It is New Years Eve and I'm home from Antarctica, sitting in my office at UAB trying to make sense of the piles of mail and other things that have accumulated over the past 10 weeks. Another great season on the ice has ended. Kind of.
Most of us are home but two team members, Maggie and Chris, are on station through the end of January and won't be home until early February. So I'm still coordinating bioassay and other priorities with Maggie and analyzing new data that she sends every couple days.
This is Maggie's thirteenth season in Antarctica. It was my seventh. It was only the second time that we were there together. The first time she was there for a month before I got there for my three-month stay, and of course this time she's there a month after I've left. So this is my thirteenth stint as a "ice widower" and I've made Maggie an "ice widow" five times. Thankfully, this stint is pretty short.
I got a ride home from the Birmingham airport the other day with Jim and his family. Jim's wife, Ferne, mentioned that she was just finished with her tenth experience as an "ice widow." One thing that Maggie and I both agree on is that these separations are MUCH harder on the spouse left at home. The person on the ice is doing new and exciting things. He or she is working long hours that can leave little time some days for thoughts of home. Conversely, the person at home is constantly reminded of his or her companion and is carrying the normal domestic load for both.
So this short, last journal entry is dedicated to lots of folks like Ferne and Bill's wife, Jill, who carry the load for two while we are away. It isn't nearly as fun or exciting, no one logs onto the World Wide Web to follow his or her adventures, and for the most part it is pretty thankless. But their personal sacrifices are just as important to the success of our expeditions as what we do in Antarctica. So to all the ice widows and widowers, THANKS!