I have just arrived home after thirty plus hours of traveling. I return with mixed emotions (as many of my colleagues also feel), as it is good to be home, but there is a heavy heart and an emotional drain as the great adventure has ended for all.
I think that part of this emotional feeling has to do that we all miss what we had on the ship in terms of the sharing among colleagues and friends, the excitement of scientific discovery, & the thrill of the adventure of experiencing and seeing this incredible continent and its surrounding oceans filled with ice and wild life. As it is too freshly imprinted on our souls, we still long for the intensity of the life we had. I feel that with time though, the loss of these feelings will diminish as they are moved to memories as opposed to the sensation of recent happenings.
As a little coda to this most glorious adventure, I would like to share with you a little something I wrote while flying out to NZ at the start of this trip that I intended to, but never posted on my blog.
A little delight at the end of our trip.
Blog Entry for January 2, 2010
I have always enjoyed flying. For humans, it is still such a novelty, as it has only been in the last hundred years that we can soar higher than the strongest birds and above the highest mountains. I never take for granted such unique opportunities for sensing Mother Nature at her best. Imagine, just a hundred years ago, the mightiest kings could not give their kingdom away or the most ruthless emperor or general would be powerless to be able to gaze upon the sight that we behold every time we take a flight. For me it is a glorious opportunity to visually feast on our world. So I always try to get a window seat. Sometimes, when I want to behold this world from above with the eyes of one who is seeing it for the first time, I try to imagine myself talking and explaining it to some of my favorite past heroes and try to imagine the excitement they would have gazing out at such as sight. By creating someone like DeVinci and trying to imagine what he would say and feel is such an easy way never to take such beautiful opportunities for granted.
I also love to watch sunsets and sunrises as the “Little Prince” has long been a hero of mine and so I try to make sure that I sit on the correct side of the plane for viewing it. This is especially so when I am traveling west as the plane moving at over 500 miler per hour is just slightly slower than the sun’s journey across the sky, resulting in sunsets to last far longer than it normally would when watching it on the ground. I always thought that the Little Prince would be envious of not being able to see such a glorious phenomena. It is up here that the sun’s path across the sky slows so a sunset or sunrise occurs in slow motion, allowing every detail, color and hue to be enjoyed at one’s leisure. In fact, I feel that such a spectacular burst of colors needs time to be thoroughly enjoyed. Later tonight, when I am on the flight to New Zealand, I will have a window seat on the left side of the plane. This for not only for the sunrise that will take many hours to transpire, but also for my first glimpses of the beautiful constellation called the Southern Cross. A set of brilliant diamonds set in a sea of black sky. It is not like our northern counterpart, the north star, which is exactly aligned with Earth Axis and so it appears not to move. The Southern Cross in contrast, is close but not perfectly aligned with earth’s axis, so it spins around like all of the stars in the sky, albeit quite close to the southern axis. By about 4 am local time or about 4 hours before landing, it should be at it’s highest in the sky. I hope to somehow wake up for a few brief moments to spy it once again. Whenever I travel to the southern hemisphere, the Southern Cross has been like a traveling companion, a familiar site in often strange and new lands.
To look down on our planet from miles away is to spy her great majesty in a completely new way. Soaring mountains are transformed into what looks like beautiful sculptures crafted by Mother Nature’s hand built over millions to billions of years. They are now laid out like a picture book that we can read to learn and understand about the history of our planet. However, to read this book written by the forces of Mother Nature, we have to first learn to read the language of Mother Earth, which is Geology. From my vantage flying miles above our world, I see the hills of Pennsylvania aligned in long lines and curves. These were formed from crushing forces of 300 million years ago when what is now Africa crashed into North America. The collision forced the rock layers to fold and fault in long lines of towering peaks, as a piece of paper would fold when pushing the ends together. This resulted in the creation of tall mountains that have since been worn down by the never ending forces of erosion to today, they are now just relatively modest in height. Traveling further out, I caught a glimmer of the Great Lakes, which were formed when the climate was even cooler than today, allowing great multi kilometer thick ice sheets to form in Canada and slowly plowed southward carving deep into the softer rocks of this area, creating great hollows, which filled with water when the ice sheets melted and retreated. Further west lies the mighty gorge that reveals over a billion years of history. The Grand Canyon is one of the most spectacle sites from either on the ground on in the air. This deep orifice has been carved only recently, geologically speaking, perhaps only 5 to 10 million years ago. Within it, Mother Nature has a story that she wants to tell. However, we have to listen carefully to understand. It is only when armed with the knowledge of geologic processes that we can fully appreciate the incredible majesty of how our own planet has evolved over the eons of time.