Finally, after three years of planning, I am down to less than a week before I leave for the bottom of the world. I have taken a winter contract position with Raytheon Polar Services in McMurdo Station, Antarctica, supporting the U.S. Antarctic Program. I will be working as a field engineer on the Power Plant & Water Plant Upgrades project, which is a two-year project. This winter, summer for the Northern Hemisphere, I will be working on the Water Plant portion of the project. I have been working on getting this job for three years and after an expensive phone interview from St. Lucia in the spring and an exhaustive physical qualification process, I got the job I was hoping for.
I quit my excellent job in California at the end of July, after five years with the company, to follow my dreams. I spent the month of August driving my truck to Denver and touring parts of California that I had not seen in the five years I lived there. I drove north through California. I stopped in Ventura to visit my dad. While I was there I went diving in the kelp forests of the Channel Islands. I also visited the Getty museum in LA. From there I visited a friend in Bakersfield, toured the Hearst Castle and then drove up the coast though Big Sur and on to Davis to visit friends there. One of my friends joined me on a quick backpacking trip in Redwoods National Park, where we did a wonderful overnight camping trip amongst the forest giants – We made a small fire and slept under the stars and we woke up in the morning surrounded by a herd of elk, which was exciting. We drove along highway 1, pausing to explore the Lost Coast, on the way back to the bay area. I visited another friend who had rented a cabin on Lake Tahoe and then I said farewell to California. I paused at a casino in Nevada to lose some money and eat some dinner and then I visited Dinosaur National Monument, just inside Colorado, where I found some amazing dinosaur bones in the desert rocks.
I left my truck at the Denver Airport and flew to New York City where I had a very nice (and free) hotel room for a few nights on Times Square. On my first day in the city I walked through Central Park went to the MET and saw The Lion King on Broadway (a birthday present from my parents). The following two days my step-dad met me and we toured NBC, went to the top of the Empire State Building, toured the Natural History Museum and saw The Producer on Broadway. We then met my mom at my aunt & uncle’s house and the following day we went down to the Jersey Shore with my aunt & uncle and three cousins where we enjoyed the ocean for a few days and searched for buried pirate treasure in the sand, which was there according to the surprisingly accurate map I had found in a toy store in Armonk. From there I went home to Atlanta and visited with my brother & sister and dog Oliver.
I then met my parents in Aruba for a few days, flying over Hurricane Francis on the way down. In Aruba, we went horseback riding (which came with a free ride down a very rough, desert road) and lots of snorkeling, but Hurricane Ivan cut my time there short by several hours. I was on the last plane off the Island before the storm hit, flying over my second hurricane in a week – My parents got to ride out the storm on the island and then they were hit by the same storm in Atlanta after they returned home!
After Aruba, I went to Denver and started my new job and now after four months in a hotel and lots of speculation on whether or not the ice breaker will be able to break the channel to McMurdo to allow the supply vessels to get there, it is time to go South. This should get everyone up to date with what I’ve been doing for the last few months. I will write again from New Zealand next week. -Keith