Archive for March, 2008

Welcome WCATY Scholars

Saturday, March 29th, 2008

A special welcome to all scholars from WCATY visiting this web site. I am excited to work with WCATY again this year.

Welcome, WCATY Scholars!

As your meeting with some of the IceCube scientists draws nearer, you might be wondering why some of us have chosen to spend a year (or more) at the South Pole, of all places. (more…)

Ping Pong Easter

Friday, March 28th, 2008

Over the years Easter has been celebrated, or not, very differently at the South Pole. One year we had a Tyvek suit bunny hiding eggs, followed by an elaborate egg hunt. We wound up finding rotten eggs months, even years, later. In another year we had a failed attempt to dye eggs by a certain individual with the excuse that “Mom never told me that you have to use hot water”. OK, the eggs being oiled doesn’t help either. Some of us walked around with red and blue fingers for a few days. Well, and in other years we just ignored Easter or forgot about it. It’s not a day off down here.

Sunset Panorama

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

I had to fight with some technical difficulties to crank this one out. The general lack of features in the South Pole landscape makes it next to impossible for any panoramic software to find enough control points to automatically stitch the images together. Manual intervention takes time and thus this panorama didn’t make it into the sunset post.

You’ll be able to take a 360° look around from a spot close to the Geographical Pole.

Please click on the image below to view the panorama:
Click on the image to view the panorama
Temperature: -60.7°C / -77.3°F, Windchill: -82.0°C / -115.5°F, Wind: E (80.0°) at 11.0 knt
Date: 2008-03-19 13:27:17 NZDT


Monday, March 24th, 2008

Sunset at the South Pole has come and gone. We had some nice patches of weather leading up to the sunset, which is a moving target down here.

Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station Last Glimpse of the Sun through the Pole Marker Dozing into the Sunset
Click on an image to launch the gallery (7 pictures)


South Pole Snow Puff Balls Are Yukimarimos

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

Other people have noticed the snow puff balls, mentioned in a post on March 15, too. Locally some people have called them cotton balls, weird snow and the starting alien invasion. South Pole meteorologist Lance dug up an article about the phenomenon in Nature.

Japanese researcher T. Kameda studied the snow balls at Dome Fuji station and published an article about them in the “Journal of Glaciology” in 1999, in which he coins the term “yukimarimo”.

New South Pole Station Aerial Panorama – West Side

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

Another full spherical panorama of the New South Pole Station. This one was taken from the West side. Directions at the South Pole are always in reference to the grid system. The 0 meridian is the North South axis, where North is in the direction of Greenwich.

Please click on the image below to view the panorama:
Click on the image to view the panorama
Temperature: 63.2°C / 145.8°F, Windchill: 71.2°C / 160.2°F, Wind: E (80.0°) at 4.0 knt
Date: 2008-03-15 01:33:06 NZDT

All the siding on this side has gone up last summer and the flag poles have been added. That staircase is also know as Destination Alpha. Why? I am not sure, maybe to distinguish it from Destination Zulu, but we don’t know either why that one is called Zulu.

New South Pole Station Aerial Panorama

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

Kicking off this year’s round of kite aerial photography is a spherical Panorama of the New Station.

Please click on the image below to view the panorama: Click on the image to view the panorama
Temperature: 63.2°C / 145.8°F, Windchill: 71.2°C / 160.2°F, Wind: E (80.0°) at 4.0 knt
Date: 2008-03-15 01:34:44 NZDT


South Pole Snow Puff Ball

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

Update: Mystery solved!

Today I noticed a large number of little snow puff balls outside. First I couldn’t figure out where they came from. After a while I did notice many of them just being blown across the ground like tumbleweed. It seems, that in calm conditions a light snow fuzz builds up on the surface. If this is followed by just the right amount of wind (currently around 10 knots) it just takes a small seed to start a puff ball, which will grow as it rolls across the Antarctic plateau.

The puff balls will gather in small depressions.
A small gathering of snow puff balls


Get the Thing from “The Thing”

Friday, March 7th, 2008
The Thing

It is a tradition to watch “The Thing” on the day the last plane leaves the South Pole. We watch both the original 1951 version and John Carpenter’s 1982 version. I find both of them pretty bad. Bad enough in fact to make watching them enjoyable, if only for the unintended comical moments.

The original version is actually set in the Arctic and there is a female on Station, quite remarkable for the 50s, considering that the Air Force fought tooth and nail to not let any females set foot on Antarctica for a long time. Only in 1969 did the first women arrive at the South Pole. The dialog is as corny as it gets and there are some hilarious quotes (Lt. Ken McPherson: “What if he can read our minds?”, Eddie: “He’ll be real mad when he gets to me.” or the last lines by Ned “Scotty” Scott: “Watch the skies, everywhere! Keep looking. Keep watching the skies!”).

John Carpenter’s version is just a gore fest which unsurprisingly tanked at the box office and didn’t win much favor with the critics in 1982, the same year E.T. was released. It now has a bit of a cult following, as these kind of movies do.

Now to the point of this post: All winter-overs and hardcore fans now have a chance to own The Thing. The original creature prop from the 1982 movie is up for auction on EBay. The bid is at $3549 and I think the Antarctic Program should buy The Thing out of the recreation budget. Imagine all the fun we could have for years to come …

The Sun is Winding Down at the South Pole

Thursday, March 6th, 2008

On my way out to DSL I noticed an interesting cloud formation. We don’t see clouds very often. So, this is always something nice to look at. The sun is already at a low elevation of 5.5°, which added a spectacular light effect. I decided to go back inside and get my tripod and digital SLR camera. I spent half an hour to take a number of shots, which I processed into high dynamic range images.
Dark Sector with MAPO and DSL