Saturday, February 23, 2008

Richie Skane

Before I left for Antarctica last November I made a post about my late friend Richie Skane. In that post I described how a group of people who knew and loved Richie had petitioned to name a geographic feature at Cape Monaco after Richie and that there was now a Skane Nunatak on Cape Monaco. I had hoped to visit that area on my trip to get my own photos of Skane Nunatak and pay my respects to an old friend. Although we were in the vicinity I was unable to see the nunatak.

Then in January I received the following letter from Richie's brother in response to my post.

Dear John,

I don't know whether you want to call it fate or divine intervention, but sometimes things happen and we don't have a logical explanation for it.There is a picture of Richie on my desk and he looks out smiling everyday, the look is much like you describe on your website. But there was one particular day, three days before Christmas that the smile was different. It was if Richie were saying that there was something I hadn't done and for some reason I googled Richie's name, I don't know why, it just happened.

Maybe it was the quick blurb on googling yourself on a news station here in Boston, or just maybe it was Richie being Richie. Whatever the reason as I hit the enter key I was looking at Richie's name on the screen. I opened the first website and it was John Carlson's Prairie Ice site. At a quick glance I looked at John's picture and I thought it didn't look like Richie. It wasn't Richie, huh so there is another Richie Skane. Then I looked to the right and saw Richie's name and began to read the paragraph. The words started to jump out: carpenter's helper, Colorado, fun, fair person. It was Richie! Your description of Richie is excellent; you don't need a picture to really see him. Continuing the article there it was- the naming of a feature in Antarctica after Richie. I remembered at his service a number of people from the ice were speaking about Richie and the people on the ice that loved and respected him, the people who would miss him, and the people who felt they had lost family. I remember someone stating that they were going to try to get the USGS to name a feature after him. We all realized what an honor this was, but then as always time moves ever forward.

Time moves forward at a seemingly ever-changing pace, sometimes slowly and other times like a lightening bolt. We can get lost in the things that were and the things that are, dealing with love, loss and daily routine differently. Every now and then my sisters or I would check to see if anything had happened. Eventually as the months and years passed, our thoughts were of Richie and our memories of Richie and we forgot about the feature that might be named for him. I think we all thought that someone would contact us. But then we failed to realize that this is not about us. It is about Richie, his love of the ice and for all of those he worked with. It is about your relationships with Richie, that special bond developed on the ice. You were and all are all truly brothers and sisters in arms.

Richie let us know that it was time to check again, so that we would know about the feature named for him, so we could thank you. Thank you for all of your efforts, for the hard work and dedication you put into the Skane Nunatak. Its ironic that this was the first Christmas the whole family has been together to celebrate the holidays since Richie's death. Ironic that your website would find its way into our lives and eventually into our hearts. Copies of the information and your efforts were wrapped as gifts for my sisters and my father and addressed to them from Richie and from you guys. I can't tell you how grateful we are to you all for the great Christmas surprise we all received under the tree.

You mentioned Richie's eyes and it is true that eyes can tell a great deal about people. The story told in Richie's father's eyes when he read the information and saw the picture is something I hope you can see, or imagine. He has the picture and description of the Skane Nunatak hanging on his wall next to Richie's picture.

My family thanks you for the honor, the love and the respect you have shown Richie. The naming of a nunatak after him is so very special. I know he is smiling that smile as he watches from his summit. Reading Glenn Grant's blog is a humbling experience, to think that one person can be that much a part of people's lives. To think of how much he meant to all of you. To see him again on the ice and around the United States carried in the hearts of so many. I have some pictures of Richie that you might enjoy; one in particular shows him on the ice with some people starring out at the world around him. It is almost as if he were sitting up on his nunatak staring out at all of us. There is another picture that a friend took of Richie at the family cottage, he has that look on his face, that smile and those eyes. The eyes that directed us to the website and to his friends, who still see him on the ice. Thank you.

Sincerely, George Skane

Although I was not in on the effort to name a geographic feature for Richie (I found out about it after the petition had been submitted to USGS), I am glad that I was able to let his family know about it. The passage where George described how my blog had let to Christmas gifts for his family and in particular Richie's father (the italics are mine) made the creation of this blog worthwhile even for just that one post. Even though George said that my description of Richie didn't need any photos here are few that George sent me so you can see the man I wrote about.


Amy said...

Simply amazing! It's sweet things like that which make life so rich.

CoreyP said...

Love your work, John! It brought back so many amazing memories of my start in the Program amongst the amazing community that was Palmer Station with Richie a linchpin! Ahh, those were the days indeed. Hope all is well in your world, mine in Tasmania is amazing... :)!

John Carlson said...

Drop me an email when you get a chance and let me know what you are up to. Glad you found this and dropped a comment. We are doing well here - busy with kids and work but I do find time for annual trips back to the peninsula. Hope to talk to you soon. John