Monday, December 29, 2014

Day 12 – Land Ahead!

The morning sun glistened on the deep blue waters of the Chilean coast.  In the distance, Cape Horn rose up out of the sea silently observing our navigation.  For the first time in days, we were able to take to the deck and enjoy the scenery, pausing to make images of the hovering albatross and the stoic mountains in the distance.

Reflection in this moment is unavoidable and I begin to wonder how this experience has changed me as a person.  My reasons for coming on this voyage seem as distant as the land itself, and I am profoundly aware of a new motivation for being here.  Slowly I realize that the lessons Antarctica taught me were less about science, nature, facts and figures, and more about the communication of ideas and information.  

On this voyage, we have experienced many forms of communication.  Penguins, whales, and seals communicate with each other through body language and vocalizations.  Naturalists communicate with each other using technical language that gives specific information about the various components of ecosystems.  Glaciers, icebergs, and mountains communicate with us through our interpretation of their multiple layers  and unique features.  Photographers communicate time and place through the images they make.  Guests aboard the ship use language to make conversation and process the events of each day.  

Communication is all around us.

As teachers, our job is to take these grandiose concepts, these foreign concepts, and find ways to communicate our experience to our students.  Through community outreach, we will also have opportunities to convey information to a wider range of people in the field of education—administrators, professors, pre-service teachers, and community leaders.  The challenge becomes one of effectively using language to bring this experience to life for people who are so far removed from it that it seems impossible to understand.

How can we use language to pique the interest of our students and other community members so that they feel connected to the natural world around us and invested in the future of our planet?  How can the art of language help us paint pictures in people’s minds so that they authentically care about our environment?  What role does rhetoric and persuasive language play in convincing policy makers and entrepreneurs to consider ecological sustainability in their decision-making processes?

These questions, and more, begin to rise like mountains out of the ocean.

Seemingly insurmountable, the complications of personal agendas, economic decision-making, political tides, and the rigidity of traditional ways of thinking and being, are the next mountains to climb.  The culture where I live is generally oriented toward the safety and comfort of routine and linear thinking.  We tend to approach life in a conventional way; from birth to death, we spend our lifetimes functioning in the unnatural predictability of societal expectations. 

While all of these cultural norms are fine and good--even, in some respects, profound and life-changing--they can be very distracting from the purity of living a human existence.  Of connecting with the world around us, with nature, with our own selves, of growing from discomfort and welcoming change as a way to revitalize and rejuvenate.

Upon returning, I know I will be asked the question, “So what did you take away from your experience in Antarctica?” 

The answer:  It’s not what I “took away” from the experience; it is what I decided to leave behind.

I left behind conventional ways of approaching academic topics.

I left behind notions of disconnect between the arts and the sciences.

I left behind the fear of divergent thinking.

And I left behind the illusion of comfort in predictability and routine.

As with any profound travel experience, Antarctica has challenged me to learn and grow in ways I never thought possible.  It has pushed me beyond my comfort zone, away from the warmth of home and my daily life, relocating me to the furthest reaches of the earth.  In this isolation, I discovered a deep personal connection to the land of Antarctica, to the wildlife that calls this place home, and to the greater ecosystem that operates locally and globally.

The memories of this adventure will last a lifetime, and I anticipate that the friendships forged aboard this ship will also endure that long.  It is my hope that somehow you, as well, have been changed; inspired perhaps to be your best self, discover new horizons, or seek out avenues for creativity and innovation in your own locale.

The trip may be over, but the journey is never done.  With Antarctica behind me, my gaze shifts ahead, in search of the next big adventure, the next challenge, and the next horizon.

Thank you for accompanying me on this expedition.  I look forward to our continued conversations about life, nature, and the human experience.

Until our paths serendipitously cross again…enjoy the journey!
Cape Horn, Chile
Photo by: Rodolfo Werner

Sei Whale Underwater - Approximately 40 Feet Long
A Rare Sighting of a Group of Sei Whales!


  1. Welcome back to land. So happy you had such a wonderful experience and can't wait to hear more about it.

  2. I loved reading your blog! It sounds like you had an amazing adventure! Did you get the acceptance call in early or late February? I am dying to find out if I am accepted into the 2015 program.

    1. So glad you enjoyed this blog! I vividly remember the day I received the phone call, but cannot recollect when it was. Best of luck! :)