David Schenker
Monday, September 20, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:43 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

From mid-July to early August, MU classics professor David Schenker started his days with a morning swim in the St. Lawrence River.

Schenker spent three weeks on Halfway Island, N.Y., a strip of land in the middle of the river that is on the border between the United States and Canada. The island has no drinking water, electric wiring or telephone lines.

“I would go for the swim even if it was 60 degrees and raining,” he said.

Schenker, who also serves as MU director of undergraduate studies, said he and his family have been spending at least parts of their summer vacations on the island for 23 years. The two-acre island has been in the family since 1890.

Drinking water is carried to the island by boat. Using a solar-powered pump, he managed to bring in enough water for other daily needs. Schenker acknowledged that living conditions are rustic.

“Spiders are everywhere,” he said. “You can even find them in your bed.”

Despite the shortcomings, Schenker said living on the island helped him in his study of Greek literature.

“The large block of time is good for getting projects started,” he said. “It is great research time.”

Lack of Internet access or office equipment mattered little to Schenker, who thinks that what people in humanities need most for research is peace and quiet.

He read books he brought along and wrote extensively, using a laptop that he charged regularly onshore.

At night, he spent his hours star-gazing or being around his family. Schenker’s wife and two children are avid swimmers who swam across the border from the United States to Canada several times.

The family welcomes guests to visit the island.

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