Hello World!

My name is Danielle and I’ve put together this blog to chronicle my adventures at the South Pole.

In 2021 I wintered-over at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station as a Research Associate (a record of those adventures can be found under ‘Winter 21’). I had an absolutely fantastic year and now, in November of 2023, I will be returning to the South Pole as one of the BICEP winter-over scientists! Below you will find a record of this newest adventure under ‘Winter 24’. I also have a page dedicated to general Antarctica/South Pole information found under ‘Codex’.

I do hope you enjoy following along!

If you would like to receive an email when I add new posts please let me know at danielle@wildantarctic.com.

Or follow on Instagram @wildantarctic

Leaving On a Jet Plane

Well, I suppose it was actually 3 jet planes but who’s counting :p

In all seriousness though, it’s so wild that after months of planning, packing, and goodbyes, I am on my way. My flights to Christchurch, New Zealand were generally uneventful; I even managed to get a reasonable amount of sleep on the long-haul flight over the Pacific. I’m scheduled to be here for a few days, sorting out gear issue and various other trainings (and visiting as many local coffee shops as I can!).

So much of the process is weird to me, mostly because I feel that I’ve done it before, just not quite like this. Last time I deployed, because of the managed quarantine, all of my ECW (Extreme Cold Weather) gear was delivered to my hotel for me to try on and sort out if I needed new sizes. This time everything is back to the ‘normal’ procedure of going to the CDC (Clothing Distribution Center) at the International Antarctic Centre. Last time, we were always shuttled around together in a rather large cohort. This time I think there will be less than 20 people on my flight and we are mostly responsible for getting ourselves around. None of these are difficult changes but it’s odd to have heard that this was normal and now experience it.

If all goes to plan, I won’t be here that long, so I’m doing my best to enjoy the relative calm while it lasts!

I Survived the Elk Rut

After fire brigade training, we bundled ourselves up and flew together to Colorado where we met up with another quarter of our future crew who had been completing basic EMT training. Since I had been on the fire team last time I wintered, I considered asking to join the medical team this go around, but ultimately I decided that I’m just a bit too squeamish and I’d rather run into a burning building than take someone’s blood. The medical team had completed their training in Denver so they collected us at the airport and the 21 of us drove out to Estes Park for 3 days of teambuilding.

I suppose it speaks to the engagement of the sessions that I don’t really have many pictures. I took some after the fact, but not actually during many of the activities. Except, of course, for the cardboard boat building challenge. Yes, that is correct, we were tasked to build boats that were each capable of transporting a real person across real water using little more than cardboard, duct tape, and plastic sheets.

And so, we built many boats.

Some proved pool-worthy.

Some did not.

And some became motor boats.

At the end of the three days, we hadn’t completed any trust falls or kumbaya group hugs, but we had completed many activities focused on effective communication, planning, and self-awareness. While I had done some of these things before my last winter, hearing them again after having wintered put them in a different perspective. And it also almost goes without saying but being able to do these kinds of teambuildings in person felt so much more impactful than doing them online had. It was so much fun getting to know my future winterovers and bonding over our successes and frustrations. I think we are going to have a really great crew, and I can’t wait!

What? You don’t have hose lines!?

Last time I deployed, I completed fire brigade training in McMurdo (see post here). Since we were being trained in an active fire station and not a training facility and because of other, Antarctica related, restrictions, we focused on learning 2-minute drills and search procedures. So, this time around, I was very excited to go to an official fire school and get to practice with, well, fire.

Myself and several other members of the 2024 winterover crew met in Jacksonville for a week of learning about how fire behaves and how to put it out. The instructors were great and really embraced trying to teach us skills and techniques that would be applicable for us at the South Pole where there isn’t really any water with which to put out fires (though they kind of thought that we’re crazy).

The week culminated with us putting on our bunker gear and watching an incipient flame grow into a roaring fire. Many of the search techniques I’d learned before made much more sense after seeing the heat and smoke layers slowly descend from the ceiling (it’s really obvious when you can/can’t see and when you don’t want to be standing up!).

And, of course, the week would not have been complete without an appropriately epic group photo :p

Since I’ve Been Gone

Before embarking on my new adventure, I wanted to first briefly sum up the time between my last post (in September 2021) and now. My last winter wrapped up quickly and (relatively) uneventfully. I helped make a movie, had a phone call with the North Pole, ran to Mordor, celebrated the return of the sun, and so much more. It all went by in such a blur; it’s crazy to think about everything that happened those last few months.

Then, before I knew it, the 2021 summer crew had arrived and was settling in. I spent the next month or so training the new RAs who would be taking over my responsibilities, helping build and design the 2021 Winterover group photo and frame, and slowly watching the majority of the people I had spent the last 9 months with board planes and fly away. Until, on November 29, it was my turn to board a plane and watch my home disappear into the Antarctic plateau.

Photo courtesy of Martin Wolf

I was very fortunate to spend about a month traveling around (a mostly deserted) New Zealand. While I was very excited to feel rain and go swimming, I was not prepared for how sensitive my skin had become after not being exposed to the sun for a year. I promptly got sunburned all over (even the backs of my hands! I don’t think the backs of my hands have ever been sunburned before). After much hiking, camping, wine tasting, alpaca feeding, and driving, I headed back to Florida.

Photos courtesy of Josh Veitch-Michaelis

I started a new job in Disney’s marketing analytics group. Growing up in Florida, Disney had always been a part of my life and I wanted to give a more traditional job a try. But after about a year I could feel the ice calling me back.

And that (mostly) brings us to now. I will be deploying in November as one of two winterovers for the BICEP experiment (one of the telescopes at Pole). I still have a lot to do to get ready but I can’t wait!

Contact Me!

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact me at danielle@wildantarctic.com 

Some Legal Stuff

This website, www.wildantarctic.com, and all content that is provided under this domain, are private and not intended for any commercial use.

I do not claim any content to be accurate information rather than a product of my imagination or a reproduction of personal memories. The views and opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone.

All contents, including texts and images, are (if not stated otherwise) created by myself and are subject to copyright. If you want to use my texts or images for your non-commercial purposes, feel free to contact me at danielle@wildantarctic.com .

I expressly dissociate myself from all contents of external links on this website. I do not have any influence on those contents.