Thomas and Gloria Hutchings: New Hampshire Couple Bring 'The Ice' To The Internet
There are times you'd go to the ends of the Earth for something you love.
Tom and Gloria Hutchings know all about that: The New Hampshire couple have spent a combined 73 months of the past decade living and working at McMurdo, Palmer, and South Pole research stations in Antarctica.
The Hutchings and their 3-year-old daughter, Talia, reside in the Cape-style home they built in north-central New Hampshire in 1993, but for stints of varying lengths over the past 10 years, both Gloria and Tom have traded the Granite State for the Frozen Continent a total of 13 times. In addition, Tom completed a tour of duty at a North Pole research station in Greenland. At the same time, Gloria was working at the South Pole, so the two were truly half a world apart.
Harsh weather wasn't foreign to these native New Englanders, who spent several years living and working in the shadow of New Hampshire's Mt. Washington, at 6288 feet, the highest peak in the Northeastern United States, and site of the highest wind speed ever recorded on the Earth's surface-a 231 mph blow in April 1934.
A place where the year 'round average temperature is a flesh-freezing 57 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, Antarctica has been their part-time home ever since Gloria first reported to South Pole Station in 1990 to work for Antarctic Support Associates, a contractor providing logistical support for National Science Foundation researchers based there. Tom was hired by ASA for his carpentry skills, became a foreman, and worked his way up to construction manager. He has also put those talents to work for Raytheon Corp., the current contractor at the Pole.
So taken were the couple by the beauty of Antarctica-by its harsh but awe-inspiring weather; its quiet isolation; its pristine character; its unusual astronomical and meteorological phenomena-that they now share it with the world on the Internet via their web site, www.antarcticconnection.com.
Spurred by their love of the Frozen Continent and their desire to earn a living while living in rural New Hampshire, they've created a web-based community that brings the intrigue of Antarctica to Internet surfers seeking news, information, and products designed to aid travelers heading to the South Pole and to conjure memories for those who've already visited.
The Antarctic Connection is a comprehensive, web-based information center and retail site for all things related to Antarctica. Travelers planning a trip can find maps, travel guides, and even expedition-class parkas to help ensure a well-planned and warm visit. A broad selection of books, videos, embroidered sportswear, and museum-quality prints is available through the site, which appeals to those who've been to Antarctica, as well as to those who long to visit.
The company's mission is to introduce site visitors to the landscape, wildlife, history, and science of the Antarctic in a conscientious and quality-conscious manner, says Tom.
What sets The Antarctic Connection apart is the virtual community the web site has created, through daily weather reports from the South Pole; continually updated news reports; historical information on Antarctic expeditions over the past three centuries; detailed descriptions of books, videos, maps, and other research materials available through the site; and a guest book section in which visitors describe their interest in and experiences at the South Pole.
"The guest book is amazing," Gloria says. "People are so excited to write about their Antarctic experiences. We hope to get in touch with some of these people and have them really elaborate on their time there," she says.
The business was launched in August 1998 from their New Hampshire home, where they coined the motto, "Antarctica is closer than you think."
"Once I knew I was pregnant and I wouldn't be going back to the ice, I still wanted it in my blood," recalls Gloria. We felt we've been to the Pole; we know what people want. We figured if we could be the source for people ordering stuff, we could provide a needed service." In addition, she notes, the growing interest in the South Pole as a tourism destination creates another market.
"We started thinking about it in 1996, because we saw the Internet just taking off," says Tom. "We fell in love with the Antarctic, and we thought, 'Here's a way we can stay involved with it.'"
"Our goal is to become the best source for Antarctic-related news, weather, and information, and to carry products that are informational and educational as well as fun and entertaining," he says.
"We feel so fortunate to have been able to go down there and enjoy the beauty of it. It truly is the last frontier," says Gloria. "I'm in awe of the beauty and vastness of it all. It's so lovely, you want to share it with everybody."
Do they intend to go back down to The Ice some day? Tom notes how busy he and Gloria are with a young family and a growing business. Then he chuckles for a moment, and says, emphatically, "Some day, yes."
Editor's note: You can visit The Antarctic Connection on the Worldwide Web at www.antarcticconnection.com. The toll-free phone number for more information is 1-877-SNOWICE. Rob Burbank is a New Hampshire-based freelance writer.