Archive for December, 2010

Remembering Antarctica
December 13, 2010

It is a place that will rock your world. Literally. So when our 5 pm producer, Tom West, asked me to re-work a piece about the stranded Antarctic expedition ship, and use my 2008 Antarctic video, I was only too happy to oblige.

I had done several blogs, and a news story, about the group, Oceanites, which was evaluating penguin populations to measure climate impact on the Antarctic peninsula. This woman, Elise Larsen, was a researcher on our ship in December,2008, and she has parents who live in Pittsburgh, and married a Pittsburgher.

It was one of the first voyages, if not the first, of Lindblad Expeditions’ National Geographic Explorer, a new, state-0f-the-art expedition cruise ship. Ice-strengthened, it was designed for the rough, unpredictable weather and seas of Antarctica–particularly the Drake Passage– the body of water between the tip of South American and the Antarctic Peninsula. My friend, Jaqi Conomikes and I weathered the crossing of the Drake pretty well, and the hurricane force winds that grounded another ship, hit the Explorer in the Bransfield Strait, near the South Shetland Islands, if I remember correctly. (I probably don’t). This is a shot from our window of the seas as the wind began to pick up.

Below is a picture of one of the passengers, Wayne Summers, leaning into 40 knot winds, which is about 50 miles an hour, I think.

But the winds became much stronger, and the swells were about 30 feet, so we were told to try to remain in our cabins.

Jaqi and I, show here in much more benign weather, decided to sneak outside to shoot some video, and a stand-up.  We could barely get the door to the outside open, and we had to hang onto the railings. The winds were about 50 to 60 knots at this point. We quickly shot some stuff and struggled to get the door open to get back inside, then watched over the next several hours as the winds grew to almost 100 miles and hour and the swells were up to 40 feet.  I think all of the 110 or so passengers on board had complete trust in the ship, and its

Captain, Leif Skog. An amazing man, he had helped design the Explorer.  And our expedition leader, an expert in ecologically sensitive Antarctic travel, was Matt Drennan.

He constantly kept us updated on conditions through the public address system. I admit, I was loaded up on motion sickness pills, arm bands, a little watch that shocks you, and ginger gum. I never actually got sick, just a little queasy. But lying down made it subside. It was an exciting time, and I came to understand how people can fall in love with ships. The National Geographic Explorer lived up to expectations in such an extreme test. So I was not surprised to hear that is was the Explorer that came to the rescue of the stranded Clelia II, whose power had been knocked, and engines disabled by the massive swells in the Drake last week. Here is a link to the story:


43 Points
December 3, 2010

Whether you are a hunter, or loathe the pastime, people in Western Pennsylvania have to admit that this area is a hotbed for hunters, especially deer.

These are the antlers that belonged to the buck, shot by Steve McCartney

on the opening Monday of deer season. 43 points. Maybe. To be determined by an official scorer during the week-end from the national magazine,”Buckmaster”

But from the moment WTAE  first aired the story  Monday, and posted it on, it has created an astonishing amount of interest.

And when we did a follow-up on Steve, we discovered he was a 4th-grade teacher at Washington Elementary in Washington  Twp–not far from Vandergrift in Westmoreland County.  The 28 year old teacher from Upper Burrell had hunted since the age of 12, and the publicity drawn by Steve’s unusual trophy had caused quite the stir at the school, where a fellow teacher told me he is very  popular.

So when we arrived to talk  to Steve about the aftermath  of bagging this buck, the whole school had turned out, kids donning home-made antlers, to hear his story.

Steve and the teachers turned it into a time of instruction, rather than celebration of his lucky shot.

I had posted on WTAE’s Fan Page on Facebook that I was surprised that he as a teacher, and a lot of people chided me for that. I explained that it was not that he was a teacher, but that I had expected the person who captured such a prize to be a professional. I don’t know why. Many of us excel at our hobbies, enough to compete with the pros, I supposed.

But what blew me away was watching him hold the attention of a gym full of young school children. He truly has a gift. Did our cameras help create the moment?

To a degree, yes. But his choosing to use this moment to instruct on gun safety, the rules of hunting safety, respect for nature, and yes, the conflict he felt when he shot the deer, was all so genuine.

One student asked a question that first comes to mind for most non-hunters. “Did you feel bad?”  His answer to the student, and to me, later? “I guess you do. It was a living organism and you have a heart. But when you respect the sport of hunting, and the animal , and you are using all the resources that animals gives you, it is rewarding at the same time.”

Steve and his wife now have a freezer full of venison, to share with friends  and family. He will mount the antlers and deer’s head in his home. He will learn, “officially” whether there really were 43 points, or only 30, this week-end.  But he will always have the moment, sitting alone in his tree-stand, when he saw the buck stumble into his sight. And he will alway have that gift of teaching.

For more on Steve, follow this link on