Among the myriad of amazing opportunities I've had down here are the chances to attend the twice-weekly public lectures hosted by the scientists and researchers working on the station. The Sunday night talks are aimed at sharing science with the broad community, people who may not have an extensive background in the sciences, while on Wednesday nights the talks tend to be more technical and aimed more towards the science community.
One of the first people that I met down here was science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robison who was down for a week and half. Previously, he had visited Antarctica as part of the National Science Foundation’s Artists & Writers Program 20 years ago.
He gave a lecture on November 8 where he read a passage from his book Antarctica, a science fiction novel inspired directly from his experiences here some two decades ago. Set in a not-to-distant-future McMurdo, Antarctica touches on familiar issues: scientific research, management of natural resources, environmental conservation, as well as what it's like to live and work at the bottom of the world in a harsh, almost alien landscape. Afterwards, he showed a slide show of photos he took during his time in the Artists & Writers Program. His perspective, both from his present trip, and from his previous trip, made it very clear that his time in Antarctica had shaped his creative process and his life. 20 years later, the themes of Antarctica are not only persistent, but also exceptionally relevant. Where will we be in 20 years from now? How will my time in Antarctica shape my life and work?
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: nothing beats the experience of physically being down here. Hands-on learning has helped me to understand science that I would otherwise find a bit befuddling. Meeting folks with incredible skills and backgrounds from across the country, and even all over the world, has left me humbled. Frigid temperatures and whipping winds have made me appreciate my New England upbringing.
Thanks, Stan, for your reflections, both past and present. I look forward to reading Antarctica once I'm off the ice, so it can remind me of where I just was, and the place I had the incredible privilege to be.