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Today, I met some really interesting people: a body building champion, someone who saved a walrus' life, someone who named their children after assassinated presidents, someone who was bitten by a rattlesnake, someone who found a human skull on the beach in Peru, a woman who is a 4 time amateur "two woman cross-cut Lumber Jill" champion, and someone who has been to over 100 Grateful Dead shows.

Where in the world am I? Who are these people? Why am I here? I am in Fairbanks, Alaska and these people and I are all here for PolarTREC orientation. Each of us are educators and each of us was selected to be part of a science research expedition to the polar regions of the world. Some of them will be on ships in the Bering Sea, others will be at a remote outpost in the extreme northern area of Alaska, others will be on a glacier in Switzerland, others will be searching for the elusive sub-atomic particle called a neutrino using a “telescope” called “IceCUBE” that is buried in the ice at the South Pole.

I will be going on an expedition to Antarctica where I will be working with scientists from the University of Wisconsin. We will be maintaining and installing “Automatic Weather Stations” during the Austral summer (our winter) next December.

I am humbled to be part of this amazing group of people. We are all here so that we can make the science we will be doing accessible to the students and people we work with every day...YOU! Wish us luck, our odyssey started today!


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Judy Fahnestock's picture

Judy Fahnestock said:

We are so glad that you have joined our PolarTREC family Mike! And I think you forgot to mention the two people who ride unicycles in the group. :)
Mike Penn's picture

Mike Penn replied:

Thanks Judy! These people are all superstars!
Nell Herrmann's picture

Nell Herrmann said:

I appreciate your enthusiasm- it comes through very clearly in this entry. You're going to have an amazing experience and will bring back so much to share with students!
Wendi Pillars's picture

Wendi Pillars said:

Mike, this is going to be an incredible experience for you and your students. We need to connect classes, too. I call dibs on your skype-from-the-field opportunities! Can't wait to learn from you.
Aubs's picture

Aubs said:

These people sound like they were here before.....
Mike Penn's picture

Mike Penn replied:

Aubs, I'm not sure what you mean. The people that have written comments or questions are also PolarTREC teachers. They were there with me in Alaska, so if you mean that they seem to know me, they do, we are all friends. They are all amazing teachers who are willing to go to remote places for long periods of time in order to be better teachers and to inspire their students to become interested in science and maybe become scientists when they grow up!
Bailey's picture

Bailey replied:

We’re you nerves when you met these people and did they tell you about there story I’m Bailey from Dansville Middle school
Mike Penn's picture

Mike Penn replied:

Bailey, I am not nervous about doing my job. I'm more nervous about being able to do my PolarConnect (a video chat with students back home in the US) and being able to post my journals like this one. I'll be writing a journal about your question in the next week or so.
christianwest's picture

christianwest said:

hi i was wondering sense your traveling to antrtica would you miss fast food places?
Mike Penn's picture

Mike Penn replied:

Christian, I don't eat much fast food here at home, so I'm not going to miss not having any available. I've been told by almost everyone who has been there that the food at McMurdo and South Pole Stations is excellent! I like all kinds of food and I'm looking forward to seeing what it will be like down there. What I will miss, is fresh fruits and vegetables. Since it is sometimes difficult and a very long trip to get fresh foods to the south pole, most of the time they are very rare.
Trent Ackerson's picture

Trent Ackerson said:

Hey, my name is Trent Ackerson from Dansville Middle schools, i was thinking about all the crazy people you met. So whats something crazy about you?
Mike Penn's picture

Mike Penn replied:

Trent, The "crazy" thing about me was that I can ride a unicycle.
Rebekah 's picture

Rebekah said:

Hi Mr.Penn I am Rebekah from Dansville Middle schools and I was wondering who are the four other people going with you and were you nerves meeting them. Do you know where they are from.
Mike Penn's picture

Mike Penn replied:

Rebekah, I wasn't really nervous to meet them. I knew that they were all teachers and all very qualified and adventurous! It turned out that they were all very nice and all of them have become my friends. I'm from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and the other 10 of them are from all over the country.
Rebekah's picture

Rebekah replied:

Thank you for coming to our school and telling us all about what you are going to do when you go to Antarctica. Also thanks for responding to my E-mail. From Dansville, Rebekah
Mike Penn's picture

Mike Penn replied:

Rebekah, You are so welcome, it was my pleasure. It was great to get to visit you in Michigan. I've gotten to talk to thousands of students so far and 350 of there were in Dansville!
Rebekah's picture

Rebekah replied:

I am so glad that our tiny town could be apart of your awesome trip. I hope you can visit us after you trip. -Rebekah
Abby Post's picture

Abby Post said:

How many tests did you have to pass?