Even fifteen years after graduating, Adler Dillman (‘06) affectionately recalls his time spent in the chilly frontier. “We would get all suited up in our extremecold-weather gear and head down to the helicopter pad,” Dillman says. “I had never ridden in a helicopter. It was such a thrill to see the vast expanse of ocean ice and the snow-capped peaks of the Royal Society mountain range as we were flown to various sample collection sites in the Dry Valleys.” Dillman is now a professor of parasitology at the University of California, Riverside.
Jeremy Whiting (‘10), a neuroscience major turned OB/ GYN physician, remembers hiking to Canada Glacier with Professor Adams and enjoying the Christmas Eve feast of duck and steak. Whiting also recalls Dr. Adams frequently saying, “Don’t let school get in the way of your education.” Whiting shares how he took that message to heart: “During medical school, I decided to sacrifice some study time to explore different specialties. I’m glad I did because I never would have picked OB/GYN without that experience.
Bishwo N Adhikari
How many people can say they ran a half-marathon in Antarctica? Bishwo N Adhikari (‘10) says learning how to run with Dr. Adams was one his fondest memories from his time in Antarctica. He also recalls losing some of his senses “when the only thing you see is ice.” He said you can also lose your “sense of smell because you don’t really smell anything, [or your] sense of distance because there is nothing to compare with or to guess how far or close something is.” Adhikari now works in the Department of Defense as a Computational Biologist.
Alyssa Pike (‘21), a senior in molecular biology, recommends a sense of humor and plenty of sunscreen for any future Antarctica adventurers. Her favorite memory: “When [three others and] I got stranded out at the F6 hut for three days. I was definitely freaked out, but we ended up having a really good time. I flew a kite and got really good at darts."
January is actually summertime in Antarctica. Andy Thompson (‘19) prefers the ice before it melts through and now lists Taylor Valley in November as one of his favorite places. Thompson’s biggest takeaway from the experience is to view education as a lifelong experience. “Our world is too big, too complicated, and too dynamic for us to remain complacent with yesteryear’s understanding,” he says.
BYU genetics professor John Chaston’s (‘05) tip for surviving the bitter chill of Antarctica is to raid the dessert counter: “Always pack an extra couple of cookies or piece of cake in some saran wrap for later.” The cookies will help you stay warm as you do field work!
Natasha Griffin (‘18), an ocean ecology graduate student at Oregon State University, fondly remembers fieldwork in the Dry Valleys, which included “tobogganing penguin-style down an icy slope.” What doesn’t she miss? “A box of truly ancient graham crackers that I tried to eat after bad weather stranded us at a field camp.
Biology student Jinna Brim (‘21) attributes the richness of her education to the time she spent away from BYU’s Provo campus. After a semester in Antarctica and an additional semester abroad at BYU Jerusalem, she says, “My education has been significantly enhanced by immersing myself in these unique experiences and learning from the amazing people I have met.”
Satyendra Pothula (‘20) spent his last months before the COVID-19 pandemic with penguins as neighbors. Originally from India, he was less than impressed with the Indian food offered in Antarctica but never turned his nose up at Sunday brunch. He is currently working as a postdoc with Dr. Adams.
PhD student Scott George (‘21) has a lot of respect for the crew members who assisted with the food, whether by plane or ship. He spoke with Coast Guard crew members about their “ice breaker” to clear the shipping lane for cargo ships. “They spent weeks ramming into ice, breaking a little, reversing, and then repeating, all to facilitate the next year’s shipment of food and supplies,” he explains. “They sacrificed! I cannot complain about the food.”
The tough terrain of Antarctica is no problem for Summer Xue (‘18), who is currently a faculty member at Zhengzhou University in China. Her most vivid memory came after collecting samples at Lake Bonney. “I had finished sampling and was waiting for the others to come back, so I found a big rock that looked like a flat bed and laid down on it,” she says. “The light golden sunshine was pouring on me, the wind was gently blowing around my face, and everything was so quiet and clear. I felt like I could stay there forever.”
Sabrina Hoyle Saurey
Sabrina Hoyle Saurey’s (‘13) favorite memory from her four weeks in Antarctica is tied to her biggest fear on the trip—the helicopter rides. As the only student able to attend that trip, Saurey was surrounded by high-profile scientists. Her tip to overcome intimidation: immerse yourself. “I’ll never forget the kindness and comradery from the team,” she says. “Once I relaxed and got over the intimidation it became the experience of a lifetime.