Monday, October 22, 2007

Dealing with Disappointment

Well, Monday has come and gone. I woke up at 5:30 am to blowing snow and strong winds. An over land traverse to the Mackay Sea Valley (MSV) field area seemed unlikely, and a helicopter flight seemed even more unlikely. But I was distracted by other things. I had injured my back with all of the preparation for the field. I wanted to show that my 5'0" frame was just as strong as everybody else's - and I overdid it. I could barely move.

I struggled to get dressed, and got myself over to breakfast where I spoke with members of both the ARISE Team and the MSV Survey Team. I was informed that we were not going anywhere today due to the weather - and that this was my chance to go to the doctor.

By 6:30 am, I was in the doctor's office. Harry, a very sweet doctor, gently examined me, knowing I was on the manifest for the next helicopter out. When he was done he took my hand and said, "Robin - you know what I'm going to say, don't you?"

"I'm hoping I'm wrong," I replied.

"Try to imagine schlepping all of your gear down to the helicopter pad. Climbing aboard a helicopter. Getting all buckled in. Climbing out of the helicopter on slippery sea ice. Setting up tents... Your back is in no shape to do that."

Huge disappointment overcame me. For 5 months I have looked forward to the day I would be back in the field, surrounded by the vast solitude of the deep field. Studying the rocks and bringing some of their mysteries up to the surface - and out to all of the people following my journey - this was a thrilll I have been so excited to share. And now I am grounded for an unknown amount of time.

Dr. Harry said that it does not appear to be a disk - but is just severe muscle spasms. He will check me again in 4 - 5 days, and meanwhile he will treat me, and I will see the physical therapist here on base.

I don't disagree with the decision. I can barely put my socks on or roll over in bed, let alone shovel snow and set up a 100 pound tent. But I am angry at myself for treating my back so badly, and very sad to be postponing the opportunity to head for the field. I'm also sorry to be throwing a curveball at the MSV Survey Team.

By morning's end, an array of ideas were suggested about who should replace me in the field, and for how long. It may be awhile before I can get out into the field, since helicopters will not be flying out that way very frequently. But hopefullly this will give my back a chance to heal, and allow the MSV team to have the necessary bases covered for productive field work.

The bright side is that I can continue to write blogs! You can look forward to more dispatches from McMurdo.

Meanwhile, McMurdo Station is completely socked in with weather - and travel is at a standstill. This is one of the realities of life at the bottom of the world!

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