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UAB in Antarctica

Well, my bags are packed and I am ready to depart. Today we leave Birmingham and fly to Dallas and the take a red-eye flight from Dallas to Santiago, Chile. From Santiago, we will travel to Punta Arenas (our port of departure for Antarctica).

I have a total of five bags (two full of diving gear, one full of scientific gear, and two personal bags) each weighing a tad under 50 pounds. I’m already looking forward to getting rid of them at the airport. Any bets on how many reach Punta Arenas successfully? Right now I will put the over/under at 3.

The dive gear is especially important. I have two full sets of everything I need. We just finished testing different equipment arrangements last week. I decided to use one of the new “scary masks” rather than a conventional hood. It keeps my head warmer and makes me look like I’m about to rob a convenience store. Hey, we had to pay for the trip somehow. While using it, your mask seals over the hood rather than your face. Those who SCUBA dive know this is irregular (and unnerving at first). I also had to reconfigure my regulator setup for the slingshot valves we use in Antarctica. Slingshot valves are used to hook up two independent first stages in case one freezes. They simply allow extra redundancy in case of a mishap.

I have been asked several times if I am excited or anxious and, in truth, I am nervous. I have mentally reviewed my packing list hundreds of times and am worried I am forgetting something crucial. Otherwise, I am looking forward to experiencing something new and getting a chance to carry out my experiments. While gone, I will certainly miss my friends, family, and Birmingham.