July 15, 2009
53° 54.08 N
I woke up around 9 a.m. and walked to the Safeway next door for breakfast. I was told that they had a little café, which had nice pastries and good coffee for breakfast and decided to give it a try. Diane Stoecker from the University of Maryland must have had a similar idea and so we ended up sitting down and eating together.
The scientists and crew members that could not make it out of Dutch yesterday departed early for the airport in hopes of making it home. Penn Air was attempting to schedule extra flights to alleviate the backlog of passengers. The lady at the front desk of the hotel said that a plane had left Anchorage and stopped in Cold Bay, roughly halfway to Dutch. The only question remaining was whether or not it would be able to reach Dutch. The weather outside did not look promising as the top half of Ballyhoo was completely shrouded in clouds. If this first flight did not make it, then most likely none would and my trip home would be postponed by at least a day. All of our hopes were raised when we heard a plane land at the airport less than a mile away. It was only the daily cargo plane but this meant that we were likely to make it out.
I went back to my room, packed for the last time, and checked out of the hotel at 11 a.m. A number of us loaded into the hotel van and were driven to the airport for our 1 p.m. flight to Anchorage. Once we checked in, Pat, Tracy, Megan, and I sat down for lunch at the airport café. The plane arrived only about 20 minutes late and we were taxiing down the runway by 1:30. Parked at the western end of the runway, the pilot gunned the engines 'til the plane shuddered, released the brakes, and took off down the runway, climbing hard to clear the hills surrounding the airport. The roughly 30 passengers on the small plane were all scientists and crewmembers from the Thompson. Most people slept for the three-hour flight but I stayed awake, thinking this would help me fall asleep easier on my red-eye flight later that night.
We landed in Anchorage, got our bags, and checked in for our next flight segments. Pat, Tracy, Megan, Jonathan, and I wandered around the airport for a while and ended up at a Chili's for dinner. Our little group made its way around the airport, slowly losing one or two members at a time. First, we walked Pat and Jonathan to their flight to Detroit at around 8 p.m. Then Megan, Tracy, and I did some shopping (I got my wife some puffin socks) and looked through the Native Alaskan Art Gallery on the second floor of the terminal to kill some time. Megan was the next to go at around 10 p.m., departing for her hometown of Seattle, leaving only Tracy and I. As I walked Tracy to her gate for her 11 p.m. flight to Portland, Matt Bauman showed up out of nowhere. I was happy to have the company so Matt and I waved goodbye to Tracy and wandered around some more, waiting for our flights back east. Finally, at about 1:30 a.m., Matt and I parted ways. He boarded his Continental flight and I boarded Delta flight 2223 to Salt Lake City. I would also have to make a connection in Detroit before I arrived in Albany sometime around 6 p.m. Friday night.
As I settled into my seat and put my headphones on I couldn't help but think how lucky I am. Very few people have had the chance to experience what I have, let alone twice. The past five weeks have been nothing short of amazing. The scenery was breathtaking, the science incredibly interesting, and the people nothing short of amazing. I only hope when I try to describe what I have seen to my family, friends, colleagues, and students that my words and pictures can do it justice. I never would have imagined when I filled out the ARMADA Project application almost three and a half years ago what the future held for me. For this and everything else they have allowed me to experience, I am very grateful.
To the scientists and crew of the R/V Thompson, especially, Matt, Pat, Tracy, Megan, and Jonathan, thank you for letting me in and treating me as one of you. To my school district, thank you for the time off to experience something that will only make me better educator. And to my wife, thank you for loving me enough to let me go.