Not as remote as you would think

Funny the difference twenty years and a move across country makes.

I’m re-reading Robert Adams’ “In the Nineteenth-Century West” as part of my TOIP–Timothy O’Sullivan Immersion Program–and finding it much more emotionally convincing then ever before. Back in the early nineties, when I first read it, I sort of “got” it intellectually. But now, having traveled through the western United States for the past ten years, I feel it. Heck, parts of it I could have written and with the same sense of despair:

The West has ended, it would seem, as the nation’s vacant lot, a place we valued at first for the wildflowers, and because the kids could play there, but eventually we stole over and dumped the hedge clippings, and then the crankcase oil and dog manure, until finally now it has become such an eyesore that we hope someone will just buy it and build and get the thing over with.

 The essay appears in Why People Photograph but was written ten years earlier in 1983.

On December 30 of last year I was driving through New Mexico and turned on NPR to hear an interesting report of research activity in Antarctica. The show, Science Friday, was hosted by Ira Flatow, who had spent some time at McMurdo, the Antarctic research station some years ago and was now comparing notes with Kayla Iacovino, a graduate student at the University of Cambridge who had just returned from a stint at the station, including time spent on the slopes of Mount Erebus, a volcano which hosts a rare lake of lava.

Here’s an excerpt from their conversation:

FLATOW: Wow, and I know things are a lot different these days, Kayla. There’s actually a land line that we’re trying to get through to. When I was there many years ago, there was only a short-wave radio, and you were lucky to get through on that.

IACOVINO: Yeah, we’re actually surprisingly well-connected at McMurdo and even at Erebus, which is considered a remote camp. I mean, we had Wi-Fi up there. I could get the – I could actually – the Wi-Fi was coming from our hut, and we sleep in tents outside of the hut. I could actually be on the Internet on my iPhone in my tent when I was there.

So, I mean, we do have a lot of really good connectivity up there. It’s not as remote as you would think.