Wow....what an experience the 2018 GLOBE Learning Expedition (GLE) in Killarney was!  GLOBE meetings are always intense and GLEs are even more so.  Such was the case at my first GLE in India in 2014 and 2018 in Ireland proved no exception.  However, this particular GLE was very special to me on many levels.  This was the second GLE that I attended and marked over 5 years in my time as director of the GLOBE Office at UCAR.  However, and more important, the location was my home town, and the Killarney National Park that was the backdrop for the GLE and that we used as the locations for the field sites had been my 'backyard' while I was growing up.  It helped give me a practical foundation and knowledge of the natural environment and I spent many hours exploring the park, walking and biking its trails and visiting the numerous monuments within the park.  We were truly blessed with the weather at the GLE.  Ireland was experiencing its longest settled pattern of weather in over a decade and that pattern was high temperatures and dry conditions.  (Remember this when you visit next time!!)

I was so proud of how Killarney helped us make this a wonderful experience, from the Gleneagle Hotel and the INEC, to the Chamber of Commerce arranging discounts in stores, to the Killarney National Park giving us free access to the museums and Ross Castle in the national park, and having the rangers help us on the field days, to the Killarney Garda (Police) help us with the wonderful parade led by the Gleneagle Marching Band and rolling of an inflatable globe through the town itself, to the Torc Dancers for the entertainment on Thursday night and to the local media for highlighting us during the week.  Participants continually told me how hospitable everyone they met was...this made me so proud and made me realize that we made the right decision in holding the meeting in my home town and 'backyard.'   

On a national level, I was also so happy that GLOBE Ireland received support from Failte Ireland, the Department of the Environment and especially the Irish Environmental Protection Agency, whose financial support allowed each of us to walk away with the Parklight book, full of incredible imagery of the Killarney National Park.

Finally, thanks to all of you for traveling to this special place...and sharing so much of your cultures and traditions and fun with everyone!  That's one of the aspects that makes out meetings stand out and be different...our community and how it shares. 

I hope you leave Killarney and the GLE with special memories, both visual and in your minds, as well as wonderful stories of friendship, both new and renewed.  And perhaps other stories as all know that storytelling was a theme of the meeting, with All Good Tales (funded by YLACES) helping to facilitate some student stories in the form of videos.  I hope you have all watched the recap video shown on Thursday night that have been sent to you all and is available on GLOBE's YouTube channel.  This wonderful video captures the spirit of the meeting......and now its your turn!!  I would invite each one of you to share your stories or comments about the GLE in Killarney Ireland.  Please add them here and share with us your own sense of place of Killarney and the GLE!  Thank you all so much for making this a memorable experience!

And so last time we wondered whether Jayme would reach the summit... read her account below, to find out.

September 29, 2015
With very little sleep at Kosovo camp, we bundled on our layers and tried to eat some breakfast on September 29, 2015. After making sure we had plenty of water, we began our daunting task up the volcanic scree. The guides led us up a path with many switchbacks, but it did not help us with the lower oxygen we were getting with each breathe. As the clouds rolled in, the Omani team was frequently asking for breaks. The guides would find a spot with larger volcanic boulders for us to rest, but said we had to keep moving up the scree. My thoughts began to not be as clear as my headache worsened and the nausea began. I kept my head down and focused on the rocks instead of the never ending steep slope we were climbing. The guides kept saying we were almost there and we would get there in five more songs and then they would sing to try to help everyone stay positive. At this point, your mental game had to be positive to help the physical difficulties. 

