South Pole News Archive

[I recheck the links now and then, but still they tend to disappear...sorry]

11 August 2022...I'm way behind on things here (blame bluegrass festivals) but I must share two obituaries of friends who left us in July 2022...Johan Booth, who wintered 20 times at Pole and Palmer (and once with me in 2008), and Billy-Ace Penguin Baker, who wintered 4x at McMurdo in the 60s and 70s and kept the Old Antarctic Explorers Association on track.

2022 Antarctic GamesThe big midwinter holiday is fast approaching...the solstice occurs at 2114 SP time on Tuesday 21 June 2022. In addition to the big dinner, the Polies are in the process of organizing the now-annual Polympics, as well as something new, as the IceCubers have proposed involving the other Antarctic stations in the 2022 Antarctic Games. Elsewhere on station, a significant winter project is ongoing to refurbish the A pod berthing areas and hallways with new ceiling tiles, carpet, mattresses, and other upgrades.

Upcoming and historical nongovernmental expedition updates...I've now updated my archives back to the 2001-02 austral summer season, and I've also added a couple of planned ventures for the upcoming seasons...go here!

Communications...satellites...and even an undersea cable...are described in this interesting 7 April 2022 article "Connecting the South Pole" from DCD ( It addresses the pandemic-driven delay in completing the new McMurdo data center known as the Information Technology and Communications (IT&C Facility as well as historical and current communications methods at Pole.

lunar eclipse above the SPTFurther away from the station, the "supermoon" lunar eclipse was observed on 16 May, and well documented by Aman Chokshi with the amazing time lapse photo at left...more information is here. And from even further away, on 12 May 2022 a photo (right) of the black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy was the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) black hole in the center of our galaxywhich is actually a consortium of multiple telescopes including the South Pole Telescope. More information is here.Observations for this image actually occurred in April 2017, two years before the observations of the larger M87* black hole were taken and the resultant image released.

Older news, but something that was just discovered...did you know that there are multiple unicyclists wintering at Pole? This 21 January 2022 article from KMUW (NPR in Wichita, KS) describes winterover physician John-Michael Watson's background and preparations for the winter, and it notes that his talents as a unicycle rider are not unique at Pole--there are others including winter site manager Eric Hansen.

For those of us in the northern hemisphere, what we call the vernal equinox occurred at 0933 mountain daylight time (my time zone) on Sunday 20 March, but this also means that the official sunset at Pole happened at the same time...1533 UTC, or 0333 Pole time on Monday the 21st. Which means that there was a sunset dinner on Sunday 20 March, although when the actual disappearance of the sun will happen is still open to conjecture. But despite the onset of autumn in the past few days the temperatures around the continent have been as much as 70 degrees (F) warmer than normal. For example, the normal March high temperature at Vostok is around -63ºF/-53ºC...but on Friday 18 March the high was 0ºF/-17.7ºC! Here's a great 18 March Washington Post article "It's 70 degrees warmer than normal in eastern Antarctica..." which discusses this situation and features friend Matt Lazzara and Linda Keller from the University of Wisconsin. The Pole weather this past week was relatively normal...between 12-18 March the average temperature was -52.0ºC/-61.5ºF. A reminder that the Pole weather for the past 24 hours is always available via the NOAA folks in ARO here.

the Ross Island Earth Station radomeMore great news from McMurdo...on 14 March the 13.1 meter Ross Island Earth Station (RIES) went live! I'm not certain how much if any this immediately increased the connectivity for USAP participants, as other bandwidth improvements have also been made recently. But this will certainly reduce the reliance on hazardous winter trips to Black Island. At right is one of the final site webcam photos after worksite cleanup...thanks to project guy David Huntsman, who reported that the satellite host provider is Optus of Australia.

the stern of EnduranceBy far the biggest Antarctic news in years is the discovery of Ernest Shackleton's vessel Endurance, which happened on 6 March 2022. The vessel was extremely well preserved as seen in the photo at left...and I have extensive coverage and links here.

Speaking of sunken Antarctic vessels...the recovery/removal of the R/V Hero from the Palix River estuary at Bay Center, Washington has been delayed until at least May or June when water levels will be lower and more conducive to diving operations...per this 22 February Chinook Observer article...and yes, the Antarctican Society is involved!

the last two Baslers to leave Pole for McMIt is winter at Pole! The closing flights, two Baslers, left Pole at the same time on 15 February and flew to McMurdo together, leaving 44 souls behind at 90ºS...this photo is by Jeff Keller from the USAP photo library (link to original). The last of the winterovers didn't get to Pole until 4 February. Oh, speaking of flights...those Baslers and other aircraft will show up at Pole later this month as they transit back to Canada via Rothera. Not a lot of other Pole news as it has been a quiet summer, but interestingly the emergency snow melter was installed just inside of the LO arch. Oh...the fact that winter has started means that it was time to update the South Pole winterover statistics...have a look!

Maersk Peary arriving at the ice pierMeanwhile at McMurdo...after zero ship visits last summer, this year there were, four including the Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star, which arrived near McMurdo at the beginning of February. The first supply vessel to show up was the tanker Maersk Peary which is seen pulling up to the ice pier with more than 7 million gallons of AN-8 (diesel) and 100,000 gallons of gasoline loaded in Greece, on 10 February in the photo at left by Cody Johnson, which shows the Polar Star moseying about in the background. Interestingly, this was the last time the Maersk Peary will call at McMurdo at least for awhile, as a new contract was awarded to Crowley Government Services for use of the tanker Stena Polaris per this 22 December 2021 Defense Daily article. I'm not sure how the contract numbers add up, as presumably the next tanker visit will not be until 2024, although as far as I know Thule Air Base still requires annual fuel deliveries. Stena Polaris, owned by the Swedish firm Concordia Maritime, had been flagged in Bermuda, but as of January 2022 it was bareboat chartered out for 12 months by the Swedish owner Concordia Maritime per Concordia's 2021 year-end report, presumably to Crowley, and reflagged in the US per this 22 March gCaptain article which includes a good photo of the tanker. Next to arrive on about 13 February was the HMNZS Aotearoa a new NZ polar rated cargo vessel--a newly commissioned Polar-rated New Zealand Defence Force supply and tanker vessel, which carried materials and supplies for the upcoming Scott Base rebuild (photo by Alex Brett). Here's a great New Zealand Defence Force website about the new vessel with lots of well as a great video...produced with assistance from friend Anthony well as detailed vessel specs and info from Wikipedia. Bay of Whales maps Last but not least, the cargo vessel Ocean Giant showed up. It's first delay happened after it left Port Hueneme on 5 January--it returned north to Los Angeles on 13 January before heading south a week later...eventually reaching Winter Quarters Bay on 16 February after a call at Lyttelton ( news article) well as a bit of assistance from the NZ vessel Aotearoa which had to abort its Tonga earthquake relief efforts to get to McM due to Ocean Giant maintenance issues (22 January article). Oh...that other very important vessel, the Polar Star, also stayed around to make everything happen, and on 17 February it reached the southernmost navigable waters in the world...the Bay of Whales, at 78º44'1.32"S, per this 1 March dvids Coast Guard News article. The Ross Ice Shelf is currently melted back about 12 nautical miles from its position on official charts...meanwhile, the Bay of Whales itself was a temporary aberration in the ice shelf caused by the underice Roosevelt Island to its south. Amundsen's 1911-12 Framheim base was at 78º30'S-164ºW, while Byrd's Little America I was established in January 1929 at about 78º12'S-162º12'W. At left...several maps which depict the Bay of Whales between 1911 and 1955.

The 2022 Pole markerI'm still a bit behind here...partly because of work on a couple of unfinished projects. One of these is a more detailed log of the research vessel Hero's cruises, given that ship's pending final removal after it sank in March 2017. And then there is that other project to detail the nongovernmental expeditions to Pole (and elsewhere on the ice) as I have unique records of these.

Back to Pole news...lest I forget...the latest and greatest Pole marker was unveiled to the rest of the world on New Years Day! It was designed by BICEP Array winterover Brandon Amat and created by machinist Dave Pernic. Newer news...the third South Pole Traverse (SPoT3) arrived on 7 February, topped off the fuel arch with 180,000 gallons of AN-8, and stayed around 6 days before heading back north with retrograde cargo and waste.

the Ross Island Earth Station under constructionHappy holidays! A lot has been happening. Some fairly big news...the new Ross Island Earth Station (satellite antenna) has been installed at McMurdo--this will become the primary satellite station for McMurdo while the Black Island facility will remain as a backup. Currently the 21 meter radome is being erected around it (at right, a webcam photo as of 26 December...a week or two the dish itself was hidden from view. More coverage and information...

Airplanes? Well, it seems that the first LC-130 ski aircraft since February 2020 arrived at Pole during the week ending the 18th!!

timelapse eclipse photos at PoleOn 4 December 2021 a total solar eclipse occurred in the far Southern Hemisphere. While it was total in some parts of Antarctica including Union Glacier, at Pole it reached 90% totality. The sky was clear and there were many observers. While things didn't get that much darker, the air temperature dropped about 9ºF/5ºC during the eclipse. The rest of the story including information about that great timelapse!

the Polar Star in Wellington HarborThe Polar Star departed Lyttelton on Christmas day, heading for the Ross Sea and McMurdo. Earlier, the icebreaker had also called at Wellington between the 13th and the 18th. At right, a photo shared by the American Embassy in Wellington of the Polar Star moored in Wellington Harbor. Meanwhile, the cargo vessel Ocean Giant arrived at Port Hueneme on 23 December and is currently loading cargo. And the presumable tanker Maersk Peary is currently in the Gulf of Aden after transiting the Suez Canal and the Red Sea.

As mentioned below...some of the nongovernmental treks to Pole are underway! My coverage...including some updated coverage from earlier years. Recently (as of 27 December) there have been two medevacs, one cancellation, and one route shortening due to poor travel conditions.

Contractual stuff...PAE, one of the Antarctic Support Contract contractors, is in the process of being purchased by Amentum per Amentum's 25 October press release. Amentum, privately held, was formerly the government contracting portion of AECOM, spun off in February of 2020. Its heritage includes several previous entities involved with Antarctic support contracts, including Holmes & Narver and EG&G. The acquisition is scheduled to be completed in the first quarter of 2022. No word yet on the potential effect on their Antarctic subcontract.

Lots of news...let's start with some from Bay Center, Washington...where that venerable former research vessel R/V Hero sank in 2018. The State of Washington has awarded a contract to remove it from the Palix River detailed plans until after early January...but here is what I know now.

Other McMurdo stuff I need to get to...the successful installation of the "Ross Island Earth Station" dish this month...delays in the IT&C building construction...stay tuned.

Pole stuff...there were 85 souls on station at the beginning of this week. Earlier, in the second week of November, two techs arrived from Terra Cat (formerly Goughs, the NZ Caterpillar company) to conduct a 60,000 hour overhaul of generator #1 including a crankshaft replacement. As for flights...3 LC-130's have made it to Christchurch, but none have flown to the ice yet. Otherwise...preparations were underway for Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday the 27th and the first 2-day weekend of the summer.

There WILL be cargo and tanker vessels showing up in McMurdo this summer. To get ready for this, the Polar Star departed Seattle on 13 November local time and headed south. This will be the Polar Star's 25th voyage to the seventh continent, per this 14 November U.S. Coast Guard press release.

