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UAB in Antarctica

The time came for me to pack up my belongings and head back home. Leaving station, I had lots of mixed feelings. I’d made so many great friends who I knew I wouldn’t be able to see nearly as often, and I was sad to leave the beautiful ecosystem I’ve gotten to know over the past few months behind. However, I was also really missing my friends and family in Alabama and was excited to get back. As the ship got loaded up and ready to leave, I shared emotional goodbyes with all my friends, including Hannah, Jami, Chuck, and Maggie, who are staying on station to continue the experiment. I stalled for as long as possible before finally boarding the LMG and waving to Palmer Station as we pulled off the pier and into the Southern Ocean.

Chuck, Maggie, Jami, Hannah, Addie in green UAB emblazoned gear pose on rock with snow capped mountains in the distance

I was hoping for a restful few days on the boat, but the Drake Passage had other plans. I tried a different seasickness medicine than I took on the way down, and while I do think it kept my stomach in better shape, it also made me much drowsier, so I found myself sleeping a lot at the beginning of our voyage. When I finally pulled myself out of the berthing van, I began spending my time reading, watching TV, working on puzzles, and playing board games. It was nice to have a few more days with some station friends before we really had to say goodbye.

multi-colored puzzle pieces with numerous portions assembled revealing images of assorted bugs, beetles, moths, and butterflies

We pulled into Punta Arenas just under a week after leaving station and unloaded everything, which for me involved lugging an overstuffed suitcase up several flights of stairs. We went through customs, said a final goodbye to the LMG, and checked into our hotel, the same one we had stayed in on the way down. I thought about how much had changed since December; I came down with a bunch of strangers, feeling shy and nervous about what lay ahead, but in just a few months’ time those same people have become great friends to me. We all went out to a nice dinner at a really unique restaurant where they served drinks in all kinds of different glasses, including one that was shaped like a chicken.

orange and yellow decks of the LMG in port flying the Chile flag identified by single bands white and red  with a white star on blue background in the corner; large vertically stacked plaques of the ship company, Edison Chouest,  the National Science Foundation, and the United States Antarctic Program nearby

The next day, we drove to the airport and got on our flight to Santiago, Chile. The flights and all of the transfers were a little bit hectic, but after more than 24 hours of traveling and passing through 4 different airports, I arrived back in Birmingham. My mom picked me up at the airport and was excited to hear all about my adventures, and after grabbing a quick lunch, we went back home where I immediately passed out.

Being home feels great, as much as I’m still missing Antarctica and all of the people I got to know there. Feeling the bright sun, smelling grass, and seeing bugs were things I missed more than I would have thought. Grass definitely smells much better than the fur seals. I’m quickly making plans to catch up with all my friends here in Birmingham and to spend time with my family, but I know I’ll never forget my experiences in Antarctica.

Blue ice floes float on the steely gray water as dark rocks at the shore give rise to snow fields reaching up to a partly cloudy blue sky

(Editor’s note: Palmer Station misses Addie!)