Archive for February, 2008

First Zero Emission Antarctic Station

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

On the occasion of the International Polar Year 2007-2008 the Belgian government commissioned the International Polar Foundation to build a new Antarctic research station. One of the co-founders and a driving force behind this project is explorer, civil engineer, entrepreneur, carpenter, mountain guide, and good-will Ambassador for UNICEF Alain Hubert.

In 1997/98 Alain crossed the Antarctic continent, with Dixie Dansercoer, covering 3924 km in 99 days in autonomy. I remember the two of them well. It was my first season on the Ice and these two were the smelliest but nicest people I ever met. After crossing Antarctica, one of them almost broke his neck on one of the rickety chairs in our computer lab. Unknowingly to Alain we later collaborated on a construction project. I finished the bathroom he started to build at a friends place in Maine.

Now he has put his tremendous energy behind this project. The station is designed for a population of 16 and thus on a much smaller scale than the new South Pole station. If everything goes according to plan the “Princess Elisabeth” station will be the first zero emission Antarctic station, using only solar and wind power.

Not only that, but she is also beautiful. Alain’s background as a carpenter certainly comes through. Check out this video of the station while it was on display in Belgium.


Flag Lines

Monday, February 25th, 2008

Another step in preparing for the long dark winter is to install flag lines to all the outlying buildings. After Dana and I searched our schedules, it turned out, between him working days and me working nights, various cleaning activities, and his Station Science Leader activities, we had to do it Sunday morning.

We loaded up the sledge with flags and got going, taking turns between drilling holes in the compacted snow and distributing flags from the snow mobile.
A sledge full of flags


Mountains of Laundry

Sunday, February 24th, 2008

All the summer tourist have no choice but to leave their used sheets and blankets behind and it falls to the winter crew to do the laundry. Our washing machines have been going nonstop since Station closing and it has been a community project to get it all done. Every time you go by the laundry room you just toss a load in or fold some sheets and blankets. The washing machines are going nonstop

South Pole Trip Diary

Friday, February 22nd, 2008
The Economist

Even The Economist has now jumped onto the Climate Change bandwagon. As part of their global warming series they have published Michelangelo D’Agostino’s diary about a trip to the South Pole. He describe the experience rather accurately from a first-timers perspective. Michelangelo is graduate student for the IceCube project at Berkeley.

My favorite quote has to be this one:

FOR veteran “Polies”, a stopover at McMurdo Station … is like passing through Heathrow: an uncomfortable, often prolonged, but necessary evil.

Well said. It does have a nice coffee shop and you get a chance to meet some old friends, though.

So, hop on over and read the diary.

Brits Man-haul Sledges to the South Pole – Again!

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

Two guys over at Halley Station wanted to find out what it feels like to man-haul 140kg. They had a little 5km test run to see how that great British tradition of man-hauling is working out for them.

A few years back we did a similar experiment here at the South Pole on the anniversary of Cpt. Scott’s arrival. We took turns hauling a sledge, filled with uselessful items out of the recycling bin. It was hard work and we didn’t get anywhere near 5km. We basically just posed for pictures.

So hop on over an read their not too serious account. I’ll have a cup of hot cocoa waiting for you if you make it to the Pole.

South Pole Telescope in the News

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

The Oklahoman is running a piece on the South Pole Telescope (SPT) today (Feb 19 in the US) in their science section. They have a short video discussing the article:


Only 60 Of Us Left

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

Station closing came early this year. We were working out at DSL on the afternoon of the 13th when rumors started to make the rounds among the SPT crew that the Station would close early, due to poor weather approaching the Pole. One day can make a huge difference with the tight schedule at the South Pole and a mild panic set in among the beekers.

BICEP was in good shape. Cynthia and I just had to tighten a number of screws that had come lose on the telescope mount. We spent a few hours until 1 in the morning, doing a contortionist act around the telescope, before heading back to the Station for a quick celebration with some of the SPT folks.

Station Closing: Last Flight of the Season
This is goodbye for 9 months Fuelies in action A last wave to the gathered crowd before boarding skier 93.
Click on an image to launch the gallery (8 pictures)


Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

Life of Team BICEP is never dull. After fixing some issues after the latest power outage we were in a celebratory mood and paid the hardworking SPT gang a visit.

Team BICEP: Yuki, Cynthia, and I

All of us got really exited about using the “Men Lift” to go up to the receiver cabin.


The Eggman Cometh

Saturday, February 9th, 2008

Our winter supply of eggs arrived today. Are large crowd gathered at Destination Zulu to unload the eggs. Speculation abounds on the prospect of the eggs lasting for the whole winter. In my past five winters it has been hit and miss. I don’t eat two (or more) eggs for breakfast every day. So this doesn’t bother me much, but it does amaze me that we haven’t figured this one out after more than 50 years of running the South Pole Station. This year’s eggs come pre-oiled and thus we won’t have the usual egg oiling party.

Chef Michael is directing the egg traffic

Solar Eclipse

Friday, February 8th, 2008

Today we had a partial solar eclipse with 79.7% coverage. Not nearly as exiting the total eclipse I watched several years ago. It doesn’t get dark and there are no animals here that can go crazy. The most noticeable effect was a temperature drop of 5°C at the maximum.

I know the picture is not very exiting but I add it for completeness anyway.

Solar Eclipse

Yuki had great fun watching the eclipse through and with all kinds of implements. Shown here is the version with the proper eclipse goggles.

Yuki watching the eclipse

Update: The temperature didn’t drop quite 5°C. It went from -44.5 °C / -48.1 °F down to -47.8 °C / -54.0 °F.