Nongovernmental stuff...if you've been here awhile you may have noticed that THIS website is the only one that has continually chronicled NGO ventures to Pole and elsewhere on the continent since 2000. None happened last year due to a certain pandemic, but there are many expeditions planned for 2021-22. I'm still updating (read dealing with all the dead websites and trying to discern what's left) the older stuff, but this page outlines all of the currently planned expeditions that I know of.

first USAP flightThe last days of October would bring more transiting flights, including this USAP-chartered Basler MKB (right) arriving from Rothera on Sunday the 24th (USAP photo library photo by Jeff Keller; link to original). This flight took two of the winterovers to McMurdo. This Basler returned from McM on the 27th, bringing cargo and freshies as well as Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines. Meanwhile, more of the next crew have arrived in McMurdo from Christchurch...and on Tuesday 2 November an Air Force C-17 showed up over Pole for a practice airdrop mission, although they didn't drop anything. More vaccine news...the Pfizer vaccine was also delivered to Palmer Station for the winterovers in October before the Laurence M. Gould docked, while BAS delivered doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to the winterovers at Rothera (BBC News story)

October means many things...including...that ozone layer! The folks at CIRES in Boulder have been documenting things on their blog. Their most recent entry on 15 October by Irina Petropavlovskikh and 2009 NOAA winterover Patrick Cullis describes the current situation...about the same as last year, but it could have been worse. Here is their CIRES blog post with links to earlier posts about that pesky ozone layer. On 27 October NOAA announced that this year's ozone hole was the 13th largest on record and was likely to persist through November. It was at maximum on 7 October.

first flight of the season into PoleAircraft news...the first flight to arrive at Pole did so on 16 October! And oops, my bad...this transiting Ken Borek Air Basler aircraft--despite its markings, was NOT headed to Union Glacier in support of Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions (ALE)--rather it was headed toward McMurdo in support of the Italian Antarctic program. They didn't bring freshies (alas due to COVID) and were delivered a no-contact meal. Thanks to Lisa Minelli-Endlich for the photo! The following week, two KBA Twin Otters also transited to McM, but as these aircraft travel slower, the flight crews stayed overnight at Pole in the isolated hypertats.

More aircraft news...Operation Deep Freeze (ODF), the name of the U.S. Antarctic program military support operations from the IGY days, is still a thing. This season's work began in early September as C-17s headed to Christchurch in September in preparation for those main body flights in early October...after COVID quarantine, of course. Here's a 14 October 2021 news article from the Army/Operation Deep Freeze. Meanwhile...another ODF component, the New York Air National Guard's 109th Airlift Wing, will also be heading south soon. Last year their ski-equipped LC-130 aircraft made only six trips to the ice, 3 of which were for medevacs. This year they will have a much more normal schedule with 3 aircraft, supporting field camps as well as Pole. Here is a 6 October Air Force News article about their upcoming season.

the program is hiringLike almost all employers, the Antarctic program is still hiring! At this point given the long time for the PQ process as well as for quarantine/isolation, most of the open positions are for winter...but they are seriously seeking, as evidenced by the image at left that NSF posted last week. Here is the link posted in that graphic. Good info...but I think I have much more on my just-updated Antarctic jobs page. Pole the station opening tasks are well underway...skiway preparation and runway marker installation...and the annual station deep cleaning otherwise known as "Mighty Mouse."

Pole winter temperature  history graphWe all know that Pole is a cool place to spend a winter...but this 2 October Washington Post article South Pole posts most severe cold season on record says it all! If you can't see that article...I'll explain more. Turns out that the average Pole temperature between April and September, -78ºF/-61ºC, was the coldest on record going back to Paul Siple's 1957 winter. At right is a graph by BAS researcher Richard Cullather depicting the Pole winter temperature averages over the years. The cold weather was credited to a strong polar vortex around the continent. And CU Boulder researcher Ted Scambos watching the sunrisenoted that Antarctic weather is very sensitive to high altitude winds and Pacific Ocean conditions...and prone to rapid change. He noted that the near-maximum Southern Ocean sea ice at the end of August had tanked to a near-minimum by the end of September. Oh, the article also included a great photo (left) by sous chef and friend Lisa Minelli Endlich depicting some of the Polies greeting the sunrise from the roof of the station (at 0400 21 September SP time, despite what the article says).

Other's deployment time for many. For the next bunch of main body folks heading to McMurdo, they've been enduring what the NZ government calls Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) at government-run hotels including the Sudima (formerly the White Heron) near the airport, and the Crowne Plaza downtown. They may fly south in a few days...or they may not...depending on weather. Meanwhile, the summer Palmer support crew endured a couple weeks of isolation at a hotel in Puerto Natales, about 150 miles northwest of Punta Arenas, before moving aboard the Laurence M. Gould a few days ago. The vessel is scheduled to head south toward Palmer Station on 4 October. Remember that there will only be long-term ongoing science happening at Palmer this summer, as the major activity will be construction of the new pier.

Polies talking to the North PoleAnd...on 15 August there was an historic "second"...a satellite phone call between the South Pole and the North Pole! And at both ends of the "line" were Polie winterovers. The photo at right depicts the South Pole winterovers on the call in comms...speaking with Sven Lidström who was aboard the Swedish science icebreaker Oden at the North Pole. Sven wintered twice, in 2007 and 2012, and spent many other summers at Pole working with AMANDA and IceCube. More info...including about the first such phone call in 1999.

After about a month of quarantines and weather waiting...the first WINFLY flight finally made it to McMurdo on 14 August. Not the first southbound flight for the first half of Cohort 1...on 9/10 August they flew 4 of the 5 hours to McM before boomeranging due to deteriorating weather. But...all was not well, as the 14 August flight headed back to ChCh with no passengers due to mechanical landing gear issues. Stay tuned...there is still a bunch of Cohort 1 folks in ChCh awaiting the next flight. Meanwhile...the summer Palmer crew has been in firefighting training in Denver this past week...they will head to San Francisco to begin their isolation/deployment on 6 September, while the next cohort of McMurdo people will head to SFO on 11 September.

Want to tour the Pole "virtually?" The Byrd Center at The Ohio State University hosted a special presentation on 23 June at 2000 Eastern time. Information and registration is here. An archive is not available, but there are participant bios and shared links.

Yes...the Midwinters Day dinner and festivities happened on 18 June...have a look at the celebration and the midwinter greeting card!

It's almost Midwinters Day...planning has been progressing at all 3 stations. At Pole, the wax-sealed invitations have been sent out for the 18 June event which will feature seafood crepe and seared duck main courses. Interestingly, McMurdo is celebrating on the 19th and Palmer's festivities are on the 21st. If you were wondering, the actual solstice occurs on 21 June 2021 at 0332 UTC or 1532 South Pole time.

Otherwise, things have been fairly quiet at Pole. Preparations have begun for the annual Pole Marker competition...on 26 May the Polies had an excellent view of the blood moon/lunar eclipse, and on 11 June, for the first time the temperature dropped below the magic -73.3ºC, which in some parts of the world is known as -100ºF.

Pole's Physician Assistant Josiah Horneman, whose videos have been mentioned here before, was interviewed by NPR's Scott Simon. Here's a transcript of the interview which was broadcast on Weekend Edition Saturday on 12 June US time. Oh, here is his YouTube channel, as well as an earlier Buzzfeed article about his TikTok activity.

There was a virtual job fair today (6 May 2021 Denver time) held by PAE looking for employees for the 2021-22 season. I didn't mention it previously...but I hear that over 100 people participated. Here's a good 5 May Colorado Sun news article describing the job fair as well as a bit of program contracting the 80's I worked for the contractor in Paramus, NJ...and oh by the way, here is my more detailed version of the USARP/USAP contracting history.

Palmer update...the Gould did not arrive until about 13 May, after leaving Palmer Station on the 24th. It arrived at Punta Arenas with the summerovers on the 29th. That left 18 souls at Palmer Station for the winter.

More news from the other side of the continent from McMurdo...the Laurence M. Gould headed south from Punta Arenas on Saturday 1 May with the winterover crew--who had been quarantined aboard in PA for two weeks after a previous quarantine in San Francisco. They'll arrive at Palmer on 8 May...and the summer crew will head north around the 27th. Also regarding Palmer...the pier replacement project has been given a go-ahead for the 2021-22 summer season...which means that during that period there will be NO science projects on station...only the ongoing monitoring projects which will be tended by research assistants. Here's the 21 April USAP report about the pier project...and this FAQ provides additional information. Note that the preliminary 35% design was completed by ASC in 2017 and the preliminary "sources sought" request for procurement was issued in December 2018. The project was obviously delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic...the task for contractor Pacific Pile and Marine (Seattle) includes completing the design.

the 2021 Pole markerOkay...a bit late, but it's time for a look at the winterover statistics updated for 2021, along with all the details about the new Pole marker which was unveiled on New Years Day! Have a look....

Everest engine room fireElsewhere...the Palmer Station winterovers have been in isolation in San Francisco for two weeks, and should soon be flying to Punta Arenas for 2 more weeks of isolation aboard the Laurence M. Gould. Also, the vessel MPV Everest, which had been resupplying Australia's Davis and Mawson research stations, suffered a significant fire in the port engine room on 5 April (6 April Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) news article). The photo at right is from this 7 April ABC News (Australia) article which includes a brief video of the fire. None of the 109 people on board was injured, and the ship made its way to Fremantle rather than its normal port of Hobart, arriving on the 13th (13 April AAD news article). More coverage is available on this AAD News page. Everest was chartered to support the Antarctic program this year, as the previous support vessel RSV Aurora Australis had been retired in March 2020 (AAD article), and the new vessel RSV Nuyina (August 2020 AAD article with video) will not be ready until next season.

Two images denoting the end of the summer season on the ice, both shared by the NSF Polar Programs Facebook page...on the left, during the last full week of March, Pole folks gathered to say goodbye to the sun and lower the American Flag while BICEP winterover Brandon Amat (not in the photo) was playing the National Anthem on electric by Josiah Horneman. It should be noted that although the official sunset day was cloudy, things later cleared up and the famous green flash was seen on 25 March. And on the right, folks at McMurdo present a toast (with ginger ale) to the closing flight of the season (photo by Nikki Klein). lowering the flag at Polethe last flight of the season137 people are wintering at McMurdo. The next flight will will be in August. Speaking of air operations, here's an older (1 March) Defense news service article noting the end of the New York Air National Guard's 2020-21 season. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, only three LC-130 aircraft were deployed to Christchurch...they eventually made six flights to McMurdo--three were medevacs and three were flown during the midsummer season when things were too warm for the Phoenix airfield to support wheeled aircraft.

In the evening of Wednesday 17 February...the last outgoing passenger flight left Pole for McM...leaving behind 39 Pole souls, the smallest winterover crowd since 1998!

Something that only happens every 10-12 years...NSF is preparing for the next rebid of the Antarctic support contract. The current contract which is held by prime contractor Leidos (transferred from Lockheed-Martin) was originally announced in 2007...the first formal announcement came out on 30 April 2008...for a contract originally to be awarded in time to start fully on 1 April 2010 (after an austral summer transition period), with a 4-year original term with two 4-year renewal options. That didn't happen...things were delayed for 2 years before Lockheed-Martin took over fully on 1 April the full 12-year term now is scheduled to end on 31 March 2025. So...time to start the process again. I have updated my detailed coverage of the previous rebid process which you will find includes all of the gnarly details, fancy presentations, and arcane contractual verbiage.

In case you missed it...I've finally gotten around to adding some new South Pole links, including blogs from two of the 2020 winterovers. Here!

As of 16 February, what is known as the "air bridge" began with the first arrival to McMurdo of a C-17 on 11 February. It would take some of the summer folks home the next day. Earlier...2 weeks ago the last "cohort" including most of the remaining Pole and McM winterovers arrived...on a NYANG ski LC-130 aircraft...actually their trip involved THREE ski aircraft. The first one boomeranged, and the second one had mechanical issues before it took off. SPoT 3 ArrivingThe original plan was for all of the "midsummer" flights to be RNZAF wheeled C-130 aircraft, but temps were too warm to allow for wheeled aircraft to land at the Phoenix airfield. There are currently four NYANG LC-130s in Christchurch. About 20 more C-17 flights to McMurdo are planned through the end of March to bring in some of the cargo which might otherwise have arrived by vessel.

