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11 October, 1999

And the Journey Begins

Here I sit three weeks to the day before my departure for Antarctica. I can't begin to tell you how excited and nervous I am about going back to Antarctica, or as we O.A.E. (Old Antarctic Explorers) say, back to The Ice.

For those of you who are not familiar with me my name is Peter Amati and I am a teacher at Holliston High School in Holliston, Massachusetts. For the past 33 years I have been teaching Biology and Physical Sciences. In l992 I had an experience, one of seven, that changed my life completely. The first was the marriage to my wife Ingrid in l967. The next four were the births of our children: Erik in l969, Scott in l970, Julie in l972, and Lani in l975. The sixth great life change was my trip to Antarctica in l992 and the seventh was the passing of my bride in November of 1997. Now, almost two years to the date of my beloved Ingrid s death I begin another milestone in my life; I return to that great harsh, beautiful and awe inspiring continent (Ironically enough, one of seven.) called Antarctica.

The story as to how I, a high school science teacher, could end up in such a mystical place as Antarctica is a story in itself and I refer you to my section in the "Teachers Experiencing Antarctica and the Arctic" web site ../tea_amatifrontpage.html for the details.

Suffice it to say that in May and June of 1992 (winter in the southern hemisphere) I worked with some of the foremost scientist in their field studying of all things sea ice. (I had never even heard of it prior to this adventure.) The people I worked with were Dr. Steve Ackley, Dr. Tony Gow and Dr. Victoria Lytle. We worked off of a brand new icebreaker, the IB/RV Nathaniel B. Palmer, and broke and studied ice deep in the Weddell Sea. (Anyone out there know where the Weddell Sea is?)

When I leave for the Ice this time I will be actually putting foot on the continent. (One of how many continents? Did you really read the above remarks, for the answer to this question appears above.) My base of operations will be McMurdo Sound Station. It is one of three research bases that the USA operates, these are supported and run by of the National Science Foundation (NSF), specifically the Office of Polar Programs (OPP). The other two stations being Palmer Station, on the Antarctic peninsula (the banana belt ), and South Pole Station (Amundsen-Scott), as the name implies located at the very bottom of the world, South Pole. The continent of Antarctica is protected by, and basically runs, by the rules set down in the Antarctic Treaty which was signed in 1959 and put into force in 1961. No one owns Antarctica.

While in McMurdo I will be working with Mrs. Barbara Schulz, another O.A.E. Barb, like myself has been to The Ice before, she is presently science teacher at the Lakeside School in Seattle Washington. One of our tasks at McMurdo Station will be to work with volunteers >from the Antarctic Support Associates (ASA) (Sorry gang the government loves to use these abbreviations.) in helping them to write emails that contain materials that can be used by school kids across the country as they try to learn about this virtually unknown part of the world and about the most important science that happens there. ASA is the contractor that the government hires to do everything from cooking and house cleaning to providing telecommunications and technical support for the scientists or, as they are known as in Antarctic jargon "beakers".

The importance of ASA personnel cannot be minimized. Proof of this lies in the fact that for every one "beaker" there are at least two support people. Many of these ASA personnel have signed on to work for ASA as a means to get to this most desolate and mystical place on earth. Proof of this lies in the fact that it is not uncommon to find your friendly neighborhood McTown truck driver or South Pole carpenter holding a PhD in the humanities or arts. Most of the ASA personnel work long hours (average 12-15 hour days), yet they find time to stay in touch with the real world through email. One of our major tasks will be to assist these volunteers in writing email that include topics that are covered in the various classroom; emails that include some of the cutting edge and most exciting science being done in Antarctic; and emails that serve as ears and eyes that will inform the young people across the breadth and width of this great country of ours (who unlike us cannot get to this truly desolate, hostile, magnificent and awe inspiring) of this place called Antarctica.

More on this in my next email.

I will also be talking about McMurdo Sound station and sharing with you a list of the ECW (Extreme Cold Weather gear) that you need to work and live in the coldest, windiest, highest and driest environment in the world.


Penguin Pete the Polar Man

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