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"Where's my purse?"

Those three words - Or is that four? How do you count compound words anyway? As 1.5 words? Anyway, those few words sent me scurrying across Miami International Airport.

Plump, plop, plump, plop. Right. Left. Right. Left. My feet hurried me across the polished floors and intervening people mover surfaces. Destination: Gate D2 and our recently exited 767 from Los Angeles. I knew where the purse was - under the seat just where my wife put it next to my backpack to ensure we did not forget it. So much for that plan.

But imagine if you had to pack for 2 years and that your ability to retrieve something you left behind was basically nil. That is what faced the early Antarctic explorers and in fact still impacts many of our scientists and researchers to this day.

Hello again - Laird Malamed, former assistant sound editor on The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and current Antarctic Marathon participant here again with the continuing Adventure Log. My much shorter dash through the airport could be called a training session - a good way to spend part of our three hour layover before flying to Buenos Aires on our way to Antarctica.

Antarctica, as I mentioned in a previous chapter, is pretty much the hardest place to get to in the world. Much of it is surrounded by ice, and whole areas of the continent cannot be reached except in the southern hemisphere's summer December through March.

Yet, this sort of challenge was exactly what drove explorers such as James Clark Ross (for whom the famous Ross Ice Shelf is named). He sailed in the 1800's with a goal to get as far south as possible. Entering Victoria bay (later to bear his name as the Ross Sea), he found 30 miles free of ice. This was a particularly warm summer, and he achieved a record in 1841 for exploration. But what he found that far south was incredible - a seemingly endless wall of ice 200 feet high. Can you imagine sailing next to such an impenetrable barrier with huge icebergs calving off into the water and floating around you? Your tiny (by comparison) ship and its provisions, all that will keep you alive on this yearlong voyage.

Antarctica is the highest continent at an average of over 2000 feet elevation including the ice pack. Mt. Erebus (discovered by Ross and his party and named for one of his ships) stands 12,448 feet in height on Ross Island. No volcano in the world sits further south, and would you believe a team of explorers are stationed there to watch this active mountain spew and bubble all the time? Walls of ice and cauldrons of fire. Greek tragedies and Wagner’s operas are composed of such things. Yet Antarctica contains them both within miles of each other, and that proves too attractive for explorers to ignore.


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