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Iowa Doctor Heads to Antarctica, Maintains Hawkeye Loyalty

(Ross Island, NZ) -- Gary Dolphin and Ed Podolak might have listeners from around the country on the Hawkeye Sports Network, but one listener is almost out of this world. Dr. Jon Ahrendsen, an Iowa physician and Iowa Hawkeye season ticket holder, has been stationed since August at McMurdo Station, a research station in Antarctica.

Though very far away, Ahrendsen, from Clarion, isn't missing out on listening to Hawkeye games. He's been able to stream the games online, thanks to a recently installed Starlink Wi-Fi system that enables use of cell phones and Internet for those residing at McMurdo.

"There's an app, I actually got the link from WHO, called the varsity network, Aherndsen says, "I've been able to listen to the audio stream for every game so far."

Besides listening to the Hawkeyes, Ahrendsen is experiencing life in a vastly different environment from what he is used to. "I wouldn't say it's hard at all. There's a galley that give us three diverse meals every day," he says. Ahrendsen and his staff work six days a week at the station.

Temperatures often get dangerously cold on Ross Island, but during the summer season (October to February), temps can reach above freezing. "The all time record high for McMurdo is [something] like forty eight degrees," Ahrendsen says, "so we get warmer here on the coast, we're 900 miles north of the South Pole, it always stays really cold there."

Though it is located on territory claimed by New Zealand, the McMurdo station is the largest of three U.S. Antarctic research stations, according to the National Science Foundation. During winter months (March to October) about 140 researchers are stationed at the site. Many more arrive for summer, with about 1000 coming to research while the weather moderates.

During this most recent slow winter season, researchers have been working with laser imaging, detection, and ranging (LIDAR), measuring material in the upper atmosphere, 50-75 miles high.

"This is the chance of a lifetime," Ahrendsen says, "I learned about it because I did a trek to Everest Base Camp in 2016 with a doctor who was telling us he was going to come winter at Palmer Station. I stayed in contact him. I thought this was a great opportunity to utilize my medical skills in a different environment."

As a contractor with the University of Texas Medical Branch out of Galveston, Dr. Ahrendsen will serve at McMurdo Station until February.

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