Interestingly, I noticed that within the volcanic scree were rocks that were a similar shape as the Erebus crystals that are at the summit of Mt. Erebus in Antarctica. I could not focus enough to try to determine the mineral content, but I was still fascinated by these rocks. By this time, five songs were definitely over and we were still climbing AND it began to snow! This was exciting, as it was the first time the Omni team had ever seen and felt snow. Most were too exhausted to show much excitement and instead, the snow and whiteout conditions only made the trek harder. Finally we reached Stella Point and this was truly the end of the steep volcanic scree. Now the sense of accomplishment finally swept over the team, except me as I clearly had altitude sickness. We took a group picture by the sign and the Omani team stayed to celebrate by writing their names in the snow. Finally the concept of snow sunk in and they were having fun. I wish I could have shared that experience with them, but I quickly descended into the crater. I could now see some of the glaciers in the distance and the clouds were beginning to break up. My goal was to hike to the ash pit with the main crater and find the supposedly still active fumeroles! However, due to the altitude sickness, I never accomplished this goal. I walked as quickly as I could through the volcanic ash and straight to my tent where a guide blew up my sleeping mat and gave me peppermint tea to help calm my stomach. My head was now spinning as I was laying down at an elevation over 18,000 feet. I was about to camp at a higher elevation than Mt. Everest's base camp.  Our night at Crater Camp was similar to Kosovo camp – cold and barely any sleep. However, it was an amazingly clear night and the stars were awesome! You could see the entire Milky Way.

September 30, 2015
When the sun did began to rise, the tents were covered with frost and several of us pulled our sleeping bags out onto large boulders to dry in the sun. The frost made it seem like it was snowing in the tent, as the condensation was freezing. We took the short walk over to some of the few remaining glaciers and touched the beautiful blue ice.  Our main guide, Julius mentioned that over 80% of the glaciers on Kilimanjaro have melted. We were looking at direct evidence of global climate change. On that note, we looked toward our task for the day – about 1,000 feet of nearly vertical climbing to the summit and then descend about 10,000 feet and numerous biomes in one day. "Pole Pole, Rafici…" which means: "Slowly, slowly, my friend." That 1,000 feet was very difficult both mentally and physically, but we did it! We climbed out of the crater rim and had amazing views of the Serengeti plains to our west, as well as Mt. Meru (another volcano that formed as part of the East African Rift Valley). After some recovery time to attempt to catch our breathe, as a team we walked the few feet to the infamous sign marking that we had reached the summit of the tallest free standing volcano in Africa. The adrenaline was flowing now and the Omani crew looked as if they had conquered the world. On September 30, 2015, they proudly pulled out the Omani flag and along with the GLOBE flag, posed for pictures at the summit.

A woman stands next to a glacier.
Jayme touching a glacier at the summit.

I, on the other hand, was eager to get down to lower elevation and FAST. The team was still celebrating, taking many pictures, while I was teamed up with one guide and we literally sprinted back to the volcano scree so that we could “ski” down to lower elevation. Apparently we made record time descending, as lunch was not even close to being prepared by the time I got to Millenium camp. I am not sure of the exact time it took, but I went from summit to alpine desert and headaches to feeling somewhat coherent in about an hour. I was seeing others being fully escorted down the mountain, meaning they were stumbling and not able to stand up on their own, so a guide was on each side holding them up and mainly carrying these clients down off of the barren, harsh summit. I felt better and better as I waited for the rest of my team in Millenium camp. Finally lunch came and I was so hungry. The guides had to tell me to slow down so I did not get sick. I had not been able to really eat in about three days and finally my stomach felt settled.

A woman stands on top of a mountain with another mountain in the background.
Above the clouds, at the top of Africa, with Mt. Meru in the background (2015).

After 2 hours of waiting for the rest of my team, the guides told me I should continue to Mweke camp (about 9,000 feet) to meet up with all of the students and GLOBE educators. I was very happy to continue to go lower, so my guide and I set off again and we flew by other trekking parties and even porters.  We went through the heath zone and were hiking alongside another ash flow. More and more vegetation appeared as we approached the rainforest. Torrential rains also began making the rocks very slippery and drenching our gear. I was extremely wet and happy as I signed into Mweke camp.

I received the most amazing greeting from the rest of our team and the students were very eager to hear about their Omani peers. I showed some pictures and then heard about the many protocols and data they had been collecting. The overall atmosphere in camp was joyous. I loved seeing these new friends that I had been without for the past few days.

