Local doctor returns from Antarctic journey and shares her story

Kristin Mitchell takes a selfie with the MV Ushuaia in the background at Paulette Island on the Antarctic Peninsula on Jan. 4, 2019. (Photo courtesy of Kristin Mitchell)

Kristin Mitchell takes a selfie with the MV Ushuaia in the background at Paulette Island on the Antarctic Peninsula on Jan. 4, 2019. (Photo courtesy of Kristin Mitchell)

Most Alaskans take the harsh winter months as an opportunity to travel to warmer climes like Hawaii or Florida. One of Soldotna’s resident physicians, however, recently went as far south as south can go. Dr. Kristin Mitchell, Medical Director of the Sleep Laboratory at Central Peninsula Hospital, spent 20 days on a boat navigating the coast of Antarctica this past January and will be giving a presentation at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center on Thursday about her experience. The presentation is part of KDLL’s Adventure Talks series, which aims to put a spotlight on the travels and trials of Kenai Peninsula residents.

Mitchell traveled to Antarctica as part of the Homeward Bound initiative, whose stated goal is to “heighten the influence and impact of women in making the decisions that shape our planet,” according to their website. Mitchell said that she was one of 80 women hailing from 23 different nationalities that were a part of the Antarctic journey, with each of them specializing in various fields of science, engineering, technology and mathematics. One woman was the European Union representative for the International Whaling Commission, while another was a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, and another was a key architect in the crafting of the Paris Climate Accords.

Mitchell said that the purpose of the trip was not about a specific research project in Antarctica, but rather it was an opportunity for women in STEM industries to develop both on a personal and professional level. By the end of the excursion, they had honed their leadership skills and acquired international connections that would allow them to make an even greater impact in their respective fields.

Because Mitchell hails from Alaska, she was uniquely prepared for the challenging weather that the group dealt with during their 20 days sailing around the South Pole, and she said that the Antarctic summer is similar to an Alaskan winter. For her, the bigger challenge came from having to constantly analyze herself and reflect on her own growth. “We were all on an internal journey as well as a physical one. Everyone wanted to grow as much as possible and figure out how we can all be more effective in our fields.”

Anyone interested in hearing more about Mitchell’s journey can attend her Adventure Talk on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. Admission is $5 or free for KDLL members. Mitchell will also be talking with KDLL at 10 a.m. today for a live interview.

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