Archive for October, 2007

Mass Exodus

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007
Inspecting that shiny new medal.

Last Sunday we had the traditional winter-over ceremony. Nice things were being said and we got our Antarctica Service Medals. They have been awarded in one form or another since 1945 and the first recipient was Admiral Richard E. Byrd. In 1960 its current form was introduced:

The ribbon of the Antarctica Service Medal is elaborate in its symbology. The outer bands of black and dark blue comprise five-twelfths of the ribbon’s width, representing five months of antarctic darkness; the center portion, by its size and colors – grading from medium blue through light blue and pale blue to white – symbolizes seven months of solar illumination, and also the aurora Australis.

Although the former rigors and dangers of antarctic exploration have largely been banished by technology, the words on the reverse of this medal are yet a wise injunction to those who go to the Antarctic:


(Antarctic Journal of the United States, November-December 1968, pages 241-244)

South Pole From The Air II

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

Following yesterday’s post, here is part two of our aerial photography mission.

This set of images takes a closer look at the Dark Sector, where all the telescopes are located. There is SPT, which just had its first successful season, BICEP, which will go into its third and last season, and QUAD, which will finish its last season in a few weeks. The AST/RO telescope was decommissioned at the end of 2005, but the building is still around. The ground shield of the decommissioned VIPER telescope can also be seen. Since all of the IceCube detectors are in the ice, the only things that can be seen is the building housing the readout electronics (ICL) and some of the drillcamp buildings, already positioned for the upcoming season.

South Pole From The Air

Saturday, October 27th, 2007

The NSF schedules aerial photography missions at the beginning and end of the Summer season. The pictures are a valuable planning tool and make for a great historical record. This time it was my turn to go up. A great belated birthday present. I have dabbled in kite aerial photography before, but this seems to be a much simpler approach :-)


South Pole Dome Aerial Panorama

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

Another panorama from the September 30 outing. This one shows The Dome, the most famous South Pole landmark. You will notice the heavy snow drifts around it. The drifts are one of the reasons why it has become impractical to maintain the structure and a new station was built instead.

Please click on the image below to view the panorama:
Click on the image to view the panorama
Temperature: -64.0°C / -83.2°F, Windchill: -83.2°C / -117.7°F, Wind: ENE (70.0°) at 8.0 knt
Date: 2007-09-30 22:29:20 NZDT

In unrelated news, today’s Basler passenger flight to the South Pole has been canceled for weather. The invasion has come to a crawling halt :-)

Current South Pole Weather Page

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

Looks like the little weather display I added to the sidebar a few weeks ago has become quite popular and I have gotten a number of emails about it.

I am proud to present the new and improved version. If you are too impatient to wait for the data to scroll by, you can go straight to the weather page and get all the info in one place. I also added the current Antarctica satellite image and the NOAA webcam to the page.

You’ll get to the weather page by either clicking on the weather scroll on the right or by clicking the link in the Page menu on the right.

My First Banana

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007
My first banana.

After delays, caused by bad weather here or in McMurdo, we got the third Basler flight in today. The exiting part was the precious cargo of several boxes of fresh bananas. Just at the end of the dinner service they were put out for the winter-overs. This caused a wild banana frenzy, but luckily we had enough for everyone. Nobody got hurt. I felt a bit like famous Gabi from the late 80s.

South Pole is Open for Business

Friday, October 19th, 2007

Yesterday the weather looked favorable here and in McMurdo and it was decided that the Basler would bring in the first 15 summer workers. After takeoff the visibility at the Pole decreased below the required minimum and it looked like the flight could wind up as a boomerang. Luck was on our side and shortly before the landing the visibility improved once again and the Basler could land save and sound.

Summer Folks Arrive: South Pole Is Open For Business
The welcome committee awaiting the Basler. Parking hte Basler The Basler parked in the fuel pit.
Click on an image to launch the gallery (8 pictures)

It was great to see some old friends returning and sad two see two of our fellow winter-overs leave on the same plane. Both had decided to leave on the first flight due to family reasons.

With only 15 people arriving, instead of the usual Herc load of more than 50, it was a pretty mellow affair and we had a good time chatting with old friends and enjoying the fresh fruit and vegetables that came with them.

First order of business was getting a flu shot. There is already a flu outbreak in McMurdo and we have only shots for one of the two strains that are going around. Due to our travel patterns we always have to deal with both the Northern and Southern hemisphere strains. Having immunization for one strain is better than none and who wants to get sick after getting out of here?

Bad Weather Delay

Wednesday, October 17th, 2007

After the Twin Otter arrived the wind picked up again and with it the visibility went down. They haven’t been able to leave and the Basler has yet to come back with the Summer folks.

Sven and Claire replace some of the skiway flags.

What do you do in such a case? The Twin Otter pilots helped out in the galley and the rest of the Station just has a little extra time for opening preparations. On my way back from work I ran into Sven and Claire, who were fixing some of the ski way flags.

First New Faces after Eight Months

Monday, October 15th, 2007

Yesterday, at 3:20pm, almost eight months after the last airplane left, the Kenn Borek operated Basler touched down at the South Pole, followed two hours later by a Twin Otter. They made the long trip from Canada, all the way down the Americas to Punta Arenas, at the Southern Tip of Chile. From there on to Rothera Station, on the Antarctic peninsula, before continuing to the South Pole.

First Flights of the Season
The Basler touches down at the South Pole The Basler parked for refueling. Moving on to McMurdo.
Click on an image to launch the gallery (4 pictures)

The Twin Otter stayed over night, but the Basler was on the ground only long enough to refuel and to give us some fruit and vegetables the crew brought from Punta Arenas. These Canadians are always so nice.

Geographic South Pole Panorama on a Windy Day

Friday, October 12th, 2007

Right now we have the typical spring storms blowing through. They bring 20 – 30 knot winds and warmer temperatures. It has to get worse before it gets better.

Two days ago I stopped at the Pole on my way to work. I thought I should try to take some shots for a panorama in these conditions. I knew it would be challenging to stitch the pictures together, since everything around is pretty much white. Sure enough, I had to go through a mostly manual process and the result is not perfect, but I think it is good enough to post it here.

Conditions can get a lot worse than this. Sometimes the visibility is down to a few meters. A panorama in whiteout conditions like that would just look like the inside of a ping pong ball.

Please click on the image below to view the panorama: Click on the image to view the panorama
Temperature: -46.5°C / -51.7°F, Windchill: -68.9°C / -91.9°F, Wind: NNE (13.0°) at 20.0 knt
Date: 2007-10-10 14:03:43 NZDT