Local girl spending Christmas in Antarctica

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

By Ivory Riner

Staff Writer

Stephanie Poarch graduated from Forrest High School in 2008 and went on to graduate from the University of Memphis in 2012 with a B.A. in psychology. Her parents are Donna and Andy Poarch from Lewisburg, and she has one sister, Andrea Poarch, who is an art teacher at Chapel Hill Elementary School.

While living in Memphis after graduation, Poarch's friend, Brian Eisenstatt, urged her to apply for a position with the U.S. Antarctic Program. Eisenstatt had traveled three previous years to Antarctica. She decided to do it and went through multiple interviews and physical and mental exams, including having four wisdom teeth pulled, before she was accepted.

After getting her affairs in order, Stephanie flew from Memphi to Dallas, and then Los Angeles; Brisbane and Sydney, Australia; Christchurch, New Zealand; and finally arrived in Antarctica. While in New Zealand she did training sessions and seminars.

"This was a lot of traveling for someone who had never flow internationally," said mother Donna. While flying from New Zealand aboard a C-17 military transport plane, she was given her "Icer" clothes of subzero coat and boots.

"Stephanie is experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and she feels very fortunate to have been given such an experience. She has formed a new family from all over the world with her fellow 'Icers,'" said Donna.

Stephanie serves as the Rooming Coordinator for all incoming personnel and works out logistics of all housing dorms versus who's coming and who's going. She often has to pull extra time due to incoming flights that have been delayed due to weather. Her work week consists of 10-hour shifts from Monday through Saturday. She hopes she will be accepted again the following year. While in Antarctica, she is able to communicate with family and friends via Facebook and is able to call home once a month. She has trained to go on cross-country treks on the ice, traveled along a pressure-ridge of ice, scurried down a very narrow tube below the ice to observe under-ice organisms, visted the historic Scott Base which is still preserved since the travelers of the early 1900s who did not survive, and seen seals up close, which is an unusual occurrence.

Her mother says this is the first year without both daughters home for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but she's so very happy that Stephanie got the chance of a lifetime. To make up for it, the family held an early Thanksgiving feast in September before her departure. Donna always encouraged her daughters to travel. Her oldest, Andrea, went on a mission trip to villages on the Amazon River in South America while in college. While on the trip she helped pull teeth with only a flashlight for illumination. She also traveled to Italy. Even mother Donna is a traveler. While being a guidance office assistant/registrar for the Marshall County School system for almost 20 years, she hooked up with educational travel company and led tour groups every summer or two to different destinations like England, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, and Hawaii.

The family looks forward to Poarch's arrival home in the first week of March.