As for other travelers to Pole, the third SPoT Traverse showed up on 3 February (right; photo by Gabe Nerf) and is now on the way back to McMurdo.

In Seattle, the icebreaker Healy arrived at its snowy home port on 13 February. Work on aligning the replacement motor is continuing...earlier, the vessel spent a couple of weeks at San Francisco's Pier 27 (updates).

the 2021 Pole MarkerBiden portraitThe latest news...on Inauguration Day (20 January) @SPTelescope tweeted that the portrait of the 46th President had been erected at Pole!

Happy New Year! Yes, the newest latest Pole marker was unveiled on New Years Day! Have a look at the marker, the ceremony, and the design! Other holiday and midsummer events included a great Christmas dinner, the Round the World Race on the 26th, and the South Pole Marathon and half marathon on 10 January. The marathon winner was Brandon Amat (BICEP) with a time of 4.5 hours...not a very good time for Boston but quite impressive at Pole temperature and altitude.

The rest of the 2021 winterovers are currently in isolation in Christchurch, scheduled to head to Pole near the end of January. Meanwhile, the current Pole population is about 63...fewer people than the 86 that I wintered with in 2005.

28 December...a couple of sad updates. First...the previous Antarctic COVID-19 outbreak was at Chile's isolated Bernardo O'Higgins station on the Peninsula mainland...but on 23 December news came out that another outbreak had occurred at the village of Villa Las Estrellas at the west end of King George Island...which includes the Chilean base Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalvia as well as Bellinghausen (Russia) and Great Wall (China) as well as the airfield. Given the logistics aspects of the airfield presence, this outbreak has a more significant potential for spread. More information from this 23 December Polar Journal article.

And then there is the sad story of what was to be the Russia's shipment of the modules for the new Vostok, which was covered here earlier. It seems that the Russian nuclear cargo vessel Sevmorput transporting the modules south...had one of the 4 blades of its single screw break off somewhere west of Angola. After futzing around in the southern Gulf of Guinea for several weeks, divers arrived and cut off the opposite screw that the vessel could...head back north to St. Petersburg. More details including exclusive coverage!

2020 South Pole holiday greeting cardSome deployment and redeployment news...the Laurence M. Gould was scheduled to head north from Palmer Station on 25 December local time, taking the 2020 winterovers north. And the last major cohort of McM and Pole 2021 winterovers will be gathering in San Francisco in early January, before their charter flight south. They are scheduled to arrive in Christchurch on 11 January.

Oh, it is the holiday season, so THIS happened (left). Seasons Greetings from South Pole Station!! As of this past weekend there were 61 people at Pole...a smaller crowd than we had during my 2005 winter.

A major project was recently completed...the overhaul of generator #3, with lots of help from several New Zealand folks from Terra Cat (formerly Gough). The work included replacement of the crankshaft. Two more engines to go.

A319 Airbus at Wilkins24 December...the complicated AAD medevac from Davis has been completed successfully as per the plans outlined below, and the patient was successfully flown from the Wilkins Aerodrome near Casey to Hobart by the A319 Airbus, arriving there on the afternoon of 24 December. Here's the final press release with a video statement by AAD director Kim Ellis. At right is a photo of the A319 at Wilkins, ©Glenn Jacobson AAD. The press releases include links to additional high resolution photos and video along with detailed copyright information. Additionally, here is a 26 December NPR news report about the medevac.

Alas, the coronavirus pandemic has reached Antarctica. Nowhere near any of the American stations, as the US and NZ have been bending over backward to keep the continent safe (such as folks in November who were quarantined/isolated for 45 days in San Francisco and Christchurch, with later delays due No...this is at Chile's Bernardo O'Higgins station, which is located on the mainland of the Antarctic Peninsula (63º19'S-57º54'W). All 60 people from the base were evacuated to Punta Arenas last weekend...36 of them had the virus. The station was then thoroughly cleaned before a new crew took over. Two news links...this 22 December New York Times article...and (with no paywall) this ABC (Australian Broadcasting Company) article with a video.

medevac mapThere is a major medevac underway for an Australian expeditioner at Davis...I almost must say just "it's complicated." Briefly...the Chinese icebreaker MV Xue Long 2 will stop at Davis so that its helicopters can transfer the patient to the inland skiway. Meanwhile, a Kenn Borek Air Basler will fly from McMurdo to Australia's Wilkins Aerodrome to pick up a doctor and continue to pick up the patient and fly them back to Wilkins. Where hopefully the Australian A-319 Airbus can fly the patient to Hobart. Here is the first Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) press release which includes videos and photos including the map at left (which depicts the intended schedule) as well as a press conference by the AAD director, who states that the Wilkins runway is currently able to receive the wheeled Airbus. If things change, the patient may have to travel to Australia by ship in January.

Two Hercs on deck at CHC

At from 10 December of the first two Air National Guard seen by Ethan Rudnitsky from his quarantine room at the new Novotel at Christchurch Airport. The third one showed up on the 13th. After the flight crews complete their required 14-day NZ quarantine, the aircraft will...stay in New Zealand for the rest of the season unless they are required for medevac or search-and-rescue.

SPOT 1 arrivingThe first of three South Pole Operational Traverses (SPOT 1) arrived at Pole on 1 December. It had departed from McMurdo on 5 November for the 1,032-mile journey. It delivered more than 162,000 gallons of fuel as well as cargo pallets and shipping containers. At left is a photo of the arrival by Gabriel Nerf which was shared on the NSF Office of Polar Programs
Facebook page. SPOT 1 left Pole on 9 December, while SPOT 2 left McM
on about 30 November.

Little Free Library at PoleSome old news from last summer, but it only recently came to light...there is now a Little Free Library at Pole! This actually happened last summer, but the news has only surfaced recently. The benefactor is NOAA Boulder senior scientist Russell Schnell, who actually has sponsored 37 Little Free Libraries. The library was staged for photos at the Ceremonial Pole before it was moved to NOAA's warmer ARO. One of those photos, by Yuya Makino, is at right.

The second flight to Pole this season didn't happen until Tuesday 24 November...delayed by weather this time at McMurdo. The flight weather margins for Basler aircraft are stricter than for the LC-130's as Baslers fly at a lower altitude and are slower. The next flight showed up on Thursday the 26th. Meanwhile, the northbound winterovers have been spending the weekend at McMurdo due to some urgent repairs needed to the Phoenix runway...and the boomerang of a RNZAF C-130.

What's happening at Pole this summer? Not nearly as much as usual. Many of the ongoing projects are not sending any representatives this on them is being done as needed by the research associates. And some of the larger projects such as IceCube are having the 2020 winterovers hang around for part of the summer to work with the new winterovers, in lieu of sending a summer team. What's really going on with science this year at Pole and on the rest of the continent...can be found in the 2020-2021 USAP Science Planning Summary. Healy with a hole in the hull. And there has been talk of sending in some Caterpillar reps to overhaul the power plant engines. COVID precautions...there is a system of "Green" and "Yellow" (and hopefully never Red") in effect at McM and Pole...Condition Yellow is in effect at both stations for 7 days after the arrival of a passenger flight from New Zealand to McMurdo. And one of the berthing wings has been converted to a COVID isolation area should that be necessary. Elsewhere, the Laurence M. Gould was to head to Palmer Station on 27 November after the southbound passengers had quarantined aboard the vessel in Punta Arenas for 2 weeks. And up north at the Mare Island Dry Dock in San Francisco Bay, the Coast Guard icebreaker Healy now has a big hole in its starboard side (right) so that its failed drive motor can be replaced. Follow along as the repairs continue...

springtime winds at PoleWinter is over at Pole at last. The first Basler arrived on the afternoon of 18 November--the second latest opening flight in program history (the opening flight in 1958 was on 20 November). The first arrivals were in quarantine/ isolation/travel status for about 45 days from leaving home...and the actual summer Pole season is only about 100 days. In addition to the COVID stuff, the ~50 Polies were stuck at McMurdo since 29 October, partly due to weather. At Pole. During the second week of November there was lots of blowing snow and winds up to 40 mph! After which of course the skiway needed some rework. At left, a photo (by Wayne White) of some of that raunchy weather. And guess what? The second Basler flight scheduled for 19 November was canceled due to weather.

Looking at the other side of the continent, the summer Palmer team finished up 10 days of quarantine in San Francisco and flew to Punta Arenas on a charter flight on 9 November. They're currently in 14 days of quarantine aboard the Laurence M. Gould before that vessel heads south.

Traverse fleet about to leave McMurdoIn other travel news, the first South Pole Operational Traverse (SPOT 1) left McMurdo on 5 November. It is the largest in the history of the program--14 tractors including one Sno-Cat--and is carrying 170,000 gallons of fuel as well as 100,000 pounds of food and other cargo--including a freezer container. Previous traverses have carried about 100,000 gallons of fuel and minimal cargo. At right is a photo of the traverse fleet (from Jake Carruthers/The Antarctic Report) shortly before departing McMurdo. In the past the fleet has included Case tractors, but I don't see any of them in this photo. As of 18 November they were still on the Ross Ice Shelf with 447 miles to go to reach Pole. The total distance is 1,032 miles, and they travel about 7 mph (slower when climbing to the Plateau) for 10-12 hours per day. They should reach Pole in the first week of December, and the second traverse will leave McMurdo at the end of November.

Flight updates...the USAP-chartered Kenn Borek Air aircraft--one Basler and two Twin Otters--arrived at McMurdo on Saturday 7 November McM/Pole time, after refueling at the otherwise-closed Union Glacier camp. In the next few days they'll head to Pole to end the 2020 Polies' winter isolation.

Polar Star in Antarctica last yearSo...the Polar Star is doing an Arctic science cruise this boreal winter, as it is not heading to Antarctica as discussed below. Here is the government press release which doesn't reveal the details of the science cruise. At left is a photo of the Polar Star from this the fast ice 20 miles north of McMurdo in January 2020.

cleaning the barnaclesWhy is the Polar Star doing an Arctic cruise? The main reason is because the icebreaker Healy suffered a major fire in August just after leaving Seward, Alaska for its Arctic science cruise. No injuries or worse, and the vessel made it back to its Seattle home port safely...but one of its main drive motors was destroyed. Currently it is in drydock at Mare Island...amazingly 23 years ago when Healy was being built, a spare motor was constructed. It's now being shipped to Mare Island. More right is a photo of the hull being pressure washed to remove barnacles before it can be cut open to replace the motor.

Wayne WhiteOn 5 November a great article in Texas Monthly featured the current Pole winter site manager Wayne White (photo from the article at right). This has been his third winter in that role, and the second in that role. I've met him...he's a great guy who managed the place in yet another successful winter this year. I thought I'd achieved something by running more than 1000 miles at Pole, but he's walked several times that.

On 29 October about 50 of the Pole summerers and winterers headed south from Christchurch to McMurdo, along with other McM folks and 22 Italians heading to Mario Zucchelli Station...on a C-17 with everyone masked up. The first flight into Pole (a Basler of course, again, no Hercs this year) may not happen until at least 10 November. Which is a late opening date in recent years...although back in the day in 1958 the first flight arrived on 16 November, and in 1959 it arrived at Pole on 20 November. Those flights by the Navy's VX-6 were Douglas Aircraft Company's R4D's otherwise known then as DC-3's, and of course the first (and only) flights into Pole this year will be by Baslers (and perhaps Twin Otters) which are after all converted DC-3's. Typically these aircraft transit to McMurdo from Punta Arenas via Rothera and Pole, but this year the transiting aircraft have been stopping and refueling at Union Glacier limit the potential spread of COVID-19. AL&E has canceled their Antarctic tourist season this year, but special arrangements were made with the U.S. Antarctic Program and the Italian program so that the charter aircraft could refuel at Union Glacier. Earlier in October, two Kenn Borek Air aircraft chartered to the Italian program (a Basler and a Twin Otter) took this route to McMurdo, so that they could fly the the Italian crew to Mario Zucchelli. Here's a good news article from ENEA (the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development) which operates Mario Zucchelli Station (in Italian, use your favorite translator).

