Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sunniva Sorby and The Great Women's Expedition to South Pole, what it all means

                                                  Sunniva Sorby in her element in the snow.

     A few days after my birthday the spouse and I saw and heard an inspirational speaker as part of "Women's History Month." Sunniva Sorby, an American of Norwegian descent, went with Anne Bancroft (not the actress, "another" Anne Bancroft) and two others on the first all female expedition to the South Pole. It was an expedition of great trials, as they went into "the interior" and didn't see any cute penguins or breaching whales. On this 1993 expedition they spent four long months pulling 200 pounds of supplies on a sled, against 50 mph winds, and it got as cold as -76 degrees (maybe Celsius, I'm not sure). Imagine doing this for four months, and you see the whiteness of snow and ice all day. And THEN, you get bronchitis and can't really breathe as you're pulling all that durn weight!
    I don't know how she and the other women did it. They had tremendous stamina. And I think they wanted to show that if the men could do it (Amundsen in 1911 and Scott in 1912), then why couldn't the women? We have women on the U. S. Supreme Court and have had women up in space so why not have women make it to the South Pole? It had to take great perseverance on their part to reach the South Pole, which she said had something like a metal marker, and I think they also put in flags and took pictures of each other. Can a camera even work in below zero temperatures?
    She pointed out that she now works with this "catalyst" organization that works to help businesswomen, and that we should always being "striving" for the next big thing. After her momentous goal, she actually was depressed for months. What would be her second act? She said she's done many things since that great task, and we need to keep striving, as it is part of the human condition. I have "strived" to overcome cancer, get a degree, and teach college students, and maybe get a book published (as opposed to just "in print"). We need to seek out new things, even as we get older (like me).
    As a naturalist I asked her what "nature" she saw down there. Any cute penguins or birds?
In the interior she said there was Nada, nothing. There is a mite that lives there and it doesn't even have wings (they would probably freeze off, I would guess). She has returned and boarded ships, which I am guessing go by penguin colonies and other water bound wildlife. I think she mentioned something about the effect of climate change on the ice there, but didn't really go into that. She was all about believing you can do anything you put your mind to doing. I have to work more on that myself. She was a powerful Virginia Tech speaker.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Of Stars and Winter Walks

    I remember (where has the time gone) a few years ago, when oldest son Zeb was between jobs and we walked on a sunny day at nearby Bisset Park. It was a year of "many snows, "and I was glad to have on my hiking/snow boots because most of the paved trail was wet with snow, though there were foot prints you could step into. The sun shone through as the trees were bare, and it became almost like a sunny spring day in temperature. Winter walks can be nice or (as in the case of the Great Backyard Bird Count) incredible frigid and uncomfortable. As I get older I seem to tolerate the harshness less and less. If we are in the midst of climate change I wish the harsher weather would be left behind.
    But, spring or winter, nature seems to have a need to "jut" out in front of us. In December,
(this is late winter now but I am thinking back) I was out at midnight because I was told there'd be an array of meteorites or "falling stars" shooting all over across the sky. Granted, it was cold and I only stayed out on my deck a little over 10 minutes, so I only saw 2 or 3. They were tiny, brief, spurts of light streaking across the sky, faint punctuations in the sky, and not the dazzling fireworkslike display I was hoping for. Nature can do that, not making much of a splash. Certainly in winter, the colors are hidden, the trees lay dormant, the birds have fled. We like to have the colors of nature around us all the time, but winter pushes them away from us, perhaps to appreciate them even more when they do come back around. Thoreau may have considered winter his favorite season, but I guess you would have to say that in an area with such long winters. I was born in Massachusetts but have no interests in being there in winter!