Logan, UTAH (ABC 4 News) – A Utah State University graduate student took a 60-hour flight to collect data atop 9,000 feet of ice at the South Pole. Ben Lomond High School graduate, Jonathan Pugmire, is back home safe with quite a story to tell.
The 27-year-old physics student flew to Antarctica as part of a USU team. They took off January 11th.
“It was crazy bright outside. It was windy and freezing cold,” said Pugmire.
They made the journey to check on equipment and collect four years of data on gravity waves in the Earth’s Mesosphere.
“So, it's like the waves we're watching are like ripples when you throw a rock in a pond,” said Pugmire.
The Mesosphere is about 20 to 50 miles above the Earth’s surface. This data will give insights on how gravity waves in the Mesosphere work together with other layers of our atmosphere to create massive storms like tsunamis.
“So, from that we can figure out where the waves came from, what caused them and stuff like that,” said Pugmire.
The data will take years to sift through and connect.
Pugmire and his team were gone for about three weeks. Their first stop was McMurdo Station where temperatures were in the 20s. At that time it was actually sunnier and warmer than it was in Logan. After a few days, the team boarded another plane and flew three hours to their final destination, the South Pole where wind chills reached -50 degrees.
“It would take away your breath and freeze the inside of your nose and mouth.”
Pugmire did have some down time when he could explore the compound and did make it outside quite a bit. He even made some new friends.
“And so a whole bunch of penguins were swimming in the water and then a bunch of them came out and walked and they were exploring … wanted to see what we were and came over by us, something like ten feet. They're way cool,” said Pugmire.
Pugmire said provisions at the base are stockpiled and stored outside. There is no fresh food like eggs and produce. All consumable are frozen or non-perishable. He was only allowed to take two-minute showers to preserve water. He says now that he’s back at home he appreciates those simple things in life much more.
Despite the long journey, frigid temperatures, missing his family and lack of modern day conveniences, Pugmire hopes to do it all again someday.