As for the Kenn Borek Air crews flying the Baslers and Twin Otters...they were in COVID isolation aboard the Laurence M. Gould in Punta Arenas...that vessel has been there since the end of the last austral summer. Meanwhile, the Nathaniel B. Palmer had headed to Punta Arenas from San Francisco, on 2 November. It is carrying members of (update) five science teams, led by principal investigators (PIs) Kenneth Halanych of Auburn University (Auburn news article; Kevin Kocot from the University of Alabama Tuscaloosa (Alabama news post); Deric Learman and Andy Mahon from Central Michigan University; and Sarah Gerken from the University of Alaska Anchorage. The teams are posting on the blog Icy Inverts. On 9 November Peninsula time the vessel left Punta Arenas, heading for their first research destination, Neko Harbor, on the Peninsula east of Anvers Island. They were scheduled to arrive on the 14th.

AStar at Black IslandSpeaking of aircraft, there ARE helicopters operating in Antarctica this summer. At right is a photo of one (from Mike Cemanski) at Black Island at the end of October. The current USAP helicopter contractor is Air Center Helicopters based in Burleson, Texas. This is one of their AStar AS350B3e aircraft...these can carry 5 passengers, 2,500 lbs of cargo at a speed of 140 knots and a range of 400 statute miles. Air Center Helicopters will be operating two aircraft out of McM this summer, and they'll also be supporting the New Zealand program, as Antarctica NZ (ANZ) is not contracting any helos this season.

In late October, the news about the upcoming season is getting interesting. There will be NO cargo vessel or icebreaker...partly because of the reduced program due to the pandemic...but more significantly due to the fact that bad weather as prevented the completion of the ice pier. Work on the ice pier has been continuing so that it will be ready for ship offloads in the 2021-22 season. And it may yet see some use this season, as the Nathaniel B. Palmer's next science cruise (after the one described above) includes a return transit from Punta Arenas to McMurdo, with stops in New Zealand before and after the McMurdo port call. All cargo will be shipped south by air from Christchurch on USAF C-17 or on RNZAF wheeled C-130 aircraft. I did not mention the Air National Guard ski they are not coming south either. All flights from McMurdo to Pole will be on Basler aircraft which means a severe limitation on cargo or mail (no large packages). As for fuel...the program had already planned for no tanker to McMurdo this season, as increased fuel storage and conservation has eliminated the need for an annual tanker visit (there was no tanker in 2018-19). And as for fuel to Pole, I've been assured that the South Pole Traverse (SPoT) will fill the needs. In previous years the traverse has been supporting other field projects/camps which will be minimized this year, so there is more capability for the traverse trains to bring fuel to Pole. Currently there are three SPoTs scheduled, and they will be larger than usual, hauling containers of supplies and food as well as fuel...including a freezer milvan.

As for people...the plan continues to be for McMurdo bound passengers to quarantine near SFO for about 5 days, fly to ChCh on a charter, and quarantine there for at least 2 weeks more before heading south on a C-17. The second "cohort" aka the first main body McMurdo flight arrived there on Wednesday 7 October McM time...following two previous WINFLY flights which arrived on 13 and 16 September. Many of the people heading for Pole were quarantined at SFO in early October, scheduled to head south to NZ on 10 October US time...for more quarantine.

As of 8 October, the Kenn Borek Air flight crews (those Baslers) are also currently isolating in San Francisco, they are scheduled to fly to Punta Arenas on the 10th and isolate aboard the Laurence M. Gould before transiting to McMurdo via Rothera and, not Pole this year.

As for Palmer news yet, although two ocean cruise science teams plus ships' crew are currently quarantined aboard the Nathaniel B. Palmer at Port Hueneme.

sun visible at the South PoleSpring has sprung! Officially the equinox was at 0130 23 September Pole time, but signs and signals of the sunrise have already happened, including glimpses of the sun as well as the sunrise dinner. The sunrise dinner was this past Friday the 18th...and by the 23rd the sun was well visible (photo at right from Zeke Mills). Meanwhile at McMurdo, the final (cargo only) WINFLY C-17 flight by the 304th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron showed up on Thursday the 24th. The previous passenger flights had arrived on 14 and 16 September. Everyone at McMurdo must wear masks and take precautions for 2 weeks after the 16th...then they will be able to go back to "normal" for a bit until the first main body flights show up. The first main body cohort is currently quarantined in NZ government isolation until their flight dates on 5 and 7 October, while the next main body cohort will depart CONUS on 10 October and after their quarantine hopefully they will fly south on 26 October.

the NBP at the ExploratoriumMeanwhile, the Nathaniel B. Palmer left Humboldt Bay and spent the past few days at Pier 17 in San Francisco next to the Exploratorium. Such a ship visit to SF is a rarity based on my 7 years living or hanging out in the Bay Area, and actually this year is the first time that this vessel has called at an American port in this century. It arrived on Sunday the 20th Pacific time and departed for Port Hueneme on the 24th...with the new crew and science team who will quarantine on board in Port Hueneme for 2 weeks before heading south. The science team of 31 will be studying the molecular diversity of the Southern Ocean. On 24 September, the San Francisco Chronicle posted this article, which may be more visible on this Laredo (TX) Morning Times site. One photo from the article, showing the vessel at Pier 17, is at left.

9 September update...the storms at McMurdo have cleared (although they did threaten to come back), and the folks in Christchurch waiting to fly south will have to wait in quarantine some more...until at least the 14th!

Labor Day weekend...lots of ice news! First, the folks scheduled to fly south on Winfly completed their initial 14-day quarantine upon entering New Zealand, and were then moved to another USAP-chartered hotel to continue quarantine (to keep the ice COVID-free) and they are STILL waiting for the flights south. Because McMurdo got hammered with a mammoth and long-lasting storm that pushed the flight dates back to at least the 10th. The flights had originally been scheduled for the last week of August. The storm's high winds were not as strong as the 2004 storm, but it brought MUCH more snow...which will need to be dug out to check for damages as well as to prepare the skiway. As of Friday McM time things were back to Condition 3 (calm/normal). The Air Force C-17 crew has also been in quarantine since early August (see photo below right) (Air Force Magazine article), which also notes that they brought additional maintenance personnel, and that the aircraft will be equipped with an air-transportable galley and lavatory so that crew and passengers can use separate facilities.

Another effect of the global pandemic...on 3 September, AL&E has completely canceled its 2020-21 Antarctic season...meaning no Mt. Vinson climbs and no nongovernmental tourists this season from Union Glacier. Their announcement.

Polar Star heading back to SeattleThere has been a lot of icebreaker news in the past few weeks...some good, some bad and some, er, questionable. First, the good news: the Polar Star left the Mare Island Dry Dock last left it can be seen heading north past Yerba Buena Island in San Francisco bay on 28 August 2020. That photo comes from the official U.S. Coast Guard Facebook page, which reports that the vessel and crew spent 114 days in dry dock on a contract that covered 66 work items at a base cost of $5.45 million.

The bad icebreaker news...Healy suffered a fire and propulsion failure on 18 August, 60 nautical miles off Seward, AK while en route to a Bering Sea science project, just after embarking scientists in Seward. The science cruise was canceled, and Healy was transiting back to its home port in Seattle for major repairs. Two news articles--one a 24 August Coast Guard press release, and another article, 25 August, from the US Naval Institute: "Coast Guard Icebreaker Healy Suffers Fire on Arctic Mission; All Arctic Operations Cancelled."

Questionable icebreaker June 2020 the White House ordered a review of the Coast Guard heavy icebreaker program. The results were supposed to be released in August, but I don't think they have been released yet. Here's a 10 June US Naval Institute article, and here is the official 9 June memorandum from the President. One option for the next phase of icebreakers included nuclear power, per this July "Breaking Defense" news article.

And then there is news about the new replacement Vostok Station that will be brought south this season by the Russian nuclear cargo icebreaker. Alas, my contact and info page for this has been taken down, but for now I'll leave this teaser image which was shared by Russia's Ministry of National Resources. The materials are to be shipped south this season on Russia's cargo icebreaker Sevmorput. My full coverage!

the new Vostok

C-17 on deck at ChristchurchUpdates 8 August 2020 US time...on the afternoon of 7 August (NZ time) the first American USAP flight arrived in Christchurch--a C-17, per this Radio NZ news article. At left, a photo of the aircraft on the tarmac from the RNZ article, by Nate McKinnon. Two days later (9 August NZ time) the Americans who will be heading down on WINFLY arrived on a 767 that the USAP had chartered...from SFO via Hawaii. The USAP folks (at least) will be quarantined for 2 weeks (at least) in that brand new Novotel at the CHC airport, visible behind the C-17, which was under construction when I was last in Christchurch in December 2018. Other updates...a 6 August official New Zealand Government press release "Reduced international Antarctic season commences," a 7 August National Geographic article "Antarctica is the last continent without COVID-19...", and from the UK: this 7 August BBC News article "Coronavirus severely restricts Antarctic science" as well as this 7 August BAS press release "Update on 2020/21 Antarctic field season: responding to COVID-19 pandemic". Of potential impact to the USAP, both the BBC and BAS articles mention the potential difficulty of getting Baslers and Twin Otters to the ice from Calgary.

4 August 2020 updates on the 2020-21 season: First, the program announced on 4 August US time that the McMurdo upgrade project otherwise known as AIMS would be suspended for the 2020-21 austral summer season due to the pandemic. Here is that announcement. Meanwhile, there ARE science and support folks who will be heading to Antarctica...the first of these will be heading to McMurdo on the WINFLY flights scheduled for the last full week of August. Some of these people have already been heading to San Francisco...upon arrival in New Zealand they will be quarantined for at least 14 days per this 6 August Christchurch Star article. The deployment list has been seriously curtailed, to exclude people who "don't turn a wrench" (quoting a friend), but the long term science will continue, and the program IS still hiring people to fill critical positions. I have recently updated my Antarctic jobs information page...

NOAA weather page for PoleThe Pole weather was "cool" in the last week of July 2020. Several times the temps dipped into 3 digits (ºF), beginning last Thursday 31 July at about noon local time. At right is an archive photo of the NOAA 72-hour weather display page (which uses UTC, 12 hours behind Pole time during the winter). Oh, the temperature dipped below 99.9ºF again more than once in the next few days...You can follow along in real time on the NOAA live weather page which provides a record of the past 72 hours in both metric and English units.

the new ice pier under constructionAt the end of June, construction of the new ice pier at McMurdo was well underway (left), although successful completion will require appropriate weather and sea conditions. So far so good...more information and construction details are here.

I've covered the latest information about how various national Antarctic programs are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic here is the general news from June 2020. S
NSF plans for the upcoming Antarctic Season (11 June)
Australian Antarctic Division plans (26 June)
Antarctica New Zealand (9 June)
British Antarctic Survey (9 June)

Summit Camp from the air26 June, we have some news from the Arctic (well, actually from Washington DC). Battelle just issued a press release announcing that they'd been officially awarded the NSF Arctic support contract, which operates Summit Camp in central Greenland and Toolik Field Station in Alaska, and also supports NSF research throughout the Arctic including in Asia and Europe. The contract award was actually announced on 20 December 2019, but the losing bidder, Jacobs Polar Services-CH2M Facility Support Services, protested more than once. The contracting process had started in 2017. More information, including credits for that aerial photo of Summit Camp (or Summit Station if you prefer) is here.

And there is unhappy Antarctic news. At 1340 UTC on 21 June, a fire broke out in the met office at Russia's Mirny station. It destroyed the building known as Radio House which housed various science labs and berthing for 11 of the 23 people on station. It spread to the main accommodation building but that building survived. No one was injured, and communications with the rest of the world have been restored. Three articles: this 22 June Washington Post article based on wire services, a longer 23 June article from, and a pdf report with map (in Russian) from Russia's Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute. Here's Google Translate's English version of the text.

