It's a valid question. While I am not among the large percentage of people here whose arrival fulfilled a longawaited wish, I did jump at the opportunity when it arose. There were sacrifices by my family and myself. I had to leap through no small number of hoops to earn a ticket to the ice continent.
Yes, I definitely did want to come, so the question stands, "What will you miss when you leave Antarctica?"
But, I counter, I'm really looking forward to getting home, back to my wife and family, to green growing things and birds and cats and dogs. To a world where people under the age of 18 are allowed, where grocery stores have aisles and aisles of merchandise, where you can get into your car and go somewhere beyond walking distance of your bed. Where I can have some input about what to eat, can actually choose between broad ranges of food.
Wait, the inquisitor insists. The question implies no loss of love for home and hearth. It only begs to know, since you were so keen on setting foot on the land where few have gone, since you were willing to leave the comforts of your past for nearly five months of "adventure," since you even abandoned a decades-old crusade against cold weather, "What will you miss?"
Lying in bed, mulling over the question, I decided what I will miss most is simply the idea of being somewhere so special.
Quite often, while walking around town or on a nearby trail, I have thought, "I am in Antarctica." After more than four months, it still seems rather an elusive reality, as if I may wake up and discover it was an elaborate hoax.
Right now, sitting at the desk in my room, I'm looking out at the Royal Society Mountains, towering over McMurdo Sound. The sound still has a layer of ice over most of it, but the ice is not nearly as strong as it was when we walked out of a C-17 airplane onto it in early October. In fact, last week, a strong south wind blew out the chunks churned up by icebreakers in the turning basin. There is a large area of open water, surrounded by sea ice.
In 1992, we took a family vacation that circled through Yellowstone National Park. Our daughter, then 10, had one target in mind. She had been enthralled by the Four Corners, where the states of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado meet. It is the only place in the country where four states come together at one point. She wanted to be in that spot.
Four Corners is literally in the middle of nowhere. There were several souvenir and Indian crafts booths set up, much like a trade's day, and a pad was marked with lines noting the converging state boundaries. There was even an elevated stand for photos of people standing or lying in four states at one time.
A few weeks ago, I posed while a newfound friend took my photo at the South Pole. It was so neat, standing there and thinking that the entire population of the planet was north of me.
That is what I will miss most.
I will also miss feeling as if I am in the know about leading research, not to mention getting great access to scientists. Just about everyone here takes some pride in the oft-acknowledged idea that we, too, have a role in supporting groundbreaking scientific research.
And, like anything worthwhile, I will miss a lot of the people: roommates Jim and Chris; workmates Steven and Peter; Jay, Kelly and Amy at the store; courier sisters Lavonne and Lorraine; janitors Bethany, Barbara and Taryn; and friends Etosha, Jim, Cori, Fleet, Erin, Mike, Rob, Ben, Ruth and others, most of whom I will never see again.
I am looking forward to getting home - counting the hours - but part of me will stay behind on the Ice. And that is how it should be.
Steve Martaindale is a self-syndicated columnist. Write him at penmanmail-steve@yahoo. com.