\nWilson Mendoza, a Filipino scholar in the United States, had the rare opportunity to explore the mysterious Antarctica as part of science’s efforts to understand the effects of global warming on the world’s southernmost continent.<br n\/> <br n\/>According to a news release of the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Chemistry (RSMAS) of the University of Miami, Mendoza, one of its doctoral candidates, was the only Filipino in the science team that took part in the largest and longest US expedition to Antarctica through the Southern Ocean Oceanographic Expedition, held from February to April this year.<br n\/><br n\/>Mendoza told GMA News Online: “The mandate for this cruise was to collect physical, biological, and chemical data that will be made available online, so that scientists all over the world can have free online access to these oceanographic databases.”<br n\/> <br n\/>Mendoza— who was part of the smaller group that “measured parameters to estimate carbon dioxide concentrations sequestered by the ocean”— disclosed that several countries have embarked on these research cruises “to evaluate how the world’s ocean responds to changing climate.”<br n\/> <br n\/>“The Antarctic deep waters have been closely monitored since previous research determined that these regions are sensitive and had been greatly affected by the forces of climate change,” he said.<br n\/> <br n\/>The 68-day <a target="_blank" class="external" rel="nofollow" href="http:\/\/www.theweekenderblog.com\/2011\/02\/the-drake-passage-its-not-so-bad-until-it-is\/">research cruise<\/a> sailed to Punta Arenas in Chile through the Drake Passage, “the treacherous stretch of ocean between the southern tip of South America (at Cape Horn) and the northernmost reaches of Antarctica” that is known for “complicated, unpredictable, and often brutal weather.”<br n\/><br n\/><strong>Memories of research<\/strong><br n\/> <br n\/>Mendoza told GMA News Online that he learned about the expedition through a Chemical Oceanography professor who asked when they met on the hallway if he would like to join the trip.<br n\/> <br n\/>“Opportunities like this don’t happen often. Without hesitation, I rushed to his office an hour later and confirmed my participation,” the 33-year-old said in an e-mail response.<br n\/> <br n\/>He also shared several points of the journey that he enjoyed despite work, like visiting the McMurdo US Base Station in Ross Shelf, Antarctica, “where several US scientific studies are conducted” and the risky nine-mile hike to see the 1,360-feet “bold rock crag” called Castle Rock.<br n\/> <br n\/>From McMurdo Station, the research team—composed of representatives from 12 organizations like the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)—boarded research vessel (R\/V) Nathaniel Palmer, where they spent 68 days “doing science,” which Mendoza said was longer than most research cruises that take only 45 days.<br n\/> <br n\/>He shared that they had to battle with extreme weather conditions like snow storms and thick ice sheets, which “caused delays in our sampling in several occasions.”<br n\/> <br n\/>Notwithstanding these disturbances, the team finished the oceanographic mission, resulting in new information that may now be found at <a target="_blank" class="external" rel="nofollow" href="http:\/\/ushydro.ucsd.edu\/data_centers.htm" target="_blank">http:\/\/ushydro.ucsd.edu\/data_centers.htm<\/a>.<br n\/> <br n\/><strong>Meeting ‘kababayans’<\/strong><br n\/> <br n\/>However, one of the most remarkable things in his journey, Mendoza said, was finding out that majority of the service crew of R\/V Nathaniel Palmer were Filipinos, who have been working in the vessel since it started its operation 15 years ago.<br n\/> <br n\/>Mendoza added that even foreign scientists were all praises for the Filipino crew because of how well they took care of the ship. He got to witness “how fervently they do their job” during the expedition.<br n\/> <br n\/>“Even the chief scientist told us [before our flight to the McMurdo station] that it (the research ship) was well-kept and very clean. [When I got to talk to the Filipino crew], they said that the ship is their second home and they should take care of it,” he said.<br n\/> <br n\/>Having a Filipino crew onboard was a good thing for Mendoza, who said he got his share of Filipino food “reserved” for him during the trip. He also had <em>kababayans<\/em> to relate to, who said they get by only through what is called the “morale phone” that they use to call their families almost daily.<br n\/> <br n\/>“They said that being far from their families in the Philippines is a sacrifice that they have to endure to give them a good life back home,” he shared.<br n\/> <br n\/><strong>Lone Filipino scientist<\/strong><br n\/> <br n\/>A graduate of Silliman University in Dumaguete City and the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Mendoza said he “never dreamt [of] the possibility” of being able to see the marvels of the southernmost continent—from penguins and ice sheets to 24-hour sunlight.<br n\/> <br n\/>“I grew up in a small university town. As a kid, I frequented the beach, not knowing that later in life, I will be traversing the oceans [for a] global climate-related research. I know I dreamt of traveling, but not as far as Antarctica!” he said.<br n\/> <br n\/>Mendoza hopes his experience—“a legacy that I can leave in the science community”—will inspire other Filipinos to dream big as well.<br n\/> <br n\/>“No matter which islet in the Philippines you stem from, the world is not too small to make your dreams a reality, so dream big,” he said.