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Welcome To The Adventure!

Welcome to the Adventure!

Welcome to the Adventure with Ms. Debbie

Click HERE to check out Ms. Debbie’s adventures from the beginning.

Buenos Dias everyone! Greetings from Chile!

My name is Debbie Harner and I am the Lead Discovery Educator at the Living Arts and Science Center in Lexington, Kentucky. Because of a partnership with the University of Kentucky Entomology Dept. and a grant from the National Science Foundation, I have been chosen to go on a trip to Antarctica! I will be the education outreach coordinator for the project. We will be spending 6 weeks visiting Palmer Research Station and the islands surrounding the continent to study the Antarctic midge….the largest terrestrial animal in Antarctica!  I will be traveling on a research vessel called the Lawrence M. Gould and have lots of amazing experiences to tell you about in the next few weeks.  For now, I would like to share my journey in getting to the boat!

The last 4 days have been some of the most challenging and exciting times of my life!  I can’t believe that I’m living this amazing adventure!  Sometimes in life, you have to be willing to take a chance on the opportunities that arise.  For me, this Antarctica trip, is just that….an opportunity of a lifetime!  I want all the people reading this blog to be inspired to live their best lives too.  Please follow me for the next 6 weeks as I share the most amazing things with you. I don’t know what they will be yet, as this is all new for me too, but I know there will be something for everyone!

My trip began on Thursday, February 13th at the Bluegrass airport in Lexington, Kentucky.  Unfortunately, because of ice, our plane had to be diverted to Louisville.  We ended up having a 2 hour delay.  I did manage to make it to Dallas, Texas to catch my plane to Santiago, Chile.  It was here that I met two of my other team mates, J.D. and Scott, and other USAP participants Dulcinea, Ryan, and Nate.  Little did we know what adventures were ahead!  We boarded our plane to Santiago.  About 2 hours later we had to turn around!  There was a communication problem on the plane and we had to return to Dallas.  We then had to wait in line and get a hotel voucher for the night and then return to the airport at 5:00am the next morning.  By the time we got to the hotel, we only had about 3 hours of sleep.  The next morning, we flew almost 10 hours to Santiago.  We were supposed to catch another flight to Punta Arenas, Chile that night, but upon arrival our flight was changed to Saturday morning.  Therefore we had to spend another night in the hotel and return at 4:00am the next morning.  Finally on Saturday morning, we flew almost 3 hours to Punta Arenas, Chile.  We were picked up at the airport by the USAP (United States Antarctic Program) staff and taken to the NSF warehouse (National Science Foundation).  Here we had orientation, tried on our cold weather gear, got our temperatures taken, filled out paperwork, and finally got to get on the boat….the Lawrence M. Gould research vessel.  I saw pictures of the boat before I came, but seeing it in person for the first time was incredible!  It is massive!

One of our first tasks was to unload our luggage onto the boat.  We all worked as a team to get everyone’s luggage aboard.  We made a human chain and passed the bags to each other. Trying to get to our room, was not an easy task either.  My new roommate Dulcinea and I carried our bags up two flights of stairs that are really more like ladders.  They are very steep and you must be very careful going up and down them.

As you can see by the pictures, our room is very small.  We have bunkbeds (mine is the bottom) and a bathroom.  It’s kind of like being at camp.  The boat has 3 levels, we are on level 2.  We also have a neat porthole window in our room to look out at the ocean.

Our first day on the boat was filled with excitement.  We worked really hard to unpack all of the equipment we will need in Antarctica into the lab.  We had to make sure that everything is secured and tied down for the voyage through Drake’s Passage in the next couple of days.  The Drake is known to be some of the roughest seas on the planet.  I just have to admit…I’m a little scared.   Many people get really sea sick.  I’m hoping to avoid it, but I will just have to wait and see.  The boat can sway a lot and there could be up to 40 ft. swells on the boat.  We have an amazing captain and crew here, so I am putting my trust and confidence in them.  They have made the journey many times before and they are preparing us with trainings and drills.  So far, we have learned how to put on a survival suit (you would not survive in the cold ocean water without one)  and practiced getting in the lifeboats. We have more trainings ahead including learning how to get in and out of the boat onto zodiac boats to go to nearby islands.  In Punta Arenas there is a town square that has a statue honoring Magellen and Shackelton (a famous Antarctica explorer who risked his life to save his crew! Read about him HERE. They say if you rub the golden toes on the statue, you will be given good luck passing the Drake.  I rubbed them a lot!

Yesterday we left Chile, and we are currently traveling through the Straits of Magellen.  We have already gotten to see some Commersons dolphins and Magellanic penguins!

The boat is swaying and rocking some, but so far I haven’t gotten sick. However, I have heard that we are only mildly feeling what it will be like later.   We are fed really well on the boat and taken care of. Today I had  fish tacos for lunch!   I think one of the nicest things so far is that I feel like I’m part of a team.  Everyone works together to accomplish our tasks, and in a very short time, I feel like I’ve made some great friends.  I can’t wait to introduce you to some of them later!

It certainly has been an adventure so far, and I know the days ahead will be filled with some wonderful new memories.  I am excited to share them with you!  Please keep following me and if you have questions or comments please ask in the field below!  I will respond to as many as I can!  You can also follow me on Twitter @aflyonthepole to checkout more photos of my adventures.

On each blog I hope to give you some things to think about and some fun tasks to do. Our ship is an ice breaker.  Sometimes on our journey, the ship will need to break through the ice to get where we need to be.  For that reason, I’m going to call these ICE BLOCKERS. We have obstacles, puzzles, problems every day to solve to get where we need to be!   Here is the first one….


Take a look at the lifeboat picture. How many people do you think can fit inside?  If you had to abandon ship, what would be the top 5 things you would take with you? Why would you take them with you? Write a story about your lifeboat adventure.  Why did you have to leave the ship?  Where did your lifeboat end up?  What happened while you were on the lifeboat?   

I’ll share my thoughts in my next blog!

Until next time,

Ms. Debbie


    Ask Ms. Debbie a Question

    Stay tuned. I’ll be off on my mission to Antarctica shortly and I hope you’ll be following along.

    Follow along and see where in the world is Ms. Debbie

    Check out these webcams of Palmer Stations and a nearby penguin colony

    Get started learning about the Antarctic Midge:

    How Does Antarctica’s Only Native Insect Survive Extreme Cold?

    Has climate change affected a bug that can stay frozen for 9 months? This UK researcher will find out

    Learn all about the work done at the Insect Stress Biology Lab at the University of Kentucky


    This expedition is funded by:

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