- So, I think Caitlin and I are being hazed for some reason.
They got us cleaning the snowmobiles with a screwdriver.
- I can't really feel my hands.
(gentle music) We are in Antarctica.
And this is not what we expected.
(gentle music) - [Arlo] It's a strange place that's both familiar.
(gentle music) - [Caitlin] And completely alien.
You can sleep.
But it's never dark.
- [Arlo] You can instant message if you know how to use a pager.
- [Caitlin] You can't grow food.
But you can call for a pizza.
- So pineapple on half, anchovies on the other half.
- [Arlo] That's right, 24/7 pizza.
Here in the world's most remote natural laboratory.
(dramatic instrumental music) - [Caitlin] Home to penguins and seals.
- [Arlo] A weird glacier that seems to spew blood.
- [Caitlin] And a fiery active volcano all of which we plan to see.
(dramatic instrumental music) But right now, I'm stuck under a snowmobile.
Wondering how I ended up here.
With this impossibly upbeat guy.
(gentle music) Normally, I'm no where near here.
I'm here as a science documentary producer for Nova.
- [Narrator] What powerful forces drove the poles to such extremes.
- [Caitlin] We're working on an epic special called Polar Extremes.
About the climate history of our planet's poles.
- [Narrator] Find out the true power of ice.
This is amazing out here.
- [Caitlin] It got us wondering how does scientists work all this stuff out?
What does it take to live and work in these crazy remote regions?
(helicopter whirling) Well, there's only one way to find out.
Arlo, we're going to Antarctica.
(upbeat music) Well, let's go.
(upbeat music) I make web pages for Nova and this is my first field assignment.
Follow the trail of scientists to the most remote place on Earth and stay there for a month.
(upbeat music) First off, New Zealand.
Where everyone hitting the south as you can sail gears up for the cold.
(upbeat rhythmic music) - [Caitlin] It has got to be the biggest winter closet in the world.
Stuffed with polar gear, lent out to people like us heading to Antarctica.
(upbeat rhythmic music) - They're probably right at minus 40, minus 50.
- [Arlo] 50 below?
I am not built for that.
Living 16 years in Mexico doesn't really give you an experience with snow.
- [Caitlin] Getting this gear is a right of passage for traveling to Antarctica.
- [Arlo] Giant red parka.
- [Caitlin] Check.
- [Arlo] Clown boots.
- [Caitlin] Check.
That's what this is for?
- [Arlo] Snug wiper gloves.
- [Caitlin] Check and check (laughing).
- [Arlo] Bring on the white stuff.
(rhythmic music) There are no commercial flights where we're going.
So we get to fly in this.
A U.S. Air Force C17.
(dramatic music) Operation Deep Freeze provides transport to the continent for the U.S. Antarctic Program.
(dramatic music) It's much more than just a flight.
It's the portal to another realm.
- They just told us to turn off our electronic devices.
- We're about to go back in time to the 1990s.
(man speaking over intercom) - [Caitlin] Everyone going to the ice bundles up in the cargo hold.
There are no windows so the only view is this curious looking polar equipment.
But when we head up to the cockpit, we catch our first glimpse of Antarctica.
(dramatic music) Patchy sea ice gives way to desolate snow covered mountains.
(dramatic music) - [Arlo] Soon, we land on what feels like another planet.
As the C17 doors open, colder air blasts in.
You can actually see it.
We step out onto the ice and in the distance, there are these monstrous vehicles.
(wind gushing) - [Caitlin] To me, it's a scene straight out of Star Wars.
Like I've just stepped onto Hoth (Star Wars theme) We've arrived.
(Star Wars theme) And it is truly awesome.
(gentle music) - [Elaine] Okay everyone has to have seat belts on.
- [Arlo] We are met by Elaine Hood.
- Speed limit is 15 miles an hour.
- [Arlo] She takes to a top of a hill overlooking our new home.
McMurdo Station, the U.S. Antarctic Program's base of operations.
- The station was built originally in 1955, '56 by the U.S. Navy.
It's the southernmost point on the face of the Earth that you can sail a ship.
But right now, this flat white that you're looking at is the annual sea ice.
- [Caitlin] Elaine is more than just our tour guide.
- Follow the umbrella.
- [Caitlin] She's basically our Antarctic mom.
She makes sure that we wear our gloves and hats.
- And we know where our pencils and our panties are.
Elaine shows us the ropes.
- [Elaine] Use your hands.
- [Arlo] And helps us start to understand our new world.
- That's what I do.
- [Arlo] She tells us McMurdo is kind of a hopping off point for expeditions into the deep field.
- [Caitlin] We are so excited to get out there and explore some of the wildest parts of Antarctica with scientists but we can't.
For now, we're stuck in this bizarre outpost.
- It's got like this post-apocalyptic vibe going on for it.
It feels like you're in another world.
- [Caitlin] McMurdo has 105 buildings with about 900 people in the summer.
(ambient music) Just like the scientists, we're given a lab space to set up shop.
