Homeward Bound…

Homeward Bound…

Drake Passage, Moat Point, Beagle Channel.

Lat: 55° 00’ S, Long: 66° 46’ W

Wind:  10 knts NNE, Temp: 8º C (1 PM)

Feeling much better today; I can eat and move around without feeling queasy.  It’s been a day of reflecting on what the past 20 days at sea and my journey (both alone and within the greater context of the Homeward Bound program) have meant to me.

I applied to the Homeward Bound program because I wanted to keep learning, growing in leadership, travel to the Antarctic Peninsula, and meet the amazing women in science who have made this trip so powerful.  Values such as freedom to learn, compassion, making a difference, kindness, and collaboration were indeed part of this voyage.  We’ve been given the tools to go forward and continue to make a difference in whatever role we play in the world…for me, it’s always about education outreach and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics).  I am energized and motivated to keep sharing science and the polar regions with a broad educational community.

Our ship tucked into small harbors or bays where we could explore and learn about Antarctica … the history, plants, animals, food chains, glaciers, icebergs, and the health of the Southern Ocean.  Day after day we saw magnificent mountains, stunning vistas, snow and ice in a myriad of shapes and forms, and the Southern Ocean from flat calm water to rolling waves, and thankfully nothing more active than those rolling waves!  (They were enough for me!)

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Landings provided the real-time experiences that others dream about, experiences that will be in my memory forever.  I love this wide open beauty, its peacefulness, the gentle waves that turn to whitecaps, the penguins that entertain us, the seals that make me want to slow down and lounge on the ice as they do, and I’m thankful that this place exists…Antarctica.

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Boots and life jackets returned, jackets tucked into their little red pouches ready to go back to Australia, photos being shared, bags packed…farewell dinner tonight.

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Suitcases that had been stored during the journey reemerged in the lounge today.  No one wanted to face the truth that the voyage is nearing the end and that it was time to pack!

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People were finishing up last minute knitting projects.  I LOVE this one…the Homeward Bound logo.

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Below you’ll see the lovely tapestry that so many have contributed to along the way…it’s looking just fabulous!  Thanks to Carol Devine for being our inspiration on this project.  What a great memory from the journey together.  The collaboration of the women of Homeward Bound has been incredible in SO many ways.

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During a final cocktail hour there were toasts and special Antarctic “award certificates” handed out to each of us as expeditioners. It felt a bit like graduation…everyone stopping for photos with the Captain and Monika.  It was a time of celebration and thankfulness.  A few people really cracked me up when they posed for their photos.  First, the Captain doing a selfie with Greg (lots of selfie shots were taken) and then Pete, our lead cameraman for the documentary film crew brought his special gadget for perfect lighting…always thinking about the best shot!

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Finally, it was my turn!

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The Captain introduced the crew and applause ensued.  It was loud and clear…this crew was fantastic!

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The chef and his assistants also got a huge round of applause!  They’ve done an excellent job for 20 days, not repeating a single meal and always making sure we were well-fed, no matter what our dietary needs might be.  And I do not have a photo of Dani and Leo, our bartenders, but they were outstanding…and this was a very “thirsty” group.

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Dinner tables were set and ready…

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We were welcomed to dinner for the last time…someone wasn’t very happy about that it seems.  Every other meal was announced with a huge smile.  Shows how much we were all thinking of the end of our voyage together…even the crew was sad it was ending!

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It was a festive and delicious dinner, spent in the company of wonderful new friends!

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A real treat awaited us after dinner…story time with Greg and Monika…our expedition leaders.  I’ve mentioned previously the fact that they have worked together prior to Homeward Bound, and are friends of many years.  Their warm camaraderie throughout the trip has been transferred to us…their cheerfulness, calm demeanor, their knowledge about the Antarctic Peninsula, and their planning for us each and every day has all been fabulous.  Tonight we had a glimpse into their lives as expedition leaders and it was a time of fun and laughter, with some seriousness blended in.  What lives of adventure they have had; what stories they tell.  I actually will be writing more about Greg in a day or so…stay tuned to learn more.

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It’s all coming down to the end now, and as we disembark from the MV Ushuaia tomorrow (in Ushuaia…yes, that’s confusing) I think many of us will be changed in ways we don’t even yet know about.  This experience is not taken lightly and I feel a big responsibility to tell others about our journey and this incredible continent.

As I said in February, 2013, when I left McMurdo on the other side of this continent, I’ve been given this privilege of being in Antarctica, and each of my four experiences has been very different, but spectacular in so many ways.  Sharing this journey with the 75 other women in science has been special, and listening to their stories, their careers, their hope, challenges and joy has been a highlight.

As I leave the great white continent behind, I wonder if I’ll get back again someday.  It’s always on my mind.  And if I don’t get back…I have enough memories and photographs and friends from these experiences to carry with me, for all my days.  I’ve never been a tourist traveling to Antarctica.  I’ve come with a purpose, paid close attention to my surroundings and have always known that these chances are unique and special.  I’m thankful…very thankful.

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Find those places in nature that you love and want to protect.  Spend time outdoors each day if you can. Take time to reflect on how you can take better care of our planet and then put those thoughts into action.  Always keep learning and exploring.

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Our last sunset at sea below (the one above is from earlier in the voyage)…both beautiful.

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