And an older bit of news that didn't get much publicity...on 8 May 2020 at Ukraine's Vernadsky station, cook Vasily Omelyanovich apparently committed suicide due to personal reasons. This was his fifth deployment to Vernadsky, which is about 30 miles south of Palmer Station. During my deployments to Palmer in the late 1980s, the base was the British Antarctic Survey's Faraday Station...I saw it from a distance once as we sailed past, but did not get to visit. It was transferred to Ukraine and renamed in 1996. Here is a 9 May 2020 news article from the Ukraine describing Vasily's death. That article states that "the issue of delivering the body to Ukraine is being solved." Accordingly, the Laurence M. Gould called at Vernadsky to transport the body north, this was overnight on 16-17 June after departing Palmer Station on the 16th.

2020 midwinter greeting cardHappy Midwinters Day! The official solstice day was Saturday 20 June, when the Midwinters dinner celebration was held! At left is the official Midwinters Day greeting card. Photoshop was involved, so no Polies froze to death.

In other Antarctic program news...the latest information from the Western Hemisphere is that the Laurence M. Gould, which left Palmer Station with the rest of the summer folks on 16 June local time, arrived at Punta Arenas on 21 June after taking yet another "scenic route." Instead of the usual route through the Beagle Channel, they passed through the east end of the Straits of Magellan so as to avoid the need for the channel pilot. Sixteen souls are wintering at Palmer Station...for more details see this corner of my Palmer website.

Other and earlier COVID-19 related stuff...on 11 June, NSF announced their plans for the upcoming 2020-21 season...keeping the stations operational, maintaining long-term and statutorily required projects--most of which can be operated by ASC employees. Here's a similar 9 June announcement about the New Zealand program from Antarctica New Zealand. I've heard that the PQ requirements for the upcoming summer and winter seasons have been adjusted to restrict people who may have a significant tendency to contract COVID-19...and also that people deploying to McMurdo and Pole next season may have to quarantine in New Zealand for 3 weeks before deploying.

auroras over the Ceremonial PoleUpdates 27 May US time...first of all, let's give a shoutout to the auroras that have been happening at Pole! Here at right is a rather spectacular shot from mid-May that IceCuber Yuya Makino shared recently, from the 27 May Week 19 at the Pole IceCube report. Otherwise, as the Polies have been collectively social distancing from the rest of the world, they have already started prepping for the Midwinters Day dinner scheduled for 20 June. Elsewhere...NSF is still planning to announce their plans for the 2020-21 season by the end of May, but we already know that there will be no media visits, film crews, or Artists/Writers people deploying. And as I've mentioned in the next paragraph, the Nathaniel B. Palmer is in Humboldt Bay (Northern CA) where it will be hanging for awhile.

Updates 16 May US time: Normally at this time of year, NSF would be soliciting news media visits to Antarctica, but these have been canceled for the 2020-21 season (the 11 May NSF announcement).. is an interesting 12 May report by Dr. Pradeep Tomar, the winterover medical officer at India's Bharati Station (on the coast at 69.4ºE, roughly 120 miles east of Mawson). He describes what life is like on the only continent still untouched by COVID-19. He mentions that India has called off its Arctic science expedition which was scheduled for April, and that Australia will undertake no major Antarctic science projects in 2020-21. AAD's most recent announcement on the subject (6 April) confirms that. Meanwhile, the New Zealand program announced on 13 May that they would announce a plan for their upcoming season by 1 June. The last McMurdo flight happened during the week of 3 May; the next flights currently scheduled are for WINFLY in August. And back in the US of A, the Nathaniel B. Palmer stopped briefly in San Francisco Bay and has been at Fairhaven, CA (on the Samoa Peninsula in Humboldt Bay, west of Eureka) since mid-May per the most recent (18 May) USAP schedule.

Updates 11 May US's the latest BAS news release from 1 May, it outlines that all of the BAS stations are in winter status. The James Clark Ross was heading north from Rothera, and it was to meet up with the cruise ship Hebridean Sky which was docked at Port Stanley and already housing summer station crew and wharf construction workers who had previously been brought north by the JCR. The cruise ship will be taking the summer folks back to the UK. As of a few days ago, the Falklands were COVID-19 free, as was the Antarctic continent. Airbus A-319 at McMurdoAs for the Palmer Station winterovers, the official USAP schedule for the Laurence M. Gould was revised on 5 May--it includes the "Palmer Station Turnover" cruise departing Punta Arenas on 31 May. The vessel has been in PA since 21 March 2020. Meanwhile, the Nathaniel B. Palmer, after calling at Port Hueneme for a few days, is now heading to Oakland. Earlier on 11 May it was west of Santa Cruz. Meanwhile at McMurdo, the last flight until August arrived and departed on 6 May. This was the Australian Antarctic Division's A-319 Airbus operated by Skytraders Aviation. It arrived from Melbourne with cargo only--no USAP passengers--and departed for Sydney the next day with 21 northbound passengers. They continued to the US after an overnight stay. The on-deck photo at right by James Penkusky was shared on Facebook by NSF.

Polar Star in drydockUpdates 30 April...on 27 April NSF issued a new status update on the US Antarctic to get the non-winter crew out of McMurdo were completed successfully, one additional flight is currently planned for May--probably a return trip from Melbourne, and options are being considered to the the winter crew to Palmer Station. Meanwhile, the Nathaniel B. Palmer is heading north toward the West Coast (presumably to Port Hueneme)--as of 30 April it was at 15ºN-110ºW... directly south of the tip of Baja California. The Laurence M. Gould is still at Punta Arenas. The status update also outlines planning priorities for the upcoming season.

Meanwhile, the other "big red boat," Polar Star, entered drydock at Mare Island on 13 will spend the next four months there. By 16 April it was high and dry ( and info from the Polar Star Facebook page).

NuyinaSouthern hemisphere updates Wednesday 15 April (US time)...despite the 7 April BAS press release stating that the James Clark Ross would depart Rothera on 27 actually departed on the 9th from the now-completed new wharf, as described in this 16 April BAS news story. CORRECTION...that wasn't the last JCR departure from made another trip departing for the last time around 27 April. If you have access to Facebook, here's a short timelapse of the James Clark Ross being the first vessel to dock at the new wharf. That BAS news article also mentions that the cargo vessel MV Billesborg was the second vessel to dock at the new wharf. Some personnel deployments to Rothera and King Edward Point (KEP) (South Georgia) were canceled...and oh, the MV Billesborg later headed to KEP where another new wharf is under construction (17 April 2020 BAS blog post with links to project info). More earlier info is in this 7 April BBC article. On the other side of the Southern Hemisphere, the Australian Antarctic Division announced on 30 March that they had chartered the construction vessel MPV Everest to resupply its stations in 2020-21 (press release), as completion of the new AAD research icebreaker RSV Nuyina was delayed because of the current pandemic. It looks ready to sail, but it still needs important harbor and sea trials. At right is a photo of the Nuniya at the Galați shipyard in shared 15 April on the AAD Facebook page.

first auroras of the season

At Pole it has been getting darker...and on Monday 13 April the first auroras of the season made their appearance. Here at left is a sample view shared by Zach Tejral. And it's been getting colder as well--here's a link to the NOAA weather page. Also, here's the 6 April Antarctic Sun report by Kelly Thomas, describing the first two months of winter. And on 10 April, NSF Polar Programs director Kelly Falkner issued this news statement regarding plans to protect the continent from COVID-19; it includes the statement "There are currently no known or suspected cases of COVID-19 in Antarctica." Meanwhile, 3 scheduled flights to McMurdo were underway in mid-April by the Australian A-319 Airbus, but they were not bringing any passengers south. And some of the northbound passengers had originally been scheduled to stay at McM longer.

Christy Schultz at PoleIt could be said that Pole winterovers become experts in there is some concrete advice out there from a couple of them. First...from Christine (Christy) Schultz who was the 2011 wo NOAA Corps officer--this 3 April AccuWeather news article describes some of her social distancing experiences--not only at Pole, but also on NOAA research vessels and at the Mount Washington Observatory. Alas, the article video seems to have been taken down. At right, Christy's selfie from the article. And then there's that ultimate Polie social distancer Christina Hammock if our 2005 Pole winter wasn't enough for her, she spent nearly a year 250 miles away from the rest of us on the International Space Station, returning to Earth in February 2020. Christina Hammock in cryoThis 25 March Washington Post article describes experiences and advice not only from her, but also from that famous Canadian ISS astronaut and guitar player Chris Hadfield. At 2005 winter photo of Christina in the old cryo barn...the large white vessel left of her is full of liquid helium. Careful observers will notice that we are more than 2m apart.

Southern Hemisphere updates Thursday 9 April 2020 (US time)...the Nathaniel B. Palmer docked in Punta Arenas on 29 March...the one New Zealand citizen caught flights to Auckland via Santiago (he was quarantined for 14 days), while the Americans took later flights to Miami also via Santiago. The 10 British researchers who were dropped off at Rothera, along with 20 others, had been flown to the Falklands where they were quarantined for awhile at the Malvina Hotel in Stanley; they were flown to the UK overnight on Sunday 5 April on a MoD flight that refueled in Senegal as the usual refueling stops on Ascension Island and Cape Verde were closed. But there's a lot going on involving Rothera. The James Clark Ross is currently there unloading supplies for the winter, while summer personnel from the other BAS stations (Signy, King Edward Point, and Bird Island) already are on board. But there are about 90 other summer people at Rothera that need to be gotten home...most of these are construction workers working on the successfully completed new wharf at Rothera. They will be ferried to Port Stanley by the James Clark Ross (JCR), while the remainder of the Rothera winterover crew will be ferried south from Port Stanley. Meanwhile, BAS has chartered the cruise ship Hebridean Sky operated by Noble Caledonia, currently moored off Port Stanley, to house some of the folks from Rothera and eventually take them back to the UK. The Rothera winter will begin on 27 April when the JCR and the last Twin Otter head north. News sources...this 7 April BBC article "Coronavirus complicates journeys home from Antarctica" and this 7 April BAS news release.

As for USAP, at the end of March NSF issued a report addressing operational changes in the polar programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. For McMurdo, the April flights will not be taking any folks south...and as New Zealand has recently adjusted their travel restrictions, the northbound pax from McMurdo will be able to fly to Auckland and back to the US. For Palmer Station, the summer staff will remain on station until such time as the winter crew can safely deploy, and winter science events have been canceled.

The NB Palmer approaching Palmer Station a Zodiac approaching Palmer StationSouthern Hemisphere updates Thursday 26 March 2020 (US time): the Nathaniel B. Palmer arrived at Palmer Station before dawn on Tuesday morning 24 March. At left, a photo of the approaching vessel from Maggie Amsler; at right, a photo of a Zodiac approaching the station by Zee Evans from the USAP photo library (link to original). Folks who had been scheduled to stay until mid-April had been given only a few days warning to close out their projects/labs and pack up to head north...which they did the same day after transferring science cargo, baggage, and passengers to the vessel by Zodiac. Currently after 11 people left there are still 20 people at Palmer Station...with about a 2-3 month supply of fuel and food. There are no plans at present for the Laurence M. Gould to show up with resupplies and winterovers anytime soon. And while the Palmer has, at present, permission to dock in Punta Arenas, there's no path as of yet for people to even leave the vessel, much less head north to the US given quarantine restrictions, border closures, and flight cancellations. In fact, the group of people who went north on the Gould earlier this month had a police escort from the pier to the PUQ airport, and once there, they learned their SCL-IAH United Airlines flight had been canceled. It took some high-level negotiations to get it reinstated. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, here's PolarTREC educator Sarah Slack's 26 March blog post from the Palmer (I mentioned her earlier). You can follow the links to her earlier posts and the project science.

