University of Wisconsin-Madison

Meet our 2019-2020 winterovers: Yuya and John

Life in Antarctica may sound exciting—and it surely is—but it isn’t all pretty auroras and stargazing. Winters, especially at the South Pole, are brutal: constant night, separation from the rest of civilization, and some of the coldest temperatures on Earth. And our winterovers endure it all in order to keep the IceCube detector operating smoothly throughout the year.

The term “winterover” refers to the people who stay in Antarctica over the winter season. At the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, run by the National Science Foundation, about 50 people winter over every year. The crew includes cooks, medics, support staff, and scientists—including two people there just for the IceCube Neutrino Observatory.

From November 2019 to November 2020, IceCube’s winterovers will be Yuya Makino and John Hardin. They have spent the past week on a transcontinental journey, starting at an NSF training facility in Denver, Colorado, USA. They are now in Christchurch, New Zealand (where they received their extreme weather gear), scheduled to fly down to McMurdo Station, Antarctica, on November 7 at 11:00 am New Zealand Daylight Time. From McMurdo, they will fly to the South Pole station—their new home for the next year.

For their first few months, it will be summer in Antarctica, so Yuya and John will be helping the summer crew with various jobs around the station. In addition to maintenance of the IceCube detector, they will be helping with preparations for the IceCube Upgrade to ensure successful installation of more light sensors in the 2022-23 season. When the Antarctic summer ends in February 2020, the summer crew will return to their homes in the rest of the world—and Yuya and John will be left at the South Pole with the rest of the winterovers. We’ll receive reports from them every week and post their updates here, so stay tuned!

(Have you ever wanted to do science at the bottom of the world? Think you have what it takes to be a winterover for the 2020-2021 season? Applications for our next winterover positions are now open! Apply by January 31, 2020.)

John Hardin (left) and Yuya Makino (right) gear up in Christchurch, New Zealand, before flying down to McMurdo Station in Antarctica. Photo courtesy of Yuya Makino
John Hardin (left) and Yuya Makino (right) gear up in Christchurch, New Zealand, before flying down to McMurdo Station in Antarctica. Photo courtesy of Yuya Makino

Here are some quick facts about the newest members of our South Pole squad.

Yuya Makino

Hometown: Takayama, Japan

Job and institution before this one: Postdoc at Chiba University in Chiba, Japan

How many continents have you been to (not counting Antarctica)? 3

Why did you apply for this opportunity? It has been a long-time dream to get this position.

What do you expect life to be like at the Pole? So many stars, nice people, exciting jobs.

What are you most looking forward to doing at the South Pole? Seeing the Milky Way.

Least looking forward to? Experiencing a power outage.

What do you think you will miss the most about life up north? Netflix.

Any hobbies that you hope to hone while at the Pole? I really want to learn about photography. And John is going to teach me how to play chess.

John Hardin

Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri, USA

Job and institution before this one: Postdoc on the KamLAND-ZEN experiment at MIT

How many continents have you been to (not counting Antarctica)? 3

Why did you apply for this opportunity? It’s an adventure I can have and still be a physicist.

What do you expect life to be like at the Pole? Cold. And also a lot of fun.

What are you most looking forward to doing at the South Pole? I’m most looking forward to getting some good pictures of the night sky in pure dark.

Least looking forward to? Getting woken up in the middle of the night by the detector.

What do you think you will miss the most about life up north? Dogs.

Any hobbies that you hope to hone while at the Pole? I’m bringing quite a few programming projects down with me, and I’m hoping to get one, maybe two of them done.

Check out photos from previous years’ winterovers in our galleries and in Week at the Pole posts.

Installing equipment at the South Pole in December of 2018. Photo: Benjamin Eberhardt, IceCube/NSF
Installing equipment at the South Pole in December of 2018. Photo: Benjamin Eberhardt, IceCube/NSF
Benjamin Eberhardt, an IceCube winterover for 2018-19, cleaning up the flight deck at the South Pole in February of 2019. Photo: Kathrin Mallot, IceCube/NSF
Benjamin Eberhardt, an IceCube winterover for 2018-19, cleaning up the flight deck at the South Pole in February of 2019. Photo: Kathrin Mallot, IceCube/NSF
If you are sent to the South Pole to work for IceCube, expect to do lots of digging! Photo: Lu Lu, IceCube/NSF
If you are sent to the South Pole to work for IceCube, expect to do lots of digging! Photo: Lu Lu, IceCube/NSF