25 November 2009
I'm Heading To The Bottom of The World!
Posted by Dan Satterfield
I’ve been keeping a big secret.
Way back in August I had a call from a friend who works at the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) in Washington, DC. She asked if I’d heard that the National Science Foundation was opening up applications for science reporters to visit Antarctica.
In case you have never looked into the logistics of going to the South Pole, let me educate you!
Oh, have I!
It’s NOT serviced by your local airline. It’s not serviced by ANY commercial airline.
Basically, unless you are a scientist working on an NSF funded project at the pole, or a very rich or well funded explorer, (That leaves me out) you are not going to get there. It’s very expensive to do anything there and very dangerous. I keep getting told that “Antarctica is a beautiful place where it’s very easy to die”.
Getting there is not easy and it’s not without danger. A mild summer day at the South Pole is -30C. A cold summer day is 50 degrees below zero on the old Fahrenheit scale.
The South Pole is on top of two miles of ice at the bottom of the world. Elevation is over 3,000 meters. The air is very thin and very cold. The weather can change in seconds.
So with all of this in mind and the fact that it’s been my life long dream to visit Antarctica, the call from Ann Posegate at NEEF got my attention real quick. She suggested a joint application from us both. Me at WHNT -TV and she at NEEF. We went for it!
With an incredibly short deadline, we put together an application asking to see the sites where all this incredible science is being done and the people doing it. We told the NSF that we would share it with the world if they let us go.
Today we got the official word.
They said YES!
In case you did not know…The most important science on the planet is being conducted in Antarctica.
The importance of the climate science speaks for itself. What you may not know about are the incredible discoveries of life being made. Life that’s surviving in environments that were thought impossible for sustaining life. Guess who is really interested in that??
NASA will soon be sending new probes to other planets and asteroids looking for life. The science in the Antarctic freezer is giving them new clues on what to look for out there.
Think about that. It’s one of the fundamental questions of science. It’s one of the fundamental questions of humanity!
Are we alone in the cosmos?
We were selected from a field of many applicants, and I’m the first Meteorologist working for a local TV station to ever make it. Two years ago I visited the High Arctic (on my own dime and it wasn’t cheap). They say it gets in your blood. I think it does.
So in early January, I will fly from Christchurch New Zealand and land at the bottom of the world. Best of all, I am going to take you along with pictures and video and any other way I can think of. (Yes, they have internet down there.)
Most of all I want young people to realize that science is not sitting in a room reading a book! It’s about discovery. Dale Andersen knows that. I’ve been trading some email with him from the Dry Valley in Antarctica. He is one of the people I want to tell you about.
I cannot wait to get back to the great white quiet. The polar regions are special places. They are unlike anywhere else on Earth, and this time I am going to stand at the very bottom of the world.
Oh, and yes my wife does indeed think I am crazy.
Looks like an awesome opportunity and a great learning experience. You going to spend any time in Chile?
A big “congrats”, Dan… I could hear the excitement in your voice the whole time I was reading. Looking forward to your journal of the trip.
Congratulations. Couldn’t have happened to a better guy. We’re really looking forward to your reports about all the discoveries and science going on down there. I’m going to check the link to Dale Andersen you provided – the dry valley is intriguing.
Thanks! I have a busy 5 weeks ahead. I need to get into better shape!
Hey, a quick suggestion — take along of those little handheld infrared thermometers, as described here:
The kind of thing anyone can buy nowadays. They link to the one they use, and that source page lists others. Won’t work outdoors (too cold) but otherwise likely interesting.
I can hear my wife now- “You want to buy ANOTHER thermometer!”