In order to run a marathon, you would expect to run to practice otherwise you won’t be able to run the whole 26.2 miles. You would expect a doctor to have learned what to do before operating on someone or….well, it won’t be pretty. Students should practice math problems and read a lot in order to be as proficient as possible and get better and we all know what not studying or doing homework results in. Going to Antarctica is no different! I have been here in Fairbanks, Alaska at PolarTREC Orientation. I have spent a week here preparing for my trip to Antarctica so that I can be as successful and comfortable as possible!

Mike Penn in ECW
This is me in ECW gear. (Extreme Cold Weather Gear)
A team maintaining an AWS
The team extends the AWS (Automatic Weather Station) using the tripod. At South Dome on the Greenland Ice Sheet. Photo by Jim Pottinger (PolarTREC 2011)

64° 50' 37" N , 147° 43' 23" W
University of Fairbanks, Alaska
Weather Summary
Clear and Cold
8 Degrees Fahrenheit
Wind Speed
4 knots
Wind Chill
1 degree Fahrenheit
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Mike Penn

Natalia,We went for a week of training in Fairbanks, Alaska. We spent most of our time near Fairbanks, but we did travel around to different locations several times. I also went to Madison, Wisconsin to learn about the Automatic Weather Stations and how to do my jobs.

Mike Penn

Fiona, The coldest it got while I was there was about -16. We learned how to do our jobs and what we need to do to keep you informed while we are deployed. We learned about how our trips will be planned and organized. I was there with the other 10 PolarTREC teachers a few Alumni teachers and the people who run PolarTREC. We also met with some instructors, experts, and scientists.

Collin R. (not verified)

Are you excited to go to Antarctica

Mike Penn

Colin, I can't wait! I've been working toward making this happen for about two years. All of the PolarTREC teachers have trained and planned and stressed for a long time and now it is just about 45 days away for me. I'm excited for my students, this has made so many of you interested in science and you have started thinking and asking questions about things that you've never even thought about! How cool is that?

Guest (not verified)

What is the average temperature in Alaska compared to Antarctica?

Ally (not verified)

Hello my name is Ally I'm from Dansville, and I was wondering how important you think preparing for Antartica is?

Mike Penn

I'm having a blast! I'm from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania so the weather this time of year in Fairbanks, Alaska isn't all that different from home. We had 10 inches of snow in Pittsburgh a few days before I left for Alaska and it was not much colder than back home either. It is hard to say what is the most interesting thing I've been doing. We did so many interesting things from checking out the Museum of the North to going to Chena hot springs. I think the most interesting thing though is the people we are with. The people here that run PolarTREC and the people who are PolarTREC educators are such a great group of people. I'm so honored to be part of this group and so excited to have this opportunity that while I'll remember the trip to Alaska, it is the friendships and influence of these people that will have the most lasting impact on me!

Alaina (not verified)

Hi my name is Alaina. i am from Dansville Middle School and I was wondering if the suites that you guys had to wear were very costy or not?

Mariah (not verified)

Hi, my name is Mariah I am from Dansville Michigan my question is how heavy is the gear?

noah (not verified)

what is the gear like is it comfortable is it itchy and most of all is it warm

Hunter (not verified)

Hi this is Hunter from Dansville middle school we were wondering where you store all your food?

Guest (not verified)

what is it like there,is it fun?

Mike Penn

The lowest Alaska temperature is −80 °F (−62.2 °C) in Prospect Creek on January 23, 1971. The coldest recorded temp on Antarctica is -128 on the ground and -144˚F by satellite. The average is more difficult to explain. It depends on where you are and what time of year. If you are in Anchorage, AK it is much warmer than Utqiaġvik which is much further north and much colder.

Mike Penn

Ally, Preparation is everything! As they say: To fail to prepare is to prepare to fail.

Mike Penn

Alaina, Luckily we are issued all of the appropriate Extreme Cold Weather Gear. It is very expensive equipment. I just looked on eBay for a used "Big Red" coat and they are for sale for $624. Not cheap!

Mike Penn

Mariah, The bag of clothing that I'm showing kids for demonstration weighs 23 pounds. That isn't counting all of the layers that I'll wear under all of the outer gear.

Mike Penn

Noah, The giant red coat is surprisingly comfortable. It is big and very very warm because it is made of Goose Down. The challenging part
is all of the layers. We also have to wear several pairs of gloves and
mittens so zipping and unzipping might be a problem in the field.

Mike Penn

Hunter, I know that when we go out to install or maintain AWS we will be given food. I'm not sure how or where it will be stored. I'll let you know after I get back!

Mike Penn

All of the people here are really nice and helpful. We are getting a lot of information. It was described as being similar to trying to
drink from a fire hose! We've done lots of interesting things and
learned so much!

On 3/29/18 6:04 AM, PolarTREC wrote:

Aaron (not verified)

How does the AWS work? Are there multiple of those structures all around Antarctica?

Leylin (not verified)

How do you feel when you are Studying the weather and you found different types of things over there or where ever you go?

Mike Penn

Thanks for your question! Learning new things is my secret to happiness...well, it's part of the secret to happiness...that...and dry socks. Have you ever heard this quote? "The more you know, the more you know what you don't know." Well, that is how I have been feeling lately. Being a school teacher and the STEM coordinator for my school here in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania means that we teach a lot of science. We also have a small weather station and I'm definitely a weather geek! But now that I'm going to be working with Dr. Lazarra and Ms. Costanza, and reading everything that I can get my hands on about AWS and Antarctica...I'm aware of just how little I know and how much I have to learn! I don't go until late November, so I have some time to get up to speed. I love learning! Stay tuned, there will be a journal entry on this topic!

Natalia .V (not verified)

How long did you train? Also, did you just go to Fairbanks, Alaska or did you go other places too? - Natalia .V

Fiona B. (not verified)

Dear Mr. Penn,I have a few questions about Alaska.
How cold was it when you were there?
What kinds of things did you do to train?
Oh, and was anyone else with you when you were there?
-Fiona B 4B

Brinley (not verified)

Hey, I loved reading your journal entry, you are doing something I wish I could do. So, in case I ever do how much fun is it? How much different is it from where you live? Whats the most interesting thing you've been doing?