McMurdo to Christchurch to Auckland to Los Angeles to Washington D.C.

    After many adventures crammed into just a few days at McMurdo, it was time to start the long journey home. I hopped on none other than Ivan the Terra Bus. No less terrible than the first ride.

    Ivan wheels
    I'm barely taller than Ivan's wheels. He's a monster!

    Instead of flying on a Hercules (LC-130) as I’d done before, this time I was scheduled for a C-17, also known as the Globe Master. This plane is much bigger, but still doesn’t have many windows. As a strange coincidence, I got to sit next to none other than Anthony Bourdain on this flight. He was leaving from filming “Parts Unknown,” the Antarctica episode.

    The C-17, Globe Master. Got us to Christchurch in only 5 hours (as opposed to 8 hours in the LC-130).
    C-17 inside
    The C-17 might be bigger and faster than the C-130, but it's still not built for comfort.

    Two things struck me as I stepped out of the plane at Christchurch: First, a sunset! For nearly a month I didn’t see the sun set once in Antarctica. And there it was, a beautiful setting sun with just a few stars poking through the darkness. Next I noticed the smell outside – it smelled of life! In Antarctica, pretty much nothing grows. I hadn’t realized the lack of scent outside until that first whiff of air back in New Zealand.

    I only had a mere 12 hours in Christchurch before my scheduled flight back to the States. So what else does a girl do than grab a pizza?

    Three long flights awaited me: First, a short, 1.5-hour flight to Auckland followed by a 6-hour layover (with no wifi!). Second, a 10-hour flight to Los Angeles followed with a quick, 2-hour layover. Finally, a 5-hour flight back to Washington D.C.. Lucky for me, I didn’t have anyone sitting next to me on the longest flight so I got to stretch out my legs and settle in to some on-flight TV.

    And now? Now I’m home again. I unpacked my bags, took an extra long shower (because I can here!), and slept…until about 4pm local time. I think I’m going to need a bit to get over this jetlag.


    Going to Antarctica has been one of the most amazing adventures of my life, and I’m so glad you were able to come along for the ride. The South Pole will forever hold a special place in my heart. It’s where I met so many friendly, kind, thoughtful, unique people who were always willing to entertain my strange questions. It’s where I set aside my teacher hat for a moment and got a glimpse into the life of a field-researcher. It’s where I grew both professionally and personally, in ways that I couldn’t have imagined. I will forever cherish the memories I made at the Pole, and hope that one day I’ll be fortunate enough return for another visit.

    Antarctic Sceneary
    One of my favorite pictures of Antarctica taken at the South pole - wide, open, white, nothingness.
    This adventure wouldn’t have been possible without several people who I owe many thanks.

    First and foremost: PolarTREC. This amazing organization, funded by the National Science Foundation, sends 14 teachers just like me to the Arctic and Antarctic every year. A special thanks to Janet Warburton, Judy Fahnestock, and (previously) Sarah Bartholow for helping me throughout this entire process, reassuring me every step of the way. Your support was vital to making this expedition a reality. To the Tech team – Ronnie Owens, Joed Polly and Zeb Polly – who trained me nearly a year ago, put up with my silly technology questions, and even posted journals for me when the South Pole Internet was down.

    A special thank you to the IceCube collaboration. To Dr. Jim Madsen for choosing me as your PolarTREC teacher this year, explaining IceCube to me over several Skype conversations, and being my go-to person for questions about what to expect. To the IceCube team that I worked with at the Pole – Dr. Mike DuVernois, Dr. James Casey, Dr. Martin Wolf, Dr. Keiichi Mase, Michael Larson, Samuel Flis, Ming-Yuan Lu, Yiqian Xu– thank you for patiently answering my questions each day and truly making me feel like I was one of the gang.