The Polar Star arrived in Seattle on Wednesday 25 March 2020 after a successful Antarctic trip, which not only included breaking ice for the McM resupply, but also involved Antarctic Treaty inspection visits to Mario Zucchelli (Italy), Jang Bogo (South Korea), and Inexpressible Island (China)...this was the first American inspection trip since 2012. Details from this 25 March Coast Guard press release.

view from the Palmer at dawn March 15Updates from the Southern Hemisphere...most recently from US national media: this 24 March Washington Post article "One continent remains untouched by the coronavirus: Antarctica" which includes commentary from a number of stations and folks, including 1990 Pole winterover and friend Michelle Rogan-Fennimore who is currently the executive secretary for COMNAP. Meanwhile, the Laurence M. Gould arrived from Palmer Station and docked at Punta Arenas this weekend, flying the quarantine flag. Americans aboard flew to Santiago on Sunday Chilean time and were on a flight to Houston on Monday. The scheduled 2020 Palmer winterover crew are...hanging out in the USA and may yet deploy in a few weeks. Meanwhile, the Nathaniel B. Palmer called at Rothera on Sunday 22 March, and the 10 British researchers aboard were dropped off there so that they could be flown to Stanley (Falklands)...originally thought to not happen until June. Its next port call is Palmer Station to pick up some of the summer people and at present (24 March) they think they'll be able to dock at Punta Arenas as they've been quarantined at sea since 26 January. As for getting home from there, things are questionable for people of all nationalities including Kiwis, 202 sunset dinneras restrictions and flight cancelations change daily. The Nathaniel B. Palmer has been participating in the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration, otherwise known as the THOR project. You can follow along with what's happening aboard the Palmer with Sarah Slack, a Brooklyn, NY middle school science teacher who is a PolarTREC participant with one of the international projects--specifically this one. Above left: a photo from the bridge of the Palmer at sunrise on Sunday 15 March, as the vessel entered the Bellingshausen Sea from the Amundsen Sea--this photo is by Cindy Dean and from the USAP Photo Library (link to original). Another wrinkle...there is a cruise ship with ~90 Australian doctors and dentists that was turned away from Argentine ports at gunpoint last week. Stay tuned as things are subject to rapid change, I have friends aboard the NBP. As for the winterover Polies...they've been in social isolation from the rest of the world for six weeks...and they had the traditional sunset dinner on Saturday 21 March (right, photo from Zeke Mills).

And what about that other research and support vessel, the Polar Star? Fortunately, unlike last season when there reports of fires and other casualties, this year we've heard nothing. Or perhaps there's another reason...the vessel has had a severe communications failure during the northbound voyage, so no news may mean news. As of 23 March it was west of southern California and heading north.

Australian Airbus on deck at McMurdoThings are getting weird in the world. Presumably not for the 42 Pole winterovers, as they've already been social-distanced from the rest of the world for more than a month. But for McMurdo...the RNZAF flight scheduled for this week (as early as 18 March) will not be bringing any people south...only taking people north. And those northbound passengers may find themselves required to self-isolate in NZ for 14 days per NZ Customs restrictions at the time.. And things are also getting interesting on the other side of the continent as Chile has closed its borders to all foreigners effective 18 March. Apparently they will allow the Laurence M. Gould (LMG) to dock in Punta Arenas (scheduled date 21 March) as well as the Nathaniel B. Palmer (scheduled date 25 March)...but the arrangements for the 2020 Palmer Station winterovers to arrive in Chile and head for Palmer are still uncertain.

Another medical update...this one totally unrelated to COVID-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2...on 14 March the AAD conducted an emergency medevac from McMurdo...their chartered A-319 flew south from Hobart to McMurdo and flew an ill patient to Christchurch. Conditions were challenging as the temperature at McM was -22ºF/-30ºC with wind chill. Here is the AAD news article; the photo above left of the aircraft on deck at McMurdo is from that article.

The Pole summer is ...over! The last flight out headed north on the 15th leaving 42 people behind to watch several traditional movies and otherwise get along with each other for the winter!

Christina returns to earthFellow 2005 Pole winterover and friend Christina Hammock much better known to the rest of the world as Astronaut Christina...returned to earth on 6 February after 328 days on the International Space Station...a NASA record for women! Two NASA news articles...this 6 February article with a great photo of her (at right) details the return of her and her teammates in Kazakhstan, and this earlier (3 February) article outlines the many projects she was involved with while in space. Throughout her mission she's had a great cheering section of Polies and other ice folks...after all she also spent time at Palmer Station.

5 February shipping season update...the Ocean Giant has completed offload, loaded cargo for the trip north and pulled out at about 1500 McM time on 4 be replaced at the pier almost immediately by the tanker Maersk Peary; meanwhile, the second cargo vessel SLNC Magothy completed loading cargo at Port Hueneme and headed south on 22 January (dvids news article with photo). And this 23 January USNI News article about the Polar Star describes the icebreaker's uneventful breakout of the shipping channel...while the Winter Quarters Bay area was free of ice, 23 miles of ice had to be broken out further north, west of Ross Island. Here's another earlier (29 January 2020) Seabee Magazine article about the cargo offload evolution, as well as a later 20 February Military Sealift Command article about the completion of the cargo evolutions.

Icebreaker procurement update...on 31 January the U.S. Coast Guard announced they were procuring a contract to extend the life of the Polar Star until the second of the new Polar Security Cutters was available. Details on my icebreaker procurement page which I update as needed.

Benjamin Eberhardt videoThe IceCube project did a significant amount of work at Pole during the 2019-20 summer...not only the usual wiring fixes, server upgrades, digouts and measurements, but they also spent significant effort to dig out and inspect the various drill camp modules in preparation for the 2022-23 "IceCube Upgrade" which was funded in July 2019. Two of the camp generator modules, which had been sent to McMurdo for use at other field camp sites on the continent, were returned to Pole by the third South Pole Traverse. Also, another new optical Cherenkov telescope was installed on the roof of the ICL (IceCube news article). Also...this 28 January IceCube news article presents an off-the-ice interview with the 2019 winterovers Kathrin Mallot and Benjamin Eberhardt...and Benjamin has prepared a great 5-minute timelapse video (right) of the winter horizon and skies!

S88 Traverse caravanBy 18 January the third of four seasons of the 88S Traverse had returned to Pole...this effort led by principal investigator Kelly Brunt is performing GPS elevation measurements of the ice sheet to help validate measurements by NASA's ICESat-2 satellite, which was launched in 2018. For each of the past 3 seasons, Kelly and her team have traversed a 90º quadrant of the 88ºS latitude line. The four-person team used two Pisten Bullys which pulled HDPE plastic "magic carpet" sleds with their equipment and pre-erected tents (left, photo from Kelly Brunt). You can read more about this and previous years' traverses in this blog.

A death in Antarctica is never good news...and it happened on 11 January 2020. Staff Sgt. George Girtler IV, a member of the 109th Airlift Wing, passed away from natural causes. The cause of death was pulmonary embolism, a blockage of blood vessels in the lungs. Here's a 24 January Stars and Stripes article, an Air Force Times article, and an obituary from the DeVito-Salvadore Funeral Home in Mechanicville, NY.

The end of the Pole NGO tourist season came early on 19 January 2020 SP time when an ALE group guided by Christian Styve and including Lucy Reynolds arrived from Hercules Inlet...the team spent 2 nights at the Pole tourist camp before heading north, as the camp was being dismantled. My record of the season is here. Meanwhile, there is news from last year's 2018-19 the Brit Lou Rudd and Oregonian Colin O'Brady completed what both claimed to be "solo unassisted Antarctic crossings." The "Antarctic crossing" part was somewhat controversial as neither actually traveled from coast to coast, and "unassisted" is also questionable, as both used the prepared and well-marked route. Now that O'Brady's book The Impossible First came out recently, National Geographic has taken a more detailed look at Colin's claims in a 3 February article "The problem with Colin O'Brady" by Aaron Teasdale. Give it a read! Oh...on 13 February Colin responded to the National Geographic article with a 16 page letter reasserting his claims and requesting National Geographic to retract its article (seen here in Willamette Week, a Portland, Oregon weekly. Meanwhile, after a significant discussion on Facebook, in late February Australian polar guide Eric Philips posited a letter to NatGeo in support of Aaron's article and asking for signature support. I of course agreed, and the resultant letter was set to NatGeo with a list of more than fifty "leading polar explorers, guides, and adventure specialists" Read the letter here! On 4 March Willamette Week reported that National Geographic stands by Aaron Teasdale's article, although three clarifications were made. The "Impossible Row" has continued to draw media interest...such as this this 28 May 2020 article by ExplorersWeb freelancer Martin Walsh. He depicts the route map of the Ohana ("family" in Hawaiian), notes that the boat's track had to be diverted to avoid the search area for the missing/lost Chilean military C-130 aircraft (Wikipedia article), and mentions that Colin O'Brady was NOT the originator or leader of the rowing event...rather that was Icelandic ocean rower Fiann Paul...who'd recruited a team of experienced oarsmen but was unable to secure O'Brady, the only non-rower on the team, was brought in. Walsh's article also notes that the chase boat operated by the Discovery Channel was one of the conditions that Chile imposed on the venture.

first ski-bird (C-130 to land at McMurdoThe end of January marks the 60th anniversary of the first ski-equipped C-130s to arrive on the seventh continent! NOT flown by the Navy...but rather the Air Force, which had pioneered the concept and done deep research and tests in order to support the DEW Line and the DYE sites in northern North America and Greenland. The first Herc arrived at McM on 23 January 1960, and the first one of these landed at Pole on the 28th. A complicated the resupply of Byrd and Pole had fallen behind, there was concern that the Russians might occupy these stations if they had to be abandoned. At right, the first Herc at McMurdo is met by more traditional means of transportation. The rest of the story!

the 2020 Pole markerNew Years Day marked the annual ceremony of unveiling and placing the new Pole marker...this one was designed by 2019 winterover Luis Gonzalez...who actually was on station on 1 January so he got to unveil his design, seen at right (more info and photos).

Other stuff that has been going on at Pole...a large IceCube team showed up to evaluate the long-stored drill camp modules in preparation for the future IceCube the 21st they'd pretty much finished...meanwhile SPoT 3 was nearing Pole bringing a couple of the drill camp generator modules that had been used for other field projects.

pontoon pier almost readyThe first cargo vessel Ocean Giant arrived at McM on 22 January and immediately started offloading the Modular Causeway System (MCS) aka the pontoons. By the 25th the pier was almost ready to start the cargo offload, as seen at left from a McM webcam photo. You can follow along here by selecting the Ice Pier camera, and there are photo archives from the past 24 hours.

The Polar Star at workShipping updates...the Polar Star HAS been sighted from McMurdo, as documented on the McM Ice Pier webcam which does not at present (~noon 9 January McM time) show the vessel, although a photo from the previous day (right) when the weather was better shows the icebreaker hard at work. The first cargo vessel Ocean Giant is well southwest of Los Angeles and is scheduled to reach Lyttelton around 13 January, the second cargo vessel Magothy is scheduled to reach Port Hueneme from Honolulu on 10 January, and the tanker Maersk Peary is now approaching the NW Australian will call at Fremantle between 12-15 January.

The new year also traditionally brings the first arrivals of NGA skiers/kiters/trekkers...well, actually the first of these arrived in late December. No speed records to Pole this year, but there are other records including an unquestionable Antarctic distance record by Aussie Geoff Wilson (despite his skipping a stop at Pole due to leaky fuel bottles) and a questionable rowing record from South America to Antarctica. Details...

BICEP Array workAt Pole, Christmas was celebrated in traditional fashion with a great holiday feast as well as the "Round the World" race...these events allowed for a bit of a break from the summer projects...such as getting glaciologist Kelly Brunt's traverse ready--the third of 4 90º quadrants along 88ºS--a GPS survey in support of the ICESAT-2 satellite. A major project this season is the replacement at MAPO of the Keck Array telescope system with the BICEP seen in the mid-December photo by Steve Bruce at left.

