egan and Francesca - as always, thank you for being so supportive, for riding and giving Gem and Major baths while I was away and for sending detailed emails of news and pictures from home.
-Most importantly Mom and Dad - I could never accomplish my dreams without your help. Thanks for your concern for me, for taking care of my small herd of animals, email updates, and for always being there for me.
Now I am off to Santiago and then home to share my experiences with everyone!