IT’S often said that you can expect to bump into Donegal folk all over the world, but meeting an old school-mate in Antarctica possibly takes the biscuit.
Well that’s exactly what happened earlier this week when John Paul O’Donnell and Danny McFadden met one another on the virtually uninhabited, ice-covered landmass.
John Paul and Danny last met when they were classmates in Scoil Naomh Duigh. Annagry, back in 1993.
Never did these two young men dream that some day their work would take them to Antarctica – let alone the chances of meeting a classmate from Annagry.
John Paul O’Donnell from Meenaleck later attended PobalScoil Ghaoth Dobhair and then to third level education with Trinity and UCD studying Physics. He attained his PhD in Geophysics with NUIG and went on to work with Pennsilvania State University and currently with Leeds University. JP has previously worked in Antarctica with the National Science Foundation (USA) where he got the bug for Antarctica and earlier this year saw him back in West Antarctica installing seismometers in the Pine Island region for Leeds University. The Leeds programme was based out of the of Rothera Research Station, Alexander Island on the Antarctic peninsula, part of the British Antarctic Survey (UK) research stations. Rothera Stations was the logistics hub for his ten week project in Pine Island Glacier, as well as many other deep field projects.
Two hours after arriving at Rothera Antarctica, as part of the arrivals briefings JP was surprised to find that Danny McFadden from Calhame walked in to brief the new arrivals at Rothera.
After leaving Scoil Naomh Duigh, Danny attended Pobalscoil Falcarragh before moving to Letterkenny I.T. specialising in Mobile, Wireless and Satellite Computing and before going south was involved with rural broadband projects in Ireland.
Danny is finishing an 18 month long tour, having left Calhame for Antarctica in October 2014 and is due to return to Ireland late April 2016 Equally surprised to see JP, both men not having properly seen the other since ’93 found the whole event amusing.
“Obviously we could not pass the opportunity to get a picture of two Rosses men in Antarctica,” Danny said.
“Now that we’ve met again – more than twenty years on – we’re looking forward to getting back to Donegal shores and catching up with one another soon,” he added.
“It was interesting catching up with him, coincidentally during his work in ireland John Paul was responsible in part for the seismometers for schools which was a project rolled out by the Dublin Institute of Advanced Science (DIAS).
I caught wind of one of these through a friend who had one sent to Umricam School in Buncrana, and eventually I helped roll out 12 seismometers which are still active in Donegal including the Inch Site which is online and is part of the world wide network and catches all the big earthquakes as well as the smaller dDonegal ones.
However during this time, and all the overlap – we still didn’t know that both of us were working with the same people in DIAS on essentially the same stuff. And he kept looking at map of Donegal and wondering why these sites kept popping up in Donegal without him knowing who was doing it, with one of them 500 metres from Annagry National School where we both went many years ago. So an amazingly small world, took coming to antarctica for both of us to meet,” Danny said.
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