Approaching Antarctica

I have been planning my trip to Antarctica for many years. I first applied to the Australian Antarctic Arts Fellowship in early 2013 - unsuccessfully. Then I applied to the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers Fellowship in 2014 - unsuccessfully, but with some encouraging comments from the evaluators. I reworked my project and reached out to several potential collaborators all of whom were enthusiastic to work with me. Thanks to their input, my 2015 application to the NSF program met with success. But once again there were delays, the population at South Pole is incredibly limited with only 150 beds and in the Austral Summer of 2015/16 there were plans to rebuild the optics of the South Pole Telescope (https://pole.uchicago.edu/public/) which is a huge task - consequently there wasn’t going to be room for me at the Pole. So the NSF suggested I come this year. As it turns out the rebuild was postponed a year and the population at Pole is crammed again, but I’m heading down anyway! Thankfully.

So I’ve had a long time to ponder what interests me about Antarctica and what I want to focus on in my own work there. The early exploration, isolation and isotropic nature of the Antarctic continent are fascinating to all who ponder the Antarctic; particularly to all who plan to go there. I’ve written about these aspects here - www.donaldfortescue.com/the-polheim-amarker-of-absence. And I will talk more about noise, signal and transduction and other concepts that I’ve been exploring in connection with my own ‘instrument’ and the astrophysics conducted at the Pole in later posts.

The excitement of being on my way south has been hard to contain. On top of the work I hope to create through my visit to Antarctica and ongoing collaborations, I’ve wanted to follow in the footsteps on Amundsen since I was a kid! My first ever “academic award” at the age of 12 was a biography of Roald Amundsen! This excitement has been coupled with an almost constant state of anxiety regarding all my preparations - will the wood in my instrument handle the extreme dryness, will the strings resonate properly, will the bearings seize up, will the sun be strong enough for the heliograph to work, will the rosen on the wheel be too stiff at -30ºC, will my batteries last for the time-lapses I hope to make, will I be able to handle the temperatures physically, ….

You get the picture!

I’ve been on edge for almost two years! Finally, being on my way, has been an immense relief. Though like all expectations it seems that the long awaited goal keeps slipping out of my grasp…..

 

I will take this moment to thank my sponsors and collaborators for their support, encouragement and input. I will talk about each of them in more detail in future posts.

• The Exploratorium in San Francisco (http://www.exploratorium.edu),

• The Center for Art and Environment at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno (http://www.nevadaart.org/ae),

• The IceCube Neutrino Project (http://icecube.wisc.edu), headquartered in Madison Wisconsin, and

• And of course my two academic home bases CCA (www.cca.edu) and the School of Art at the Australian National University (http://soa.anu.edu.au) both of which provided grants to support this project.

  Approaching Antarctica  - video still

Approaching Antarctica - video still