In Port Hueneme, the cargo vessel MV Ocean Giant departed for McMurdo via Christchurch on Christmas Eve...carrying not only cargo but also the floating modular causeway system (MCS) that was first used at McM in January 2012. A second cargo vessel, the MV Magothy is scheduled to arrive in Port Hueneme for onload in a few days. This DVIDS news service article has more information. And what about the tanker, you may ask? After skipping a year, the Maersk Peary is expected to show up near the end of January. Currently (31 December) it is approaching Sri Lanka, and it will also call at Fremantle before heading to McMurdo. two Antarctic icebreakers in Hobart And to kick off the shipping season, the icebreaker Polar Star is already south of Cape Adare. Earlier it called briefly at Sydney and also spent a few days in seen in this 22 December photo from the Australian Antarctic Division ( Facebook Page along with the Aurora Australis which was departing for Casey.

And some Antarctic news from 250 miles up in of 28 December 2019, friend and fellow 2005 Pole winterover Christina Hammock Koch set a record for the longest single space flight by a woman--289 days. She is scheduled to remain on the International Space Station until February 6, which would be a record of 328 days. The all-time space flight record is held by Valeri Polyakov, a Russian who spent 437 days aboard the Russian MIR space station in 1994-95. Here's a UPI news article.

Robert DeLaurentis completed his overflight of Pole on 17 December 18-hour out-and-back flight from Ushuaia (without a previously mentioned refueling stop on King George Island), and the longest ever flight by a Gulfstream Turbine Commander. Since then he flew on to the Falkland Islands before continuing north on his "Pole-to-Pole" venture. O'Brady's oarsmenMeanwhile, the various nongovernmental Antarctic treks to Pole are continuing...while in the Southern Ocean, Colin O'Brady's six-man team completed their "impossible row" from Cape Horn (off Hornos Island) to the Antarctic Peninsula on 13 December at 1200 (UTC) and reached the Peninsula on 25 December at 1355 UTC, after covering 755 statute miles. They faced 30-40 knot winds and 40-50 foot swells. At right is a hero shot of the team from Colin O'Brady's Instagram page. By comparison, the 14-day 1988 Sea Tomato row by 4 men led by Ned Gillette, traveled from Cape Brecksock (60 miles northwest of Cape Horn) to Harmony Cove on Nelson Island, perhaps 120 miles north of the Antarctic Peninsula mainland. Here's a good New York Times article about the Sea Tomato's voyage...although you have to be a subscriber to view it.

Polar Star leaving SeattleOn 26 November, the Polar Star left its Seattle homeport to begin its long journey to McMurdo (photo at left from the Polar Star Facebook page). This article from the Navy League's Seapower includes another photo. It should reach the ice edge during the first week of January, to be followed by the first cargo vessel, the tanker, and the second cargo vessel. Interestingly, the second cargo vessel will not call at Lyttelton, but at Tauranga, a port in the Bay of Plenty region of the North Island.

At Pole, preparations are underway for the Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday the 30th...not without a bit of difficulty as the automatic dishwasher is out of action awaiting repairs. Interestingly, instead of paper plates they are relying on extra help from volunteers and from McMurdo. Other things that are going on--a practice C-17 airdrop happened this week...this time it was just an overflight without anything dropped, but on 23 October, test supplies were actually dropped. crane pad at MAPO Elsewhere, a large summer IceCube crew is at Pole (and McM) to check out and inspect the drill site modules in early preparation for the 2022-23 IceCube Upgrade Two of the generator modules are at McMurdo, having been used by the WISSARD and SALSA field projects in recent years...and some of the modules at Pole have been moved close to Cryo where electric power is available. And as some of these modules have CO2 fire suppression systems similar to the one which caused two deaths at the Mt. Newall site last year...special safety precautions are being taken to make sure the systems are disabled. And over in the dark sector, the crane pad next to MAPO has been completed (right, photo by Bill Johnson), so that the SPUD/KECK instrument can be replaced with the new BICEP instrument.

By 22 November I believe that all of the 2019 winterovers have left Pole...but not all of them have made it to Christchurch yet. So between the summer people and next season's winterovers there are now over 100 people on station. A couple of the new wo's are John Hardin (from St. Louis) and Yuya Makino (from Takayama, Japan)...the 2020 IceCube winterovers who arrived on 8 November. Here's an IceCube News story about them with more information. And by the way, IceCube was now taking applications for the 2021 winterovers.

A strange addition to the Antarctic nongovernmental ventures...on the 15 November "Tonight" show, Colin O'Brady announced he's planning a rowboat trip across the Drake Passage for this December. Also check that link for an update on the ski and kite treks...more have been announced, more are underway, and as of the 20th a number of the people were stuck in Punta Arenas.

first Herc at Pole this seasonThe first LC-130 finally arrived at Pole on 9 November 2019 as seen this photo from Robert Schwarz...who left Pole for the last time on it just after taking this photo. From reliable sources I've learned that the price charged to NSF for Herc flights (as well as the C-17 flights between NZ and McM) have gone up significantly this year...hence the late deployment of the New York Air National Guard from Schenectady, NY. But...the first Herc flight to Pole last season happened 3 days later, on the 12th. The details...this spreadsheet documents the first flight dates to Pole from 1956 although I'm missing 3 years of info. old arch sections to be used as a snow wallAlso of interest...the photo at right (also from Robert) does not depict the beginning of the South Pole Sculpture Garden...rather, some of the old arch sections are being used to build a wall around the MAPO building and telescope mount. The Keck Array instrument that Robert monitored, as well as the DASI mount which supported it, will be removed and replaced with a new mount supporting the first receiver of the BICEP Array as well as relocated Keck receivers.

The season for nongovernmental skiers/trekkers/other visitors to Pole is now well underway. The first to start out, Australian Geoff Wilson, is now heading south from near Novo, and other travelers have been flown to ALE's Union Glacier camp beginning with their first visitor flight from Punta Arenas on 10 November. This 11 November ExplorersWeb article gives a good overview of the expedition plans, and of course I've updated my more detailed references to all of the ventures here, as I've been doing for the previous 21 seasons.

the first pax BaslerFlight updates...on Wednesday 23 October, the Basler returned from McMurdo for the opening flight of the season (right, photo by Mark Kirkeby). It would return the next day with more summer folks. Summer is underway and some of the winterovers are already in NZ. Later in the week two more transiting Baslers passed through, these were chartered by the Australian and Chinese programs. What about the NYANG LC-130's? The first of these were scheduled to leave Schenectady on Monday 28 October (25 October National Air Guard news article) and get to Pole on 11 November.

Polar Star mid-October it finally was out of a six-month drydock period and anchored in San Francisco Bay after some sea trials...and by the 25th it was back in its Seattle homeport. The icebreaker can be followed by anyone on its public Facebook page.

the Modular Causeway System at McMurdo in January 2012I previously mentioned that there were to be two cargo vessels in the 2019-20 season in order to deliver all of the required construction material and equipment for the McMurdo AIMS project. But (according to sources in McMurdo and elsewhere) seems that due to an unusually warm winter (there was open water at McMurdo until late July), there isn't an ice pier. So...once again the ship offload will require a Modular Causeway System (MCS) aka a pontoon pier, as was used in January 2012. At left is a photo of the pontoon pier being moved into position in January 2012 (my full coverage of that evolution is here). And this 30 September U.S. Naval Institute article describes the major role that the Polar Star will play in the McMurdo expansion projects.

On Tuesday 15 October 2019 (US time) I flew to Columbus, Ohio to attend the "Women in Antarctica" symposium at the Byrd Polar Research Center. I got there a day early so that I could dig through some of the old Operation Deep Freeze cruisebooks. The event timing focused on the 1969-70 science project in the Dry Valleys led by Dr. Lois Jones, and two of the members of that team were present and gave talks. The research team (and two other women on the ice at the time) also had become the first women to visit the South Pole in November 1969. Nearly 100 people attended. The event was featured in this 23 October Antarctic Sun article which also highlights some of the many women involved with the U.S. Antarctic Program. Some of these women were present at the Columbus symposium. Christina Koch and Jessica Meir getting ready for their spacewalkperhaps 75% women and a number of friends, and I had lunch one day with Kelly Falkner, the NSF Polar Programs director. And on Friday, while this symposium was underway, about 200 miles above us the first all-woman spacewalk was underway on the International Space Station...including Christina Hammock Koch (whom I wintered with at Pole in 2005--she also spent time at Palmer and Summit Camp) and Jessica Meir was a researcher at McMurdo on a project studying emperor penguins. Here are several NASA blogs about the spacewalk as well as an 18 October Washington Post article with video. At right is a NASA photo of Christina (left) and Jessica preparing for the spacewalk (from one of those NASA blogs).

the first plane after the winterAlso on Tuesday 15 October (South Pole time) the isolation of winter ended briefly, as this Basler showed up en route to McMurdo from Rothera. It was only on deck long enough to refuel, but it did bring freshies. It was a nice day, not much wind and a balmy -71ºF/-58ºC. This photo is from (and of) Gavin Reynolds. This aircraft (or perhaps another) would later return from McMurdo for the first official/opening flight of the season. A second transiting aircraft--this time a Twin Otter--arrived from Rothera on Saturday. Because it flies slower than the Basler, the three crew members stayed overnight before continuing to McMurdo the next day. Meanwhile, the end-of-winter major station cleaning was finishing up, as was another winter project--repainting the power plant floor.

ozone balloon time lapseSeptember means that it's ozone season at (and above) Pole...meaning that the NOAA folks have been launching two ozone balloons per week to examine the "ozone hole." That gives Robert Schwarz opportunities to take those unusual balloon launch timelapse photos, such as the one at right from 9 September. Interestingly, this year the ozone levels are a bit unusual, as the ozone hole is looking smaller, and the "lowest ozone" over Pole may be the highest in awhile due to a crazy tiny and offset polar stratospheric vortex. This is producing "sudden stratospheric warming," the most significant since September 2002. NOAA ozone poster The weakening of the vortex may result in the strongest Antarctic warming on record, and as the upper atmospheric temperature rises, the ozone-destroying super-cold polar stratospheric clouds are inhibited from forming, and the disrupted winds will carry more ozone-rich air from the tropics to the polar region. More on this process in this excellent 6 September article from The Conversation (Australia). As for the details, the graphed data from these ozone balloon launches can be seen on this NOAA page, while a simplified explanation of what happens to ozone in the atmosphere is depicted in the poster at left, which was prepared by NOAA researcher (and 2009 Pole winterover) Patrick Cullis and CU Boulder PhD student Kelsey Tayne. Much more of NOAA's ozone information and data, including huge graphic and pdf versions of that poster, can be found on this Global Monitoring Division page.

The Polar Star was at Mare Island (CA) Dry Dock for repairs and refurbishment since the end of April 2019...and was scheduled to head back to Seattle at the end of September 2019. Here is a good 12 September KPIX San Francisco news report about the vessel, including an excellent video. And, as for the new "polar security cutters" aka icebreakers, this 16 September USNI article "Polar Security Cutter Fuses Performance Requirements With Maintenance Needs" describes some of the engineering innovations for the new vessels, a June Seapower describes that the first three new cutters will be based in Seattle along with the Polar Star, Healy, and the parted-out Polar Sea. (thank you Chris Rock). These and other articles and information are on my page covering the icebreaker procurement progress, which I am continuing to update as needed.

Polies having a video teleconference with the International Space StationOn 7 September 2019, Pole had a video teleconference with the astronauts aboard the International Space Station, who include NASA astronaut Christina Hammock Koch and ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano. Unfortunately, for privacy reasons the Polies were not permitted to share photos of the astronauts, so here at right is a photo of...the Polies, from Sheryl Seagraves. Here's another photo (which Sheryl DID have permission to post) showing the video screen with a view of earth from space. Christina wintered in 2005 with me as well as with two of the 2019 winterovers (Robert Schwarz and Bill Johnson). Oh, the people at Palmer Station had a similar videoconference a week later on 14 September.

