The Loss of a Friend that was Long Lost

I have a lot of friends from my past. I seem to lose touch with them. I have reconnected some of them through Facebook more recently, and that has been great, but I still haven’t reconnected with a lot of them. In this case, this friend was my colleague and boss while I was at the South Pole in 1994-1995.  Her name was Kathie Sharp.

In 1994, I was in between meteorology jobs, when I an ad in the magazine “Weatherwise” caught my eye. It talked about being a weather observer at the South Pole. I applied, and as it happened, the person that was supposed to winter over for that year, had just quit to take another job. I needed a passport, so I got the ball rolling, and Antarctic Support Associates of Englewood, CO invited me out to be interviewed. That’s where I met Kathie. She was to be the senior meteorologist for the winter. She interviewed me a couple of times during the day that I was in the ASA offices, as well as be 3 other people. By the end of the day, I was hired and I had a lot of things to do in the next two months (physicals, paperwork, etc.). Everything clicked. I could and have made remarks that this is where God wanted me. Too many things that happened that it couldn’t be coincidence.  In fact, Kathie also being a Christian was one of the reasons that I got the job.

During the interviews, I was asked what I do if I got depressed or lonely, something that happens during the Antarctic winter season when you are down to only 28 people on the station. I said something about my faith bringing me comfort and strength. So one of the other interviewers got a little worked up, afraid that I was some “Holy Roller,” and would be in other people’s faces about my faith. Kathie fought for me in the meeting. I was re-interviewed about my faith and had some questions asked about it, which I didn’t notice, as being out of the ordinary, until in discussion with Kathie in the middle of the winter, she told me about it.

So from October 26th, 1994 until November 5th, 1995, I was at the South Pole station in Antarctica. There was a hectic “summer period” then in Feb, 1995, the last of the summer people left us 28 souls for the winter-over period. The 28 of us, I would say were like a dysfunctional family that were cooped up too long after a blizzard. Kathie and I were to launch balloons, do weather obs, etc. and she was kind of a big sister to me the of the newbies. First time at the pole and I was wintering over. We butted heads a few times, but we were pretty decent friends along with Chris the Sci-tech.

I, unfortunately lost touch with everyone. The last time I talked to anybody was in 2001, when I went to Boulder to radar class. I was able to Call Chris and his dad, Cleve, who I also knew from “Pole.” We talked about some of those we knew from the crew and where they were, but for the most part that was the last time I talked to anyone from my winter-over year. I have done Google searches and Facebook searches. I reconnected with a few on Linked In, and Facebook, but Kathie eluded me.

However, I did run into a website a some years ago that is dedicated to the South Pole Station, by an “ex-polie.” I got on the site every few months to see who is wintering over,  and see who is blogging so that I could subcribe to it and . Since the new crew arrived for this season,  I went to that site the other day. As I scrolled through the news before looking at the blogger list, I noticed this little link.

Sorry, I didn’t get a chance to reconnect with you Kathie. You will be missed.

Jeff, why do you care so much about Christchurch?

Back in 1994, I went to the South Pole. For the Antarctic program, the jump off point for McMurdo and South Pole stations is Christchurch, New Zealand. While I pretty much was contained to the south island while I was there, I fell in love with the country. Now, 15+ years later, after passing through the city of Christchurch and portions of the south island 4 times, 2 major earthquakes have rocked the city. The first one did some damage as it was a little farther away and it was deep. However, this one, while weaker than the first one in September of last year, was much closer and shallower, and with the weakened state of many of the buildings, there were many more that came down in the City Centre. This has been a rather said event as the landmark cathedral in the town square lost its spire. The town, from what I can see will never be the same again.