This past week has been a flurry of activity preparing for my upcoming trip. The most immediate task was packing my gear for Antarctica. For this project we are collecting a variety of samples. Some samples will be of rocks, looking for microbes that can thrive inside the rocks. There are also frozen lakes in the area and I hope to be able to drill a hole in the ice to sample the water underneath. Additionally, we hope to collect snow and ice samples, as microbes can live there too. Finally, we will also attempt to collect pockets of dark colored material where microbes like to live in the ice. Because of the wide variety of samples that we plan to take, this also requires a wide variety of sampling gear.
My science luggage consists of three well-insulated coolers and smaller instrument case. I chose the very fashionable and hard to miss colour of hot pink for the coolers. While I would normally gravitate towards black or a more understated colour, I figured they would be easy to spot on the luggage carousel and on a cargo palette. One cooler is filled with water sampling gear (clean bottles, filtering apparatus, hand pump), another cooler is filled with gear to collect samples of ice (gloves, ice picks, notebooks, sampling bags, scoops, etc), and finally the third cooler is mainly empty apart from some sampling gear (rock hammer and chisel, pH meters, thermometer). The smaller instrument case contains a drone because I hope to be able to collect some useful aerial footage of our sampling sites to share with you later. Being a good citizen of my current university that loves the school mascot, I also packed a small mascot for photo opportunities later. I may or may not have also packed a rubber chicken because you never know when you might need a rubber chicken.
A new-to-me piece of “equipment” I am excited to take on this journey is an infrared thermometer. Using this thermometer we can measure the temperature of the rock, ice or water simply by pointing the laser at it. Just to test it out, I measured both the temperature of my dog and my lab freezer accurately!
While there were many administrative things to take care (due to being out of the office for five weeks), the major thing that I took care of this week was getting an all clear from an endodontist. In my last post, I mentioned how I needed to have a thorough medical exam before I was cleared to travel to Antarctica. Well, once I was medically cleared I had a dental accident. The week before Christmas, I cracked a molar while eating popcorn. Luckily, I was able to get the molar repaired within 48 hours. However, as the trip approached, so did my general stress level increased and this led to some teeth clenching. This past week I started developed tooth pain that also involved some sensitivity to cold and sweets. Did this mean that the cracked tooth had become infected? Bless my dentist’s heart for being patient with my impromptu visit to his office this past Tuesday morning about the integrity of my filling. Sensing my worry, my regular dentist got me an appointment with an endodontist. Long story short, I ended up seeing the endodontist today, the last business day before I was scheduled to fly away on this journey. If I ever need to get a root canal, I now know who to see. The endodontist evaluated my teeth, determined that they were normal** and then, because I was obviously overanalyzing my “symptoms”, he went on to spend the next 30 minutes showing me data from other patients to reassure me that it will be OK. I learned a lot from him today and he made me feel a lot better. Thank you Drs. Gillespie and Brantley!
So tomorrow I will pack the boxes for the last time, pack my duffel bag of personal gear, and say my final farewells before I start my journey on Sunday.
**That said, I am travelling with a 10 day supply of antibiotics and some prescription strength pain medication, just in case things go awry!