Quickly, science aside, the international connections continued with learning how to make an Omani dish for dinner – ah, yes, a successful journey with many educational moments ranging from science to culture and song to personal limits and comfort. Thank you for this opportunity and hopefully you have been able to learn and enjoy as well. 

Thanks Jayme for writing such a great description of your experience and for being with us!  -- Tony

P.S. As an aside: In 1988, David Overoye (Raytheon Web Solutions) climbed Kilimanjaro and took a photo at approximately the same location as Jayme's above with Mt. Meru in the background.  What differences do you see?

Two men pose for a photo on Mt. Kilimanjaro with another mountain in the background.
David Overoye with his guide in 1988 on Mt. Kilimanjaro.  Note Mt. Meru in the background.


As I did not summit, I asked a GLOBE teacher and volcanologist (and no, she does not have ears like Dr. Spock from Star Trek!) Jayme Margolin-Sneider who did, to share her experience and that of the group that did summit.  As some background, Jayme completed her undergraduate degree at Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, PA and Auckland University, New Zealand.  She then completed some research as a Fulbright Scholar at Hokkaido University, Japan (Seismic Volcanology Research).  Her graduate work was completed at New Mexico Tech, with a field work component on Mt. Erebus, Antarctica.  After completing her studies, Jayme worked as a Geological Education Specialist at Mount Rainier National Park, and as an education outreach specialist at UNAVCO.  Currently she is a science teacher at Westview Middle School, in Longmont, Colorado.  

September 27, 2015
After a cold night with little sleep at Lava Tower, we quickly headed down the Baranco Valley. It was a beautiful U-shaped valley (formed from glaciation) on the southern slopes of Kilimanjaro.  We were walking through the glacial moraine and were decreasing in elevation. Our goal was to camp at lower elevation this coming night to help our bodies acclimate to the higher elevation. As we descended to 3,540 meters (Baranco camp elevation), we entered more of a V-shape valley (formed from glacial run off) with numerous creeks and waterfalls. This allowed for very unique vegetation in this valley. In addition to the high amount of water, the clouds would also roll in and out of this valley allowing vegetation to grow along the Baranco Wall.  After lunch in camp, we then tackled the climb up the Baranco Wall. This wall is a 300-meter thick lava flow that could be about 400,000 years old. As we climbed over the mafic basalts, we then saw a change to more of a granitic flow. Faults were visible in the lava flow, which symbolized that this African Rift Valley is a very tectonically active region.  Weathering and erosion were clearly visible as we scrambled up the wall.

Once we conquered the wall, we had to continue across the southern side of the volcano. The upper slopes became visible through the clouds and the fine volcanic ash was clearly coming from the summit and down these slopes in alluvial fans. We had to cross another deep V-shaped valley before reaching Karanga Camp. This stream was the last water source for the rest of the camps during our ascent. It was amazing to see the porters climbing out of the steep valley with 5 gallon water jugs (about 40 pounds or 20 liters) on their heads.  Right before entering Karanga Camp, there was an amazing outcrop showing compacted ash layers from previous eruptions. Also lapilli was clearly visible with the course material becoming finer and then a younger deposit of this same pattern on top of that layer. 

Porters carry large bundles up a mountain.
Porters carrying items (food, backpacks, chairs, tables, latrines!) up the 'Wall'

Once in Karanga camp, I finally was able to eat and sleep because of the lower elevation (back under 14,000 feet or 4,000 m). My blood oxygen levels were back around 97% and I was prepared from the gradual climb up to Kosovo camp. The entire team was feeling better and the Omani team was definitely in more positive spirit, as well.

Porters carry bulky and heavy items while climbing a mountain
This image gives you an idea of the weight being carried by the porters

September 28, 2015
The day was another long, slow hike as the air became “thinner.” Our route took us over to the southeastern slopes of the volcano and we were now into more felsic rocks. The Omani team in fact recognized some of the rocks as ones they have in Oman and use for tombstones. We realized the global connection of geologic phenomenon, trying to explain igneous (volcanic) rocks and the common sedimentary rocks that provides Oman with its wealth from oil production. We then discussed various uses for these different types of rocks. The specific geology terms were lost in translation between Arabic and English. Our day continued as we passed more faulting and metamorphism and then joined into the more crowded trails at Barafu Camp. There we met numerous nationalities all with a common goal – to summit the tallest peak in Africa. 

