Saturday, November 24, 2007

On Top of the World (at the 'Bottom' of the World)

So, I feel 'On Top of the World' because it has been a VERY BIG and exciting week.

First, we had our field trip to the Beacon Valley, which is part of the Dry Valleys Area in Antarctica, and we ended up staying overnight at the New Harbour Camp because the helo could not fly back to pick us up because of bad weather at McMurdo. I have read about the Beacon Sandstone and Ferrar Dolerite (some of the rocks we saw) since I was an undergraduate student - and now I was actually going to the Dry Valleys to see them! Now I am trying to figure out how to use what I saw and learned in my teaching. The excitment did not stop there. On Wednesday I had the an incredible opportunity - an overnight trip to Mario Zucchelli Station (formerly known as Terra Nova - the Italian Station), coming back Thursday morning. This trip was a result of the great effort put in to international cooperation in education and outreach, as part of ANDRILL ARISE. I was very fortunate to have this opportunity, along with Graziano Scotto and Joanna Hubbard.

Today (Saturday 24th November) we have our Thanksgiving Dinner, and there was a 5K run (called the Turkey Trot) this morning out to the Ice Runway and back. Far too much for me to tell you about all at once, so I'll try to break it up into little pieces over the next week or so -that way you can see what I saw and learned in Beacon Valley and at Mario Zucchelli - I am still somewhat overwhelmed by it all!
About the Turkey Trot
Here are some of the runners from ANDRILL. Down below you can see me dressed for the run with my race number. I have not found out how long it took me - I was quite slow (longer than 30 minutes), and one of the last runners in - although there were a bunch of people that walked it behind me. It is just like a fun run anywhere - we signed up half an hour before it started and got our race numbers. They divided us into two groups - under 40 and over 40 (I was in the over 40 group, in case you are wondering). I wore some special winter long johns that I have for running in Minnesota, with wind pants over them. I had a polypropylene top, my windbreaker, a wool beanie, a neckwarmer, gloves and sunglasses. I wore my lightweight hiking shoes - I was worried about slipping on the ice, and they have a firmer grip than my running shoes do. Unlike many people, I had not already tried running on the ice. Running on the snow and ice was the hardest part - it was a beautiful day with only a relatively light breeze.

On Top of the World?
Now, lets get back to the topic of this blog - 'On Top of the World.' How often do you talk about places in the Southern Hemisphere as being 'on the bottom of the world' or make jokes about people 'walking around upside-down' in the Southern Hemisphere? The portrayal of our planet with the Northern Hemisphere ‘at the top’ is simply an artifact of how early European explorers drew their maps. Planet Earth is simply a sphere moving through space; there is no ‘top’ or ‘bottom.’ It is just our perception and visualization of the Universe, based on early maps that make us draw the earth with the North Pole in the ‘up’ position, and the South Pole in the ‘down’ position.

To students at Coon Rapids Middle School:
I am working on a blog about the science process for you - check back in tomorrow (Sunday 25th).

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