12 December, 2003
Our bags are packed and we're scheduled to fly out on the 13th at 7am for Christchurch. By this time tomorrow we should be basking in New Zealand's warm summer night. The operative words here are 'warm' and, perhaps more impressive, 'night'. The high temperature in Christchurch today was around 75F-about 40 degrees warmer than McMurdo. Not only that, rumor has it that it actually gets dark in Christchurch in the evening. Now that will be something after almost 2 months without a sunset.
As a teacher I often ponder the 'take home lesson'. In the classroom I have learned that, if students go away with only one or two new pieces of information or ideas firmly embedded in their brains, I should feel that the lesson was successful. So what are my take-home lessons? The first is that science is about asking questions and that each new piece of information always leads to a new series of questions. While I have always been a firm believer in questioning everything I see and hear, this experience has served to reinforce that concept and make me even more aware of the need to teach my students to collect data to not only answer existing questions, but to create new questions to investigate. The Weddell Seal project is creating new questions as rapidly as it answers the old ones. 'Take home lesson' number two is just the shear joy of spending time immersed in learning something new and the importance of first-hand experience. I feel that I'm leaving here knowing far more about Weddell Seals than I knew upon my arrival. That knowledge could only be gained by spending days on end watching and working with them. Third of the 'take home' lessons is the importance of opening yourself to new experiences and the sometimes painful learning curve that may involve. We are rarely given opportunities to step away from our 'usual' lives and try something new.
Antarctica is an amazing place, but it is even more amazing to think that it is a continent dedicated to the pursuit of scientific research. There are few places on Earth where scientific knowledge is valued as highly as it is here and is set up to provide the infrastructure to support strong scientific research.
I would like to thank NSF and TEA for allowing me to have this most incredible experience. Even more important, I need to thank the crew of Science Project B-009 , otherwise known as the Ross Sea Posse. They've been great to work with and have generously shared their knowledge and expertise. Not only that, they laughed at most of my jokes and were patient as I slowly worked my way upwards along the learning curve of snowmobile mastery. The lessons they taught me were many, but perhaps the most astounding is that there is no limit to the number of Oreo cookies consumed in a single sitting.
What have I learned here
Never stop asking questions
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