Once in Kosovo camp, I knew my body was not doing well with the elevation. At 16,500 feet (about 5,000 m), I had a very strong headache and had zero appetite. I was able to see the other members of our team also feel the effects of less oxygen. The end goal was still there, to summit, but it became more apparent that this challenge was all about the journey to the summit and not just the final goal. The 10 clients and numerous guides and porters had to rely on teamwork. We were very dependent on each other and needed to speak up if something was wrong. I was not the only one that had a headache. In fact, most of the Omni team members also had muscle sores. We were all very anxious about the climb to the summit.  

So... will Jayme make it to the summit? How will a volcanologist survive at this altitude?!!  Join us for the concluding part of this blog...

Our final day was an easy hike down from the Mweka camp to a village at 1400 m.  We had a final glance of the mountain at one point as we descended.  It looked beautiful with its fresh covering of snow.

Kilimanjaro, with a fresh coat of snow, as seen from our final descent.  

We were definitely in the rain forest biome again and the lush forest surrounded us as on our first day. We also saw the elephant trunk flower, (Impatiens kilimanjarii), a semi-official logo of the mountain.   

Elephant trunk flower found along the side of the trail

As we approached the village and the end of our hike, we crossed a stream. The students stopped to take GLOBE measurements here.  They also recorded additional soil and water data, this would be the final collection site for future science expeditions.  

A boy takes a soil measurement.
Student taking soil moisture measurements, using probes supplied by NASA JPL, at the final collection site

Data collected by the students on the mountain are available in the GLOBE database found here.  Everyone can freely access the data.  If you are not familiar with accessing data, you should view the tutorials also available on the website.  
The final data collected, we continued on our journey to the village where the porters and guides awaited us with great songs and welcome.  It was an incredible reception that the whole group received and a final lunch before we headed back to Arusha.  


A colorful banner is seen with silhouettes of African animals.
The flag that is created for each expedition.

My final reflections on this experience can be found in the next community letter.

For group 1, the science group, the descent was more gradual.  But for group 2, the big descent would be today. They would summit and descend most of the mountain on this day.  

While waiting to leave Millenium camp, we collected data using GLOBE protocols.  Following this we had a rousing chorus of African songs, and we were all invited to join in. The group was in great spirits as we began our relatively short and all downhill hike.  We also passed a few other hikers as we walked -- this was an encouraging sign.  We were still in the moorland biome and were surrounded by Giant Heather trees. For the first time we saw protea (Protea kilimanjaro), also the national plant of South Africa.

A view of a reddish and leafy plant.
Protea kilimanjaro, seen on our descent to Mweka camp.

As we continued the descent, the landscape began to change and we knew we were getting closer to the rain forest biome when we began to see epiphytes (plants that grow on other plants, like mosses and lichens) on the trees.  This reminded me of the woods around Killarney, Ireland where I grew up.  They also receive lots of rainfall and somewhat warm temperatures, so the trees there are covered with mosses and lichens. 

Epiphytes: a mossy plant grows on a tree.
Epiphytes, like spanish moss, growing on trees indicate high levels of moisture in the air.

After a few hours we reached camp, before many of the porters.  We collected more data at this campsite, Mweka (3100 m).  This camp is on the verge of the rain forest so we saw lots of birds hanging out around the campsite.

A brownish colored bird with a reddish breast stands on a weathered log.
Male Ground Thrush around the campsite.

Just like the first campsite, this one was also crowded.  We awaited the arrival of group 2, who would join us here. There is some excitement with the Omani to rejoin with the others and hear about the ascent. In fact, the women on the Omani team decided to cook for the whole group, now that we would all be back together.  The dish, Biryani, was excellent and very well received.  For Thursday we plan to all hike out together.

Several women sit with food on plates and bowls.
A number of the Omani team and a US teacher cook a meal for us all on the final night we camp out