Friday, June 15, 2007

Summit Camp, Greenland

I had another good night sleeping. Two of the scientists had a tougher time. They had some breathing difficulty. Sleeping in the tent can be claustrophobic, and the tent has warnings about keeping some vents open to avoid suffocation. The tent does a fine job of preventing heat loss due to the wind. However, the breathing difficulty was most likely not caused by the tent, but because of the altitude. Apparently, altitude distress, or sickness can hit hard and fast, or more insidiously, and it can be sporadic in appearance. Age, gender, or apparent level of physical fitness seem not to be factors. The scientists were a bit chastened, but fine at breakfast. Tyler is our very capable medic. He has a cramped, but well provisioned infirmary. Tyler is able to handle any altitude sickness problem, and a whole variety of other ailments that most would rather not read about.

Speaking about the tent. I have learned some tricks to staying warm at night. Don't worry, none of this is "X", "R", or "PG-13" - rated. Before entering the tent, knock off as much snow as possible, and quickly rezip both layers of the tent. Stash your boots in the corner, and slip into the bags with everything you have on. Warm up the bags for five or ten minutes. Unzip, and remove your parka, and use it as a third blanket. I like using it at the feet end of the sleeping bag. Exchange your day socks for dry sleeping socks. Then, depending on the ferocity of the night remove your vest, socks, gloves and hat, and other outer garments as needed. Some nights are colder than others. To date, I have not used toe warmers or a heated bottle. Early morning, 4 to 5 AM, is usually the coldest. The solution is to curl up into a ball, cover your head, and tuck in your hands. It will pass. By 7 AM, the sun warms the tent, and it is quite pleasant. Polar explorer Captain Scott and his men, actually brought pajamas to wear! I didn't, and I am just going to let it go at that.

Sitting at meals people talk. Despite the cold and constant worries about family, people find value in being here, and beauty in the surroundings. Here are some of the things I have heard said in the vein of "being worth the price of admission":

1. Working on something new and important.
2. Snowflakes, Fogbows, Sundogs, and Sun Pillars.
3. The physical challenge.
4. The food.
5. Working with great people.
6. Time to realize how much you love the people back home.
7. Snacking for free, and not gaining weight.
8. Learning new skills, and improving old ones.
9. Creating or expanding personal and professional networks.
10. Winter sports.
11. Less laundry.
12. Making and saving money for life off the ice.
13. Beverages.
14. Snowmen, and snow soccer.
15. Talking unhurriedly, and listening intently.
16. Learning or relearning determination, and flexibility.
17. Dreaming big.
18. Knowing you can and must trust people, and they you.
19. Sparkling snow.
20. Equality of opportunity.
21. Pitching in, and accepting help.
22. Taking ownership and pride in one's work.
23. Fellowship, and friendship.
24. A shower, and then clean clothes.
25. Taking a chance, and living your life.
26. Flush toilets, and interesting reading material.
27. Packed snow to walk on.
28. Hats, gloves, hot water bottles, and toe warmers.
29. At nighttime, not having use the to use the facilities.
30. The Internet and email.
31. Quiet time, and resting.
32. Laughter.
33. Informative lectures, chess, and other board games.
34. Choosing the music, and appreciating other's choices.
35. Finding what you lost.

While, none of the list is a proper quote, they do express the sentiments I have heard. Some are profound, if not elegantly stated, while others are silly and whimsical. They are in no particular order. Today, I encourage you to dwell on the good things in your life, and to build on them. I am going to do my best to follow my own advice. Let me know of the good things in your life!

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