Thank You Thursday – Administrative Officers of McMurdo

Liz Sutter and Johnny Ringo on the NSF Chalet patio.

To begin with, my sincere apologies for my last blog, in which I incorrectly stated that Amundsen reached the South Pole on Dec. 14, 2011, when in fact, it was Dec. 14, 1911. Apologies for the typographical error – must have been the thin mountain air we’ve been experiencing 🙂

As we continue our meteorite recovery operations here in the Davis-Ward region, I think back to the folks at McMurdo Station who got us here safely and efficiently. McMurdo is a unique and intriguing place – and I’ve heard it described as a cross between an academic university and a mining town. While there, I met many fascinating people, passionate about the scientific research that they are conducting in this remote location. Likewise, I met many folks who have dedicated their careers – or at least a portion of them – to supporting those researchers. McMurdo and it’s infrastructure requires everything that you would expect to see in a small town – everything from firefighters, carpenters, electricians, waste management, IT support, drivers, chefs, lab technicians, and a lot of administration (facilities and lodging, transportation, provisions, etc.) – all just as passionate about the science being conducted, and the role that they play in providing support to these research efforts. Many of the folks I met had actually quit their stateside jobs, just to get the opportunity to travel to Antarctica. Some support for only 1-2 years, while others have spent decades traveling to McMurdo, somehow balancing other seasonal stateside jobs and family obligations.

On my second day in McMurdo Station, I was looking for the IT support office and stopped a very nice woman to ask her directions. I saw Liz Sutter at our orientation the day before and recognized her as one of the administrative officers at the Station. We talked for a few minutes and she very kindly showed me on my way. I had the opportunity to chat with Liz again prior to my departure into the field, as I realized that she’d be helping me with my travel back to the U.S. after our season in the field. I stopped by her office – which arguably has the greatest view of any office in the world – to discuss my itinerary. After we finished “talking shop”, we continued our discussion from our first meeting. Liz originally came to McMurdo in 1998, expecting to spend only one season there. She is now supporting her 21st season here, and when she’s not in McMurdo, she spends her time on Cape Cod – one of my favorite places. She loves bakeries, and I gave her the name of a bakery in Yarmouth that my very good friends recently opened – I hope she visits soon and often. She graduated from high school in the Connecticut town that my brother now lives and often travels to my “other” home in Stowe, VT. Amazing. You can travel all the way to the bottom of the world and confirm that it is indeed, a small world after all. Meeting Liz was easily one of the highlights of my trip to Antarctica. Thanks to Liz, and everybody at McMurdo that supports the ANSMET team, and all researchers traveling to, and working in the Antarctic. Your support is recognized and sincerely appreciated !!!
The enclosed photo is myself and Liz standing in front of a bust of Richard E. Byrd, Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy, who became a national hero for his pioneering flights to the North and South Poles in the late 1920’s. The inscription on the monument reads “‘I am hopeful that Antarctica, in it’s symbolic robe of white, will shine forth as a continent of peace, as nations working together there in the cause of science set an example of international cooperation’ – To all who follow in Admiral Byrd’s footsteps this monument is dedicated. National Geographic Society”.
Written by Johnny Ringo