Friday, October 2, 2009

Summer in the South Pole

All of my life, I have recognized that everyone has a story, and that became more deeply seated when I was a news editor. Taking mom out and getting our nails done today proved there to be no exception.
I would never expect an eyebrow waxing to lead discussing a trip to the Antartic with a stranger, but it did. As I settled into the chair for a pedicure, a few words were exchanged with the woman next to me. When she learned I was going to get my eyebrows done, she wondered if she should follow suit, noting her upcoming trip to the South Pole.
South Pole?! Suddenly penguins from "Happy Feet" were dancing through my mind and the interrogation began!
Emily Wilson is currently a physician's assistant in Greensboro with cardio and internal medicine experience. She said that, after doing the same thing for about 20 years, she was ready for a change. Recognizing a great opportunity and adventure, she pursued a position with Raytheon Polar Services which is under government contract to provide services to the US Antarctic Program . Her family is in Philadelphia and there are no local ties or children, so she is making preparations to be down there by Oct. 15.
She'll live in a dormitory-like atmosphere, with computer access but no television. "Which is fine with me," she said. South of the equator, spring is beginning. There is only one day and one night at the South Pole, so she'll be there for the day - which actually lasts six months. Astronomy is another of Emily's interests and she seems excited to be able to learn more about the studies underway at the site.
I recalled the story about the doctor that was rescued from a polar station when diagnosed with breast cancer. Emily confirmed that she will be at the same location. In fact, Dr. Nielsen passed away in June, 10 years after her leading non-medical personnel through a biopsy and initial self-treatment.
Emily's trip to the McMurdo Station will include a 24-hour plane trip to Australia, with a few hops and a final military flight from the tip of New Zealand to the Antarctic. When she returns state-side, Emily said, "I have no idea what I'll be doing." I have a feeling, she won't have any problems finding a job -- or another adventure. As for myself, my ears - and mind - are always open.

Follow Emily's blog for updates on her experience at http://southpoledancing.blogspot.com .

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