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Cover of Spring - Summer 2002 Issue


From Longwood to Antarctica

Carrie Hayes in AntarcticaAre you unhappy with your job? Are you ready for a life change? Then pack up and move to Antarctica! Say what? Carrie Hayes '97, did just that. A chemistry major at Longwood, Carrie began her career working for Lipton in Baltimore, making sure that the nutrition labels on Lipton's products were accurate. After four years with Lipton, she was ready to move on and posted her résumé on several job web sites. Then the e-mail came in. It was from Raytheon and the company wanted Carrie to be an Analytical Chemist stationed in Antarctica. One of her life goals is to visit all seven continents and Carrie stated in our e-mail interview, "What better way to get to such an amazing place than by doing the job I love."

Carrie arrived in McMurdo, Antarctica, on October 15 and was there until early March. She stated, "It was my first season on the ice, but I hope it won't be my last." She studied various objects that researchers would bring into the lab from the bottom of lakes to see how well life was prospering in them. She enjoyed her work but her experiences within the culture were most intriguing. The only time most people see penguins is when watching a documentary on the Learning Channel, visiting a zoo, seeing the NHL hockey team from Pittsburgh, or perhaps when watching old Batman reruns. Carrie got to see real penguins when she visited Adelie Rookery, which is in Cape Royds. Hundreds of penguins, only 12 inches tall, were playing with one another but curious about the people watching them. Carrie stated that only 100 people get to go to this area each year. It is the home of Shackelton's Hut whose group was the first to climb Mt. Erebus and to arrive at the 80 degree latitude mark on the Polar Plateau. "The amount of food," said Carrie, "that is still there is mind boggling. Since it is so cold here, the food is still preserved. They have a box of biscuits that you can eat, but I chose not to since they have been there since 1917."

She relates the environment of Antarctica to Longwood, not physically, as Longwood does not have the chilling wind and powerful blizzards blanketing the land, but more spiritually. Carrie wrote, "We are a small community (about 1100 people, which is huge for Antarctica) and the town is the center of our life. We don't have too much of a choice about that down here, but the sense of community is very much like the sense of community that is Longwood. Having college experience makes a difference down here. We live in dorms and eat in a galley. The dorm I live in houses the galley, store, radio station, administrative offices, computer labs and of course, people. That part of my life is very much reminiscent of the two years I lived in the Colonnades (French, more specifically). While at Longwood I was a member and part of the board of WLCX and developed a love for radio broadcasting. I was absolutely thrilled to learn that we had a radio station here, and I got a show as soon as I could. Like Longwood, the small community fosters high levels of bonding and friendships that will last long after our time is done. This is also a life-altering experience. For me, my time at Longwood helped me start to discover who I am. Being in Antarctica has helped me become an even better version of myself. It is said that people leave the ice as new and improved people; I believe it."

Wanting a new direction in life is one thing but going all the way to Antarctica to get it is another. Dr. Pat Barber, Professor of Chemistry at Longwood, and one whom Carrie continues to e-mail on a regular basis, stated, "Carrie was one who would ask for more than the curriculum offered. She was willing to step into the unknown."

Carrie Hayes took a risk, and it worked for her. She met a life goal, while working in a profession she thoroughly enjoys. She may not have liked the biscuits but she is happy with her career move.

William Fiege '95
Assistant Director of Alumni Relations