I am very sorry to report that we have been forced to cancel our travels to Antarctica. The shutdown of the US government, created by a subset of the Republican Congressmen, continues to have negative consequences.
When the government shut down, the Antarctic support contractor had about 2 weeks worth of money left to continue paying their employees. These are all the folks that we may not think about every day, but that are critical for us to live our lives. The people who build and maintain the roads and the runways (in Antarctica, they are made of ice or volcanic dirt). The mechanics who make sure the crazy track vehicles are running, and the fuelies who make sure we have gas for everything from generators to give us power, to helicopters to fly to remote sites. The people who make sure we have food and water and heat, the very basics of living. So instead of continuing to ramp up for the summer season, the short time that we can work in Antarctica, people were being sent home and the station was being shut down just when it was supposed to be starting up. Even though the government is now back in operation, those three weeks of lost time cannot be made up, and our research will not happen this year.
The impacts of this will ripple forward in time and outward in the world. Future projects will be further delayed as work postponed this year pushes them out of next years slots. Graduate students and early career scientists and engineers are finding their educational and professional plans seriously upset, and their competitiveness compromised. Technicians are going on unemployment, are losing their health insurance, and are finding themselves homeless, having let rentals go since they were supposed to be in Antarctica for the next 3 months. International collaborations have collapsed, as other countries cannot delay their programs to compensate for the US inability to make progress. None of this is good for the US economy.
Who caused this? A few of our Congressmen, people we voted into office, clearly do not believe in the democratic process or majority rule that guide our country. When faced with a law that they do not like, even though the majority of us want it, they refused to use the long-established procedures of US democracy, and like schoolyard bullies, tried to change the rules to suit themselves. Acting as terrorists, they held our country hostage to their illegal and selfish demands. The crisis has passed for now, but it is important that when you turn 18, you use your voting ability to choose and support politicians who value democracy, work to build the economic strength of the US, and maintain international respect for America as a leader.
Though we are vastly disappointed at the cancellation of our work this year, we hope that you will return next year (as we will) and follow our adventure through.