    Thank you to those back at Washington-Lee High School (W-L) and Arlington Public Schools (APS) for making this opportunity possible. With Dr. Katey Shirey as my amazing substitute, I felt completely confident that I was leaving my students in good hands. Without Katey, I would not have been able to go on this adventure and for that I’m forever thankful. To the W-L admin team, specifically W-L Principal, Dr. Gregg Robertson, who supported me every step of the way. To Frank Bellavia, PR Specialist for APS, who continues to help me coordinate outreach efforts to help share my experience with a broad audience. To the W-L broadcast team, for airing updates about my expedition on the school announcements. And a special thank you to all of my colleagues at W-L who have encouraged me from day one. You are an inspiration and I feel honored to work alongside you. Specifically, Dawn McCoart, Chris Cook, Gerson Pereira, Mary Clendenning, Alex Lester, Stacy Brasfield, Ryan Miller, Kristin Johnson, and Joan Bickelhaupt for incorporating my adventure into your classroom. And to my students who have cheered me right from the beginning. I can’t wait to see you on Monday and hear about what colleges you’ve gotten into, what physics you’ve learned while I was gone, and what’s changed in your lives in the last month.

    Thank you to my close family and friends for being my biggest cheerleaders as I embarked on this adventure. To my Mom and Dad who have always been supportive of whatever crazy thing I want to try next. To my sister, Sarah, for her encouraging words…and frequently posting on facebook for me when Antarctic Internet wouldn’t allow. Thank you to my brother-in-law Eddie for the pep talk before I left and to my little nieces Sylvia and Amalia, brought a smile to my face when I got a call from them at the South pole. To Travis, for being an amazingly supportive boyfriend as I traveled to the opposite end of the world, leaving for an entire month. And to my good friends who received several calls of me freaking out before I left. Thank you for telling me that it’ll all be worth it in the end – it was.

    And a special thank you to all of YOU for reading my journals. It has been an absolute pleasure posting each day knowing that there were interested people eager to learn on the other end. I feel honored to reach classrooms from kindergarten through high school across the country. To the teachers that have followed along, participated in the Fly Your Flag at the South Pole Contest or signed up to receive a postcard for your classroom. And to the students who have kept me on my toes with such interesting questions.

    Stay Connected

    While I’m temporarily signing off from posting journals on a daily basis, stay subscribed here to learn about outreach events and opportunities coming up. You can also stay updated by ‘liking’

    Washington D.C.
    Weather Summary
    practically tropical
    Wind Speed
    6 mph
    Wind Chill


    Period 2 IB Ph…

    Top comment: We think it's cool you went to Antarctica and did exciting work with neutrinos! When you come back we want to talk about your work more.
    We are so sad that we won't see you on Monday because it's a W day.

    What happened with Anthony Bourdain? Will you be on his show? Were you just playing it cool on the plane and didn't want to photograph him again? Can he come visit our class?

    Armando Caussade

    Awesome, Kate! And congratulations for a successful PolarTREC expedition. You did an outstanding job with the journals and it was a pleasure following your daily adventures at the Pole. I particularly enjoyed your extensive description of the IceCube neutrino telescope, and the 'Three South Poles' journal was magnificent as well. Now get some well-deserved rest, and I wish you all the best with all your future endeavours. Take care, Kate!

    Kate Miller

    So glad you think it's cool that I went. It was an awesome experience - I learned so much about IceCube and doing field-research in general and I can't wait to share it with you on Tuesday!
    I *might* be on Bourdain's "Parts Unknown," Antarctica episode, but just in the background. I kept trying to sneak into the shots :) It should air in June so keep an eye out! On the plane I did not ask for another photograph. He seemed very tired and I kind of felt bad for him after seeing how many people came up asking for a picture every two seconds. He slept most of the plane ride anyway. Unfortunately, I'm not sure he'll be visiting our class anytime soon...

    Kate Miller

    Thank you so much for the kind words, Armando! I had some big shoes to fill :)
    Okay, time to go back to sleep...

    Stacy Brasfield

    Welcome Home, Kate!It was so great traveling with you. What a fabulous tour guide you have been! I really feel like I got to ride along with you -- except I didn't have to suffer the cold or jet lag or the lack of starry nights. Anthony Bourdain in Antarctica? That seems like a stretch. What culture or cuisine is there? Oh well, thanks again for the vicarious experiences!

    Kate Miller

    Thanks for following along, Stacy! I will say the jet lag is...not something to be desired right now. But I swear the cold wasn't that bad!
    Yes, Anthony Bourdain was in Antarctica filming "Parts Unknown" - it's more of an adventure/travel show than a foodie show, so I guess that makes a bit more sense.

    See you Monday!