Antarctica as an Inspiration for Possibilities? My Experience At Beardmore Glacier Camp
Where to Begin? I Worked in Antarctica... But this is about Possibilities...
Whenever I look at this photo - which is frequently - I am reminded of the incredible, unlimited possibilities we have in our lives. I'm reminded that there is no way on this green earth that we can predict some of the things that happen to us. I snapped this photo in December, 1984.
Just one year before this photo was taken (December, 1983), I was on a bicycle in New Zealand, merrily peddling my way around what has got to be one of most beautiful countries on the planet.
And just one year before THAT (December, 1982), I was still living with my parents in New Jersey, getting ready for Christmas, and wondering what the future would bring...
Who would have known that this shy girl from a small town in New Jersey would be taking a photo of someone about to plant the US flag at a field camp in Antarctica?"
The photo you are looking at is of a guy I worked with at a very special place in Antarctica. His name is Al Priddy, and he was one of the supervisors of the crew. We were about to build the Beardmore Glacier Camp, which would be the destination for a meeting of the representatives of those countries who are part of the Antarctic Treaty. Again, this was December, 1984, and I was in my first season on "The Ice" as we called it.
This one article cannot possibly talk about all my experiences working in Antarctica from 1984 - 1991. But I'll try to recap it as best I can here.
In a word, this experience - and all the subsequent, crazy experiences I've had - was "magical" to me.
I'll have to make another article about more aspects of working in Antarctica - Most of my photos are slides, and I do not yet have a way to transfer them to digital. But, in this article, I'll use scans of some of the photos from my scrapbook.
You will definitely get the idea that while we worked hard, we played too! :)
At this time, I was a new "guy" on the sheet metal crew. Now, this may not seem all that glamorous; but because there weren't many people in sheet metal, and so many projects needed stuff like heating ducts, roofing, flashing, etc, we got to visit and work at a few locations that other folks didn't see.
At this particular camp, there were carpenters, plumbers, electricians, and sheet metal workers. There were some managers, and cooks as well.
All Photos taken at Beardmore Glacier Camp, books on table, photo collage of me as a kid are taken by me, and I respectfully request that you do not copy them. Thanks! Photos Copyright KathyT (Kathy Tremblay) Photos OF me are from my personal collection, and were taken by husbands or family members.
A Quick THANK YOU...
I am so overwhelmed, awed, & humbled by the honor of Lens of the Day & the Purple Star I've received for this story.
I can not begin to express the gratitude I feel for the support, incredible comments & participation this has brought.
Please know I am incredibly grateful to every one of you!
Have You Ever Found Yourself In a Space or Place You NEVER Would Have or Could Have Imagined??
It seems that whenever I stop RESISTING something, a wonderful thing happens. I have an incredible experience!
Have you ever experienced something, and then looked back and said,
From the Wisdom of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
“It's only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth -- and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up -- that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had.”
There is so much that goes into making sure people can live and survive in Antarctica
It's not like you can just throw a couple of tents up...
You can't just throw a few tents up like they did in the days of the early Antarctic explorers. For the meeting of the signatory nations, you kind of had to have a place for them to live, eat, and meet.
There had to be a system put into place for snow melt (water had to come from somewhere). There had to be heat... (putting up the ductwork was the sheet metal crew's job - and I was the helper.) Generators had to be installed, lighting wired...
All this stuff had to be brought in by LC-130 Hercules aircraft (ski-equipped Hercs).
The camp would be called Beardmore South Camp.
I'm not positive, but...
The Beardmore Glacier is in the Transantarctic Mountain Range, and I think that the choice to build a field camp in that region may have had something to do with the history of Robert Falcon Scott and the "race" to South Pole.
Those who are familiar with this part of polar exploration history know that Britain's Robert Falcon Scott got to Pole to see that Roald Amundsen of Norway had already been there... Of course, this would have been devastating to anyone. Scott and his team died on their way back to McMurdo.
Scott evidently traversed the Beardmore Glacier in his efforts to reach the South Pole - he passed Ernest Shackleton's prior "furthest south" mark - so I think Shackleton had also travelled via Beardmore.
I cannot find any of my own photos from the air (when flying to Pole once or twice I did take some photos from the plane - but they are probably on slide). So, in my "Reader's Digest" book called "Antarctica, Great Stories from the Frozen Continent" 1985, I found an aerial shot of the Beardmore (page 199), and took a photo of it here to show you what this stuff looks like from the air. It always reminded me of a highway when I'd look out the window.
