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.
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.
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.
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.
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’ facebook.com/MillerSouthPole.