Monday, March 11, 2013

South Pole

I should have read this book in summer. It made me cold every time I picked it up. It is "Ice Bound" by Dr. Jerri Nielsen, a doctor who signed on for a one year term at the south pole.
This is a very interesting book on several levels. It is both a geographical and an inner journey, told in a most fascinating and articulate manner by a very intelligent and thoughtful woman who was a very qualified doctor.
She gets quite personal and details her life before her journey, and lays out the reasons for contemplating such a move in the first place. Her accomplishments and her failed marriage of twenty five years lays a background for the soul searching and the inner journey she undertook in the isolated bleak location of the Antarctic.
Life at the pole is fascinating to say the least, where every breath and every day you stay alive is an accomplishment. We have no idea of the practical side of surviving in constant -80 temperatures. The systems and logistics are precise and one mistake can mean certain death. From Feb. to Oct. there is no life line, no flights in or out, no rescue, so what you do in a sudden power failure or one wrong step 'outside' had severe consequences.
The social side of the story, living with 41 other people during the light less winter months will make or break a person also. All aspects of living at the South Pole station are fascinating.
Then, the only doctor, Jerri, discovers that she has cancer and it is only April. The year is 1999 and the email communications, as sporadic as they were, were the only lifeline to the outside world. Her thinking was profoundly changed as she waffled between giving up and finding a reason to live. She hung on until late November when the earliest flight to the pole in history was made to 'rescue' her. The book concludes with a brief description of her treatment in the USA and the fact that she became cancer free.
I then researched the author and found her obituary. She only lived another 10 years, something her attending physician told her would probably happen.
Having read the book, which had a happy ending, I noted with sadness that she was never reconciled with her husband or her three children. In fact, he sued her for $6 million after her book was published. It confirmed, for me, that she was right when she stated her reasons for leaving him.
I am sure that her last 10 years of life were good ones, as she certainly felt she was living on bonus time after getting off the ice alive. I also hope she finally found the peace that had eluded her all her life. She discounted God in all things, which puts the story into perspective. We can only do so much, go so far, have so much peace and understanding, until we acknowledge our Creator. In the end, I certainly hope she did.     

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