It was 29 years ago today - December 3, 1987 - that we met our first gaggle of Trans-Antarctica kids. We were at the Minnesota Science Museum to announce Will Steger and Jean-Louis Etienne's intention to cross Antarctica on a 3,500-mile journey slated to begin two years ahead. The two were surrounded by a classroom's worth of young faces recruited for the photo op. For those children and for me, the line drawn across Will's map was still pretty abstract. It would take another year and a half of planning before the expedition became real and before I personally comprehended the enormity of what we had undertaken. Abstract, too, was the claim that this expedition would be "educational," an opportunity to teach the children of the world the importance of environmental stewardship. Yet even that very first day, you could see in the kids' faces that the idea of an international polar expedition and the live presence of the two recent conquerors of the North Pole was inspiring in a way that eventually made the entire expedition a "teachable moment" (there probably was a dog there, too, that day - that always helps).
I look at our faces in this picture taken shortly thereafter, so full of confidence and delight. Each of us - Will, the reporter Jacqui Banaszynski, Jean-Louis and myself - would experience the next three years completely differently as we played out our respective roles. We look so very young to me now, but we had a very grown-up job to do... and the kids were already counting on us.
There are lots of anniversaries associated with the 1989-1990 International Trans-Antarctica Expedition - depending on what you want to celebrate. Some of them I'll chronicle here. This one is lost in obscurity compared to what was coming down the pike, but looking out my window today as the sun comes up on a snowy landscape, and as I sort through piles of unmarked (and unfortunately undated) snapshots on my floor, this one seems pretty special to me.