So, What Could an Ordinary, Fairly Dull Kid from the Suburbs Have as a Future?
Dreams? Did I Have Dreams?
Oh yeah... I had dreams. I wanted to be either a fairy princess or a writer. My dad encouraged writing.
I was so ordinary, and actually - quite invisible. I've reconnected with a few people from my school days, but really... what kind of memories are there to speak of?
While I would daydream about being a famous singer someday (I love to sing), if I had been noticed at all, I would probably have been voted either:
1) Most likely to be a secretary or
2) Most likely to be sunburned after 5 minutes in the sun.
I never knew that things that I dreamed about could actually become reality!
(These photos from my collection)
I Met my First Husband Who Taught Me that I COULD Make Things Happen
For the record, I have rarely respected or admired anyone more than my first husband, Paul. He is truly a wonderful, wonderful human, a kind and sensitive soul, and I have nothing but respect and admiration for him.
I met Paul when I was 19 and wondering what to do after college. I worked at a mall (who didn't, back then?). It was 1979.
For some reason unknown to me, Paul took a liking to me. We began dating, and had a blast. He really was my best friend.
This guy wasn't afraid to do stuff! He was a marathon runner, he hiked, he skiied, he travelled - all the things that seemed quite foreign to a girl from an old-world type of family.
I believe that my parents really just expected me to get married (my mother hoped) and just have someone who could support me.
My eyesight was poor, and my glasses so thick that my mom would say that "Boys never make passes at girls who wear glasses." And I would be in a panic that no one would ever love me.
Of course she didn't know that this had such a terrifying effect on me. Most parents know better these days (I would hope)...
So, when Paul decided he liked me, I was stunned. Paul never seemed to struggle to do anything - and he was filled with dreams of his own.
And darned it all if he didn't go make 'em come true! This guy - after high school - ran marathons across the country and then wrote an article for Runner's World about his summer adventure (Story: "The Almost Endless Summer").
All of a sudden, I began doing stuff. I had to quit smoking: "I like you Kathy, but I can't date a smoker." Ok. Quit. Began running. Wound up running 2 marathons (Photo of Paul & me after New York - I think it was 1981 or 1982 - probably 1982. I did a 3:35! - Photo taken by one of our parents).
All of a sudden I was high-tailing it out to a Colorado Guest Ranch where Paul had a job and found me one too. I was hiking. I was singing (he bought me my first guitar).
And all of a sudden, I began to BELIEVE in myself. I began to truly believe the old saying that "Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve." (Attributed to Napoleon Hill)
Do You Believe You Can Make Things Happen In Your Life?
I did not start out as a "possibilities-minded" type of person. I honestly believed that "stuff happens" and that I could not control my life. I think differently now...
Do you believe that whatever the mind can conceive and believe it will achieve?
Possibilities! Everywhere I Looked There Were Possibilities!
No One Could Ever Tell Me Again That I Couldn't Do Stuff...
My mom was amazing. She could sing like an angel. My dad was - and still is - incredible. Between the two of them, they instilled in me a lot of values, a true appreciation and respect for my elders, an understanding of how to behave... all the things you hope your kids will learn.
What they did NOT instill in me was that "anything is possible."
When I first began running, my mom was appalled because "it's not ladylike." (Of course, she got over it!)
Then, Paul & I got married and for some reason decided to go to New Zealand for 4 or 5 months and ride our bicycles throughout the country. This was in the days before the internet, so there was a lot of phone calls and letters to and from consulates and travel agencies. There were countless visits to the library.
We had no idea how we were going to do this, but we did it anyway.
It was while we were in New Zealand that we ran into people coming back from the Ice. Instantly, Paul said, "We need to GO there!"
That's when my "parents" (who lived in my head I think) reared their fearful heads. I said, "Are you out of your mind? What on earth are you talking about? Go to ANTARCTICA??"
Again... library. Phone calls, letters, applications, begging, namedropping... Whatever it took! By the way, these books in my collection were some of my only "reference" materials when it came to learning about Antarctica!
Next thing we knew, we were in Antarctica.
Would You Work In A Remote Location?
I sometimes think about some of the places on this earth where I think I would NEVER go. Makes me wonder... how about you?
