Jan. 5, 2012
My trip to the Ice is finished. After four days, the weather finally broke and the C-17 was able to land and bring us back to New Zealand. I was happy to see the plane and I am looking forward to snuggling up in my own warm bed, the sun going down at night, and breathing air with humidity. Whew! But I also have mixed feelings about leaving Antarctica. I will miss the stark beauty of the ice continent and the new friends I made.
My main feelings are ones of gratitude. There are so many people who make significant moments in our lives possible. CUA’s School of Theology and Religious Studies was generous in allowing me to go. The Diocese of Syracuse continues to be very supportive. The National Science Foundation was more than welcoming. And I am grateful to you, all my friends, for living this experience with me. I constantly felt your presence as I journeyed through the continent.
|Stark beauty of the ice continent, Antarctica|
I am grateful for the enthusiasm which many communicated to me about my Antarctic journey. One couple told their young child that I was at the South Pole for Christmas. The child’s question was, “Does Santa go to the South Pole?” I can respond that, although I personally did not see Santa, I met many of his helpers and the spirit of Christmas was alive and well at the other end of the earth.
One of the most moving moments on the Ice was, indeed, Christmas at the Pole. After celebrating Christmas Mass, a small group gathered in the communications room. As is the custom, all the American sites around the continent (over 20) tuned their radios into a common frequency and then site after site sang Christmas carols so all could hear. It was a touching moment as we heard from these isolated souls far from home singing their beloved hymns. We were especially blessed by the presence of several Norwegians who courageously skied into the Pole and were camped nearby. They joined us and sang three traditional Norwegian Christmas carols to the great delight of all.
Finally, I am grateful to God. When we turn our lives over to God, we never know where the Divine plan will take us, even to the ends of the earth. I was asked by the program director if I would consider returning to the Ice sometime in the future. I said it was unlikely as it is so difficult to take such an extended period away. But that is what I said four years ago after my first trip ... who knows what the future holds?
When God finally calls all of us home, we will likely have mixed feelings as well. We will be sad to leave behind the beauty of this earth and our many friends and loved ones. But we will know that the time has come to return to our true and final home.
May God bless each of you in the coming new year.
You can check out his Antarctica Notebook . By the way, this is one very interesting piece of information from his Notebook:
At South Pole station, people drink melted ice and snow. The water is so pure that it is specially treated or it would leech out their bones. The water costs 10 times more to make there than in the United States. The average usage is 35 gallons per person per day compared to 100 in the U.S. For example, people are asked to take just two showers a week. The water consumed at the South Pole comes from approximately 500 feet below the surface. The ice at this level accumulated around 550 A.D. when Imperial Rome fell.
Now how cool is that? Drinking water accumulated over 1,400 years ago!