One of the things that struck me most about Antarctica, and that still walks with me, is the strong sense of dichotomy of this experience. We left Salt Lake City in the midst of a snowstorm. This is what my house looked like at the time.
The snow was cold and slick carrying my suitcase out to the car, so I wore my winter Sorel boots to the airport, and my big winter coat. But I knew we were headed to New Zealand, where it had been 70 degrees that day! And Antarctic New Zealand was going to be issuing us multiple pairs of boots. So to minimize my luggage (ha ha! traveling with electronics requires some biceps for sure!) I left my boots and coat in the car and wore my favorite sandals on the trip to New Zealand. This turned out to be an extremely comfortable arrangement.
We rode one plane after another, like a time and space machine, carrying us to a totally different world. And indeed, it was. As we flew into Aukland and then Christchurch, New Zealand, it was a tropical paradise! Lush, brilliantly green farms stretched out below is, edged by beachs and PALM TREES?!
The next morning, we went to Antarctic New Zealand (wearing my sandals) and were issued our cold weather gear — about 40 pounds of it! This was SOOO weird, so unreal. We had left snow, arrived in a tropical paradise, and were headed out to a frozen world we had never seen before. The airplane was definitely a space travel machine, and we could have been on a different planet as far as I could tell. We suited up in our Antarctic gear and hung out by the palm trees and the pool, just because it was so strange, indeed!
The next morning, we put on our cold weather gear, sweltering and sweating in the lovely New Zealand weather. And we boarded our next space travel machine with several other scientists — headed for Antarctica, a frozen world that for me had just been pictures.
And then the frozen world that would be our home for the next few weeks.
We worked under the watch of Mount Erebus, an active volcano that last erupted in 2008 and is now enshrouded with thick, frozen ice.
For me, this was the ultimate ‘Fire and Ice’ experience.
And then, more dichotomy, we turned it all around again. When we returned to New Zealand, we took a train to Arthur’s Pass and hiked to the most beautiful waterfall.
This trip was an experience in Black and White, Fire and Ice, Tropical and Antarctic, the ultimate dichotomies. It was Stimulating and Exhilarating! And a little bit confusing.