Would you consider working in a very remote place where survival is dependent upon outside support?
Some of my Favorite Books!
The first book - "Women in the Antarctic" was an interesting project that Dr. Esther D. Rothblum spearheaded. One of the chapters is about my experiences (Chapter entitled "The Silence Was Incredible" and discussed an experience I had at Beardmore. The other book, by John Langone was my first introduction to Antarctica! It's a great read!
Look at This Group!
These were my co-workers at Beardmore
If you look at most group photos - ones taken at work, at parties, family gatherings... etc, do you think about the people in the photo much? Or is it just a scene... just a memory?
To me, this is far more than just a photo of a bunch of workers building a remote camp.
Did you know that some of these guys worked their tails off to get water running so that on Christmas Day we could all take showers? (Seriously... this was a big deal!)
Or that every day, someone took on "house mouse" duties to go out, saw out some blocks of snow to keep melting on the heater so that we had drinking and cooking water?
One of these guys sat up all night long with me on Christmas Eve and we talked about spiritual matters more deeply than anyone I had ever conversed with.
Every single one of these people had a dream - every person somehow got hired to work in Antarctica. Somewhere, in their souls and minds, they had the idea and then they made it happen.
Anything Really IS Possible...
You Just Can't Take "NO" For An Answer
John , my wonderful husband, is a possibilities thinker. He makes things happen that I cannot understand. I don't know how, for example, he could spend one of his only days off this past weekend, painstakenly hand-chipping thick tiles off a floor of a room he is turning into an office and sanctuary for ME.
He spent over 8 hours bent over, hammering and chiseling these hard-stuck tiles. All for me.
When I would go upstairs, wringing my hands in empathy for what I knew was painful... I asked him how he could possibly keep this up, hour after hour when this stuff was so hard to remove. How was he even DOING it? A DRILL would have had a hard time going through this thick stuff...He just looked at me and said, "I just don't take NO for an answer."
That's really it, isn't it?
We have dreams. We sometimes get kicked in the butt and we fall.
We either take "NO" as the answer and give up... or we stand up and go again. We either say, "Yeah, you're right... it's too hard" or we say, "It may be hard, but we CAN do it!"
Many years ago, 2 men made it to the South Pole. The first one to arrive, as you may know was Roald Amundsen and his team from Norway, who made it to Pole on December 14, 1911. The second was Robert Falcon Scott, along with his team from England about a month later. Scott and his entire party died on the way back. But you cannot say that either took "NO" for an answer. (As an aside, I can only imagine the terrible bitterness of Scott's seeing, in the distance, the flutter of the Norweigan flag standing at the South Pole... And, I can only imagine how it would have felt had it been the other way around.)
If it hadn't been for these early explorers - so many of them, and so many stories that this is not the place for them - then I can assure you that I never would have stepped foot in Antarctica.
This photo is of the Beardmore Camp as it neared completion.
If I told you that someone had this idea about building a camp out in the middle of a gajillion miles from anywhere, in cold, windy conditions where absolutely NOTHING has stood before (except maybe a few explorers 80 or so years earlier)... would you believe it could be done within a month?
If so, then welcome to the world of possibilities! :)
Quick "After Story"
A reader asked me "What happened with Paul?"
I realized that I told you all this story, but left out what happened w/ Paul - after all, Paul was one of my very first heroes, and he always will be. He was my best friend for years, and I don't regret one single minute.
Paul and I broke up after our 3rd season on the Ice, and he stopped going back - obviously, it would have been too painful. I take full responsibility for the breakup. My mom got sick, and she died during our 3rd season - and for reasons that today seem so very infantile and bizarre, I had this strange feeling that I had a kind of freedom (I had always wanted to please my mother)...
At any rate, I continued going to the Ice for another several years/seasons. I am extremely pleased to tell you all that Paul is now very happily remarried, and is still such an amazing person! I have nothing but total respect for him. He is a man of true integrity.
He continues his work at a guest ranch in Colorado and tells me that he and his wife went to Christchurch, New Zealand where there is an Antarctic exhibit - he says, "Kath, evidently we were part of the 'wild years' down there." :)
That oughta tell you something!
Thanks so much for stopping by!
Antarctica on Amazon
Antarctica is such a special place, that it's quite hard to explain to people what it's like to live and work there. Hopefully, some of these might help!
Please drop a line and let me know your thoughts on limits and possiblities!