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Student Writing

More Writing at SLU

Alumni Accomplishments

The Kenya Connection


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By Elizabeth Johnston Hubbard ’03
A college education can take you anywhere.” I’ve been hearing these words from my parents and teachers since elementary school, and now that I’m a college graduate I couldn’t agree more. Every year, St. Lawrence grads can be found doing all kinds of things in countries around the world. In the case of four St. Lawrence alumni, their college education has taken them all the way to Antarctica.

Dean Eppler ’74, Bevin Gumm ’91, Paul Kolachov ’91 and Ann Lowery ’82 all have spent a significant portion of their post-graduation years living and working in McMurdo Station, Antarctica. “McMurdo Station is a town with about 1000 people who call it home for some or all of the year,” says Eppler, who majored in geology. “It is the largest logistics base on the continent, and, as such, serves not only the U.S. operation but many other countries’ as well. The population is about half permanent and half transient; the permanent folks are the ones who do all the support work to get the transients in the field to accomplish the science they traveled there for.”

Eppler, who traveled to Antarctica for the first time in the 1980s, worked most recently in McMurdo Station from late 2002 to the end of January 2003 (the austral summer) as a part of a reconnaissance team for the Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET). The four-person team was deployed to five different blue-ice fields on the Antarctic polar plateau about 200 miles north of the South Pole. Eppler says that the team “conducted reconnaissance to determine if there was had a sufficient population of meteorites to warrant a larger team being placed there in subsequent collection years.”

Gumm, who majored in government, lived in McMurdo from August 19, 2002, to February 20, 2003. As a housing coordinator, she “juggled dorm beds for scientists and staff as they passed through McMurdo on their way to field camps and listened to the complaints of unhappy roommates,” she told a reporter from the continent’s sole newspaper, The Antarctica Sun.

With Gumm during her stay in McMurdo Station was her classmate and fellow government major Paul Kolachov. “Paul and I have been good friends since the first day of freshman year, and have remained in touch as we have continued our quest to travel the world,” Gumm says. Kolachov’s recent stay was also his first at McMurdo; he spent his time working with the United States Antarctic Program.

Ann Lowery, who majored in sociology, has spent so much time in Antarctica that she has acquired the nickname “Ann-arctica.” Lowery has spent the past eight years in McMurdo Station, first arriving in October 1995 after numerous seasons working for the National Park Service at Denali National Park in Alaska. She has been a fuels operator, communications operator, field coordinator, radio dispatcher for the Antarctic Fire Department, and, most recently, materials person in the supply division, which she describes as “McMurdo’s version of Home Depot.” Lowery says she will return to McMurdo Station in October 2003 for her sixth summer season, to work in a warehouse called “Central Supply.” She anticipates that it will be “a very active job, snow or shine.”

“One thing you learn quickly about the Antarctic environment, particularly on the polar plateau, is its harshness,” Eppler says. “Perhaps more than anywhere else on the surface of the Earth, human beings are routinely working in an environment that can become lethal, in a short period of time, to anyone who isn’t wearing the proper clothing and equipment, who isn’t properly trained in the techniques of polar survival, or who is careless or unlucky. While our time up on the plateau was enjoyable and rewarding, we never lost sight of the fact that if we screwed up, we could get hurt all the way to dead before anyone could help us.”

There are, in fact, only a limited number of months during which people can safely travel to McMurdo. According to Lowery, the winter season begins in late February, at which point the population drops from the 1000-plus summer contingent to approximately 200. “Once the last flight goes north to Christchurch, New Zealand, barring a medical emergency, there are no flights—no fresh food, mail supplies—until late in August when the first crews arrive to help open the station for summer, which begins in early October,” Lowery says. She says that the first sunset since late October occurs just about the time the station closes, and by the middle of April the sun disappears completely and doesn’t rise above the horizon again until September. During the months of darkness, a temperature of –20°F “seems pretty balmy,” Lowery says, after experiencing a low of –100°F. If there’s one thing that being students at St. Lawrence prepared all four alumni for the most, it may have been the weather.

Liz Johnston was an intern in University communications in fall 2002. In July 2003, she acquired a new last name by marrying Jason Hubbard ’02 in Gunnison Chapel, and in August she became a development researcher at her alma mater.

Bevin Gumm ’91, left, and Ann Lowery ’82 at Scott’s Hut, Cape Evans, Ross Island, Antarctica, austral summer 2002-03. The location is about 12 miles by sea ice from McMurdo Station, where several alumni have worked.

In an ice field “approximately 9,000 miles south of Boston,” according to Dean Eppler ’74, Eppler prepares to place in a crevasse a miniature “planet” created by Josh Simpson, glass blower from Massachusetts. “The planet was left to await discovery by future visitors to the polar plateau,” Eppler says. “It was a nice early summer day,” Eppler adds: “Around
-10°F, wind chill to -28°F.”