Well now I've returned from the South Pole, finished with my stint working with the IceCube team.
What I miss about the South Pole:
Really, the cold is not bad, in fact it's kind of nice - it's a fun ritual to put on all the layers. Not so much fun when you realize you missed one!
I will miss the people! Everyone I met had such an interesting back story, and everyone seemed so engaged in the science going on at the pole. The Sunday Science Lectures were well-attended with interesting questions from the audience. I think the type of person that would seek out a job in Antarctica is a breed apart.
And most of all, I will miss the sauna. Heating up your body until you can barely walk, then running outside to -30°C air to cool off... it's no 300 club but still quite a way to shock your body into relaxation.
What I am happy to see now that I'm back:
It is nice to see stars again! 24 hours of daylight is cool but exhausting... so the cycle of daylight-dusk-darkness-dawn-daylight again has been beneficial to my sleep cycles. The night sky is something we often take for granted, but isn't it amazing to look out at other stars like our sun, so far that they are just a bright dot in the sky? Amazing!
Living things! The extreme environment at the south pole means no living stuff at all! But now that I'm back, it is nice to see grass, trees, ducks, and bees.
and of course I missed my students! it was really nice to be able to present to students and other classrooms, and especially to hear from my students who asked me questions and interrupted their busy lunch time to stop in and say hi. And now that I'm back, it's great to see them all again in person!
What I wish I had done (and why I will obviously have to go back some time)
I didn't visit the Ice Tunnels! colder than any temperature I experienced, and frozen fish and pigs heads, and yet I missed it!
My team never won the Pub Trivia night! we always did respectably but never took the top prize...
I wish I had gotten to play some music with the other polies - a lot of musical talent down there! Another IceCuber and I considered playing for the open mic night but decided our dignity was more important... where were our priorities?
I wish I were able to participate in "happy camper" training (survival training for extreme cold environments).
And of course: I wish I had seen penguins! but there are no penguins at the south pole, so I might need to persuade the NSF to send me to a field camp along the coast!
Would I go back if I had the opportunity? Definitely probably! The only difficulty is that the only time you can go to Antarctica is during the school year, which poses vocational problems for me. The Antarctic winter would be quite an experience to witness, especially the southern lights and -100°F temperatures. But I can't imagine I'd survive (with sanity intact) the whole 7-8 month stretch between the last plane to leave in February and the first plane to arrive in October...
Aside from that, I would go without a doubt. I am envious of Katey Shirey, who will participate next year and get to help with the final IceTop tanks, and hopefully get to help with installing the final IceCube strings. This has been a project many years in the making, and hopefully she will get to witness the conclusion.
But in the end, we'll all be watching to see the results that come from the IceCube research!
Much thanks to all of you who helped make my trip an amazing experience:
Jim Madsen, for giving me the opportunity to participate in the IceCube project; and Steve Stevenoski and Eric Muhs for the mentoring and inside jokes in River Falls!
James Roth, Chris Elliott, and Hermann Kolanoski for the good times getting the IceTop tanks prepared and filled, for cleaning up my mistakes, and helping me understand neutrino oscillations!
Thanks to the IceCube crew, Jim H, Tim, Delia, Karthik, Karen, Laura, Emanuel, Freija, Arne, and anyone else I might have inadvertently left off the list for letting me help out with the IceCube deployments. Special shout outs to those who worked with me to achieve a close second on pub trivia three weeks in a row!
Forest for giving me awesome photos of the air drop, I enjoyed your photos and SPIFF film and hope to see more.
Liz, Abby, and Brad from SPT, for hanging out in the sauna and putting on the ladies' night soiree!
The staff of the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station for helping me out with interviews, housing, communications, food, and entertainment. Certainly it would not have been the same without the support of these incredible people!
Janet, Kristin, Ronnie and Zeb for all the technical and moral support!
Katey, Kristen, Liz, Scott, and Jim for being awesome in all respects!
Rosa, my sub for the time I was gone, for taking good care of my students, and Josh for helping her out in my absence.
The Knowles Science Teaching Foundation, especially Harry, Janet, Angelo, Nicole, and the 04 Cohort for five awesome years of support!
...and to all the people who have followed my journal, thanks for reading, and thanks for the questions and comments. Your support as an audience encouraged me to do more stupid things than I otherwise might have done. Cheers!