And like everyone who arrives here for the first time, before we can do what we came here to do, we've got to learn how to live down here.
♪ You're as cold as ice ♪ - [Arlo] And it is a strange place to live.
♪ To sacrifice our love ♪ - It's kind of like college.
We have dorms, we have roommates.
It kind of looks just like college.
- [Arlo] But the kind of classes that we are taking are Snowmobiles 101.
- Who's never ridden a snowmobile before?
- [Arlo] And Intro to Not Falling Down an Ice Crack.
- What's gonna happen when the crack starts moving underneath the snow?
- [Caitlin] Even though a lot of this is pretty cool, the reality of just how extreme this environment is starts to sink in.
Have you ever had to rescue anyone who's screwed up with their GPS?
- Yeah, we've had to go get people that use the GPS inappropriately and got themselves in a situation where they got lost and there's also been people that've been lost in Whitehouse and basically died of exposure.
It is a harsh continent.
(somber music) - It's a little windy today.
It really hits us.
There are a lot of ways we can die down here.
(somber music) - The weather can turn in a matter of minutes.
The full blizzard, windchill factor to you know, negative 50 degrees and you can get frostbite super easy.
- [Caitlin] While in college, it felt like my life depended on doing well in class, now it actually does.
The lives of others do too.
- [Arlo] And it's easy to forget even the simple things.
- Mad Dog 2F four vehicles and our ETA is 1600 hours.
- [Voice On Handset] Copy that.
(somber music) - [Caitlin] When I first got down here, I felt like I was on top of the world but now it starts to feel a bit more like the bottom of the world.
(dramatic music) - [Arlo] Nothing seems to be going for us.
Training and bad weather have kept us stuck near the station and we can't even claim the continent for Nova because the one time we want that biting wind to blow, it doesn't.
It's the saddest Nova flag possible.
- [Caitlin] We've been in Antarctica for a week.
The sun has never set.
But the time we have here is slipping away.
I'm exhausted, disoriented, and I feel like we're just stuck in a closet checking camera gear.
Home is a world away and we're just a small team of three.
We haven't filmed a single scientific sequence.
(dramatic music) I'm starting to think I'm not sure I can do this.
(somber music) But then I realize, this feeling is totally normal.
- When I got here, I felt it's miserable in the most inspiring way.
Being away from your family, working on really hard stuff that no one's ever tried to do before.
It was the hardest thing I'd ever done in the most beautiful place I could imagine.
- [Arlo] We are surrounded by some of the most remarkable people who have all gone through this.
- It's really challenging to do stuff down here and because of that there's still a lot of unexplored things and unanswered questions and that's really cool.
So it is really a frontier down here.
- [Caitlin] We came here to join them at this frontier as they conduct ground breaking research.
- [Paul] Sky temp can see hundreds of meters into the ground.
- [Arlo] We will soar through majestic valleys that scientists use as an analog for other planets.
- [Britney] Perhaps it's like a deep ground water system that might exist on Mars.
- [Caitlin] We'll plunge to the depths of the icy ocean with a robot that means to help figure out how fast sea level will rise.
- [Britney] It's incredibly unstable.
The grounding line is rapidly retreating.
- [Arlo] We'll meet baby seals and learn how they survive in this harsh environment.
- [Paul] They're under the ice that we're standing on right now.
- [Arlo] And investigate a mysterious glacier in a part of Antarctica that isn't covered in ice.
- [Peter] Blood Falls is a bit of an obsession for a lot of people.
- [Caitlin] We'll fly to the top of an active volcano to get a glimpse of what our planet was like hundreds of millions of years ago.
(gentle music) My snot is freezing.
- And so is your hair.
- [Arlo] We brought a 360 camera along.
So when we meet the penguins, you will too.
(dramatic music) - [Caitlin] We will plant that Nova flag.
(dramatic music) - [Arlo] And we'll meet the people who make the science possible.
- There's this really tight knit community.
It's kind of like a weird cold, icy family.
I still get excited every time coming down and I get excited bringing new people here and exposing them to experience and watching through their eyes what it's like because it really is an amazing experience.
- [Caitlin] We aren't simply following the trail of scientists, we're in their shoes.
Which means we have got to get these snowmobiles out.
I brought some extra batteries and spoons.
- [Arlo] I'll take a spoon.
(upbeat music) (snowmobile motor roars) Antarctica, here we come.
(upbeat music) - All righty, you want to build a tent?
- Let's build a tent.
- [Caitlin] Have you built a tent before?
- When I was like eight.
(upbeat jazz music) - All right, there's instructions.
- I honestly can't remember the last time I read an instruction manual.
- Okay, welcome to your new tent.
Choose a tent site.
- [Arlo] We'll figure it out as we go, how's that?
- A very guy way to pitch a tent.
(upbeat jazz music) - I have no idea what I'm doing.
- I know you have no idea what you're doing.
Clip the hooks.
- Oh, hmmm.
(upbeat jazz music)