Sunday, November 8, 2015

Updates from Boston

Flight path to Antarctica. Image Credit: USAP

As of last Thursday, I am the only BU Antarctic Ambassador left in the hemisphere! Antarctic Ambassadors Natalie Robinson and Emelia Chamberlain left with graduate student and BURECS/BUARG team member Andrew Christ, and are in Antarctica now! As my general lack of blogs over the past month will attest, though, I have been very busy back here in Boston. Between midterms, homework, research, and extracurriculars, it has been difficult time to fully prepare for such an extraordinary voyage. However, because my time of departure is fast-approaching, my physical and mental preparation have necessarily begun.

The first (and in my opinion most fun) assignment was to purchase the proper insulating base-layer clothing for life in Antarctica. I first bought several pairs of the thickest wool socks available—everybody knows how important warm feet are if you want to survive the cold weather! For the rest of my body, I bought thermally insulating polyester long underwear. Cotton doesn’t insulate nearly well enough to keep expeditioners warm in Antarctica, so we have to wear these better alternatives for all of our base layers. Outer layers of clothing are provided to us, so thankfully I didn’t have to worry about finding a coat fit for Antarctica!
The next (and this time least fun) step was to email my professors about rescheduling final exams. Since I leave December 11th, I will not be able to take my final exams during the regularly scheduled exam period. Instead, I will have to take them several days early. This is the primary sacrifice I have to make in order to be both an Antarctic Ambassador and full time student. While it is currently very stressful to think about this, I realize that a once-in-a-lifetime expedition is worth far more than a few weeks of stress and work.
Finally, I have been trying to prepare psychologically and intellectually for the work I will be doing in Antarctica. While it is impossible to understate how excited I am to be going, I am honestly still a little nervous about what the conditions will be like there. Not only will the frigid temperatures and physical labor be hard to handle on their own, but I will have almost no contact with the outside world. Drew and Dave are two of the best people I could hope to work with in isolation, but I am still disappointed that I will be missing Christmas and New Year celebrations, birthdays, family get-togethers, and all of the other things that make winter break and the holiday season so wonderful (not to mention the release of a new Star Wars!).  I have to try my best to reconnect with friends and relatives before I leave, since the second semester begins as soon as I come back. As far as preparing for the research that we will be doing in Antarctica, I have been reading all of the blogs that Emma, Natalie, and Drew release (see Drew’s fantastic field blog here:, as well as reading through the Participant Guide, which gives a general overview of life in Antarctica.

Balancing my responsibilities as a student and Ambassador can be challenging, but the extraordinary opportunities it awards me are invaluable. 

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