Gib Finney’s sequel to THE POWER OF UN
Destiny Warning
13 March 2008, Finney @ 5:22 pm

Well, this is not the same night as my post about the beach. I kind of blew that. Have you ever made so many promises you can’t keep them all? This has been happening to me a lot lately. My life has turned into a creaking banquet table loaded with roast beef, mashed potatoes, and pineapple upside-down cake (this would be the Antarctica stuff and the Mitchell Rutherford Middle School baseball team, which I am on) and way too many vegetables (this would be homework and chores). I want to get back to Donald Frog and the whole thing about how Ash, Rainy, and I got ourselves into an Antarctic adventure, and I will, I swear my most excellent oath. But first, before I forget the best parts, here is what we did in California besides going to the beach and the aquarium.

We were still mostly asleep when Dad got us up, herded us into our rental car, and drove a few miles down California Highway 1 to MBARI. MBARI is right on the beach at this place called Moss Landing which is a good harbor for ships, which is great, because they have a few of them — the Point Lobos (yep, same name as that great beach), the Zephyr, and the Western Flyer. The scientists use them to go out into the ocean and measure things like water temperature and depth, and to get samples of sea animals, some of them way strange. The Monterey Bay gets really deep really fast, which is one reason researchers love it. We did not actually get to see any of these ships, because they were all out at sea. Two were doing research, and one (the Western Flyer) was getting fixed because it hit a reef down in Mexico and got temporarily messed up.

But, not to get too far off track, we went into this big room with one whole wall of windows you could look through and see the beach right below. The three of us stood around eating enormous pastries and grapes, talking about everything we saw through those amazing windows — people flying kites and walking their dogs on the sand, sea gulls floating on the wind, and big waves pouring up onto the shore like milk from a giant’s bucket. One by one, the scientists and techs arrived, until finally everybody (about 20 of them) was there. We took our seats and the meeting began.

First, people introduced themselves and said a little bit about what they’ll be doing on the icebreaker. Rainy got to use her mom’s cell phone for the trip by promising to call and tell her all the news each day. The cell phone has a camera, so she took pictures of everybody, which you can see by clicking here. Everybody was really nice to us (actually nicer than nice, more about that soon) and said we should ask questions any time we want. No problem there. I already have about a bjillion, and I’m pretty sure Ash and Rainy do, too.

Now…this may sound weird, especially coming from someone who has been in a science fair, and knows he’s going to become a scientist, invent the unner, and end up being one of the strangest old guys who has ever lived. But probably the biggest discovery I made at MBARI is that I did not know the truth about scientists. Until February 27th, when someone said scientist I thought of a deadly serious person in a white lab coat and goggles, like Mr. Maynard, our science teacher, who is the only guy at the school who wears a tie except the principal. But now I have a new theory based on observation. Which is: they are basically Musketeers in grown-up bodies. Which makes me feel a lot better about becoming one.

What will we be doing in Antarctica? It turns out we will be chasing big ol’ icebergs, and when we catch them, we will find out everything we can about them — how tall and deep and wide they are, how they are shaped, what they are made of, where they are going, what happens to the water when they melt in it, what lives on them and under them and around them. To do this, we will use a remote control submarine called The Phantom, a radio controlled airplane (see above) like the one Ash won at the carnival except bigger and with a better engine and a bomb bay that launches real GPS beacons, a giant high-volume water pump, various one-of-a-kind machines (a Lagrangian sediment trap, for example; and no, I don’t know exactly what it is yet), hoses, tubes, cords, binoculars, and possibly a giant slingshot or a crossbow. How cool is that??

Last but not least, we will be doing this in Antarctica — a place that is so much like Mars that it almost doesn’t belong on Earth. Rainy has just finished reading Shackleton’s Boat Journey by Frank Arthur Worsley, which is about these guys who get shipwrecked in Antarctica. She says it is extreme and makes her wonder if we are out of our minds. Maybe we are, but it doesn’t matter. I found a note in the woods last week, which I think is from my future self. It says, “Do not chicken out. Antarctica is your destiny.”

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