And astute viewers of that photo of Polies in the large conference room will observe that the cardboard window covers had just been removed!

On 1 September 2019, WINFLY FINALLY happened. The first flight arrived at McMurdo on 1 September, THIRTEEN days late. Sustained bad weather was, as usual, at fault, and the storm also caused power outages in town.

The end of August means for Pole: nautical twilight, when the Sun is between 12 and 6 degrees below the horizon. so the remaining auroras are increasingly washed out. Otherwise, things are quiet...August events have included the 8-ball pool tournament (for which the table was refurbished for the 4th time) and the Winter Film Festival (an interesting video about this from Viktor Barricklow). And for McMurdo: departing winterovers' travel plans are trashed, freshies scheduled for McM are...hopefully donated to ChCh charities, and Christchurch hotels etc. are overfilled with folks waiting to head south because of bad weather. The first WINFLY flight was supposed to happen on 19 August, but Mother Antarctica has been having other ideas, ie Phase 1 conditions.

I do like to hear about Antarctic winterover reunions, as I've attended several for the Pole and Palmer winterovers. Turns out that half a dozen of the 2001 Polie winterovers gathered recently at friend Paul Daniel's place in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. Here's the Grosse Pointe Times article, with an amazing photo!

proposed Kunlun code of conduct areaBetween 1-11 July, the 2019 Antarctic Treaty meeting (ATCM XLII) was held in Prague, Czech Republic. Once again there was nothing interesting enough to see coverage in the American media, but this was NOT the case in Australia. China's proposed "code of conduct" for their Kunlun base at Dome A was apparently defeated, according to this ABC (Australia) article "Australia declares China's plan for Antarctic conduct has 'no formal standing.'", as well as this related article "Defence wants to roll out military tech in Antarctica despite Treaty ban on military activity." Dome A is, of course, in the midst of Australia's Antarctic territory. As early as 2014 China had proposed an ASMA for the Kunlun area, but this had also been rejected. Of interest here is the fact that the proposed area is quite similar in both size and nomenclature to the ASMA surrounding Pole...but as a friend pointed out, unlike Pole, Kunlun does not get the hordes of visitors arriving by foot, ski, vehicle, and aircraft. At right is a map of China's proposed "code of conduct" area; here are links to the intersession discussion about the Code of Conduct as well as to the proposed code (MS Word documents).

Less media-worthy but of interest to Antarcticans...the Russians made a preliminary announcement of plans to replace the winterover facilities at Vostok with space for 35 summer people or 15 wo's (to be completed in 2023-24); and the Poles proposed a major replacement of their Arctowski Station facilities on King George Island, scheduled for completion in 2022-23.

new Scott Base proposalToo early for mention at this Antarctic Treaty meeting--New Zealand is proposing a major replacement of most Scott Base facilities (left)...early info is here!

This has been out for awhile, but it is a sad 2 August Los Angeles Times article about the Polar Star's voyage to McMurdo last year. There will be at least one new US icebreaker eventually, but our American neighbors to the north are planning to build SIX new icebreakers!

Another amazing bit of July 2019 journalism appeared in Scientific American about Pole life at least during the summer: "The Last Good Gig: A Summer at the South Pole," by Michael Nayak. Subtitle quote: "Nobody has lukewarm feelings about Antarctica, and some people don’t fit in anywhere else."

construction and demo plans for McMurdoA bit more information about the McMurdo upgrade...NSF released the draft environmental impact evaluation in February, although I just recently found it here. Lots of detail about schedule, planning, and the specific projects--as well as discussion of future projects not officially part of the approved AIMS project. Here's the link to the final version released in August; these are both PDF files. The graphic at right is from the report...note that it differs a bit from some of the earlier information I've seen. For example, the VEOC is depicted with a rectangular footprint, whereas earlier preliminary design drawings showed it as a T-shaped structure. I'll add more details as I wade through the environmental statement (which the US presented at the recent 1-11 July Antarctic Treaty meeting mentioned above).

coldest temperature of 2019Late winter often brings the coldest temperatures of the left is documentation of what will probably be the coldest temperature for the 2019 season: -107.1ºF/-77.3ºC. Earlier in the winter, South Pole saw its first triple-digit temperature of the year (-100.5ºF/-73.6ºC) on 18 July. This was the coldest it got, and the -100 lasted less than a day.

A side note...last year there was NO tanker delivery to McMurdo...only the one cargo vessel. In 2019-20 there will be a tanker, as well as TWO cargo vessels. One will be the traditional vessel doing a return trip from Port Hueneme...the other will be a one-way southbound charter to deliver supplies, materials, and construction equipment for the AIMS project.

IceCube is getting an update! In June, NSF formally approved funding for a $37 million install seven new and deeper strings near the center of the existing array. This will enable the detection of lower-energy overlap with the detection ranges of other neutrino detectors around the world. The project won't actually happen until 2022-23, but preliminary planning last summer involved the digging out and inspection of the IceCube drill camp modules which have been stored on the berm. Several new detector types will be used, including some being tested for a still-out-there IceCube-Gen2 project. Coverage from IceCube includes 2 16 July press releases--"NSF mid-scale award sets off the first extension of IceCube" and "The IceCube Upgrade: An international effort", as well as this article from the Wisconsin State Journal.

Surprise visitors...the international team "One More Orbit" overflew Pole on 9 July as a part of their record-setting globe circumnavigation over the poles. The 8-person crew aboard a Gulfstream G650ER jet started and finished from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and completed their trip in 46 hours 40 minutes 22 seconds, including 3 "pit-stop" refuelings in Punta Arenas, Mauritius, and Kazakhstan. They beat the previous record by almost 6 hours...and the crew was the first to include 2 women--another record. Here's a CNN news article as well as an archive of the project website, which includes a map of their flight route. While over Pole, some of the winterovers had an opportunity to speak with the pilot over radio.

Interestingly, there will be another overflight in November...postponed from last summer, by pilot Robert DeLaurentis in his much modified Gulfstream Turbo 900 aircraft. The project, titled "Flying through Life," will not be a record-setting attempt...rather a 3-month project involving stope in many countries as well as overflights of both poles.

midwinter greeting cardMidwinters Day 2019 happened! Technically it occurred at 0354 22 June South Pole time...some of the traditional midwinter events (such as showing "The Shining" happened last weekend. The big midwinter dinner happened on the 22nd. At right is the midwinter greeting card that the station sent out to other polar's a larger image along with more info/photos about the card, midwinter, and the dinner. The tradition of sharing midwinter greetings is an old one...somehow the greetings have become much more elaborate since we sent out this one in June 1977.

Otherwise, there is a fair amount of construction news for the upcoming summer...mostly at McMurdo, although the Palmer pier replacement project is scheduled to get underway. Pole, the first phase of the "blue building" lift (ARO?) is scheduled as well as upgrades to the kitchen exhaust system. At McM, Dorm 203 (formerly dorms 203-205 are scheduled to be demo'd at the end of the summer along with several warehouses, and new lodging begins in January near building 175. During the 2020 winter, NSF will move from the Chalet to Building 165, as the Chalet will become a "social space" to replace the eventual demo of the Coffee House and Southern bar. There also will be a fair amount of excavation and blasting for site preparation and aggregate production. More on this later.

a PHI helicopter during the 2018-19 seasonA new USAP helicopter support contract awarded to Air Center Helicopters on 29 April 2019, after a 1-year solicitation process. The new company, located in Burleson, TX (a south suburb of Fort Worth) is replacing Petroleum Helicopters, Inc. (PHI), the Louisiana company which has provided program helicopter support ever since replacing the Navy's VXE-6 after the 1995-96 season. Interestingly, PHI filed for bankruptcy in March of 2019. The November 2018 photo at left depicts a PHI helicopter supporting groundwater research in the Dry Valleys (more information and links).

historic black hole imageOld news perhaps (well, millions of light years), but on 10 April 2019 a consortium of observatories and organizations released an actual image of a black hole (right) created from observations taken in April 2017. One of these observatories in the Event Horizon Telescope consortium was...the SPT at Pole. The story is here. While the actualthe new Polar Security Cutter black hole itself was below the Pole horizon, valuable observations were taken of a nearby variable quasar which was used as a calibrator source for the black hole observations.

On 23 April, it was officially announced that a contract for a new heavy icebreaker (aka "Polar Security Cutter") had been awarded to VT Halter Marine Inc., of Pascagoula, Mississippi. The price is $746 million, with options for two additional heavy icebreakers (if approved by Congress) that would bring the total price to $1.94 billion. Construction on the first vessel is planned for 2021 with delivery in 2024, although the contract includes financial incentives for earlier delivery. There are too many news reports and press releases with financial and technical details, so I've addressed and linked to them here. The conceptual image at left was provided by VT Halter Marine in their 7 April press release.

Polar Star in drydockAnd in other icebreaker news, in late April the Polar Star was headed to the Bay Area for another yard period at Mare Island Dry Dock, LLC. And on 30 April she was maneuvered from Berth 12 into Dry Dock #3, as seen in the photo at left. That photo was one of several posted on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star Facebook page...and anyone should be able to see those photos here.

the Vehicle and Equipment Operations CenterI've mentioned before that the first part of the major McMurdo modernization known as AIMS was funded in of the first projects to be constructed will be the new heavy shop, otherwise known as the Vehicle & Equipment Operations Center (VEOC) (right). I've dug into the details about AIMS as well as about the "pre-AIMS" projects that are already underway. Here's what is and will be happening.

And there's also that "polar security cutter" project, otherwise known as new heavy icebreakers for the Coast Guard. This 1 April article (thanks to Russell Rapp for sharing) indicates that the contract for the new icebreaker could be awarded as soon as April 2019, and it also clarifies what the 2019 budget means--that budget appropriated $665 million for the first heavy icebreaker (per this U.S. Naval Institute article), but it turns out that heavy icebreakers are more expensive than that. The 1 April article includes an interview with Coast Guard Commandant ADM Karl Schultz, who pointed out that the first of the three planned icebreakers could cost between $925 and $940 million, that additional money for the first icebreaker was also available from previous appropriations, and that the second and third heavy icebreakers would be cheaper. So what contract might soon be awarded? Here's the RFP which was originally issued on 14 February 2018. Needless to say most of the technical details are classified, but the main takeaway is that (per Amendment 10) the technical proposal was due on 24 August 2018 and the price proposal was due on 16 October. There are reportedly 5 bidders, and if you are curious about how to build an icebreaker, many of the amendments include interesting technical Q&A.

Lots o stuff has been going on since I last updated things here. New stuff at Pole...the sun "officially" set at the equinox, which happened when the Sun crossed the equator into the northern hemisphere at 1558 on 21 March. But as usual, it hung around a bit longer, until 1330 on the 23rd. Which conveniently happened to be the same day as the sunset dinner. Other new northern hemisphere stuff--there's an auction of Antarctic surplus stuff this month--online, with the goods actually at Port Hueneme. The auction website has been taken down.

the 2019 Pole markerAnd it's time for the annual update for the Pole winterover statistics, as well as a closer look at the 2019 Pole marker and how it was fabricated!

Speaking of icebreakers...old news perhaps except that this was just announced...on 10 February the Polar Star experienced a FIRE on board as they headed north, 650 miles from McMurdo. One of many engineering casualties on this still-not-over deployment. Fortunately, the fire was extinguished after about two hours, and no injuries were reported. Here is the 28 February Coast Guard press release as well as this 1 March gCaptain article.

More news about the budget bill that was signed into law on 15 February, as it relates to science and the polar reasons. NSF's total budget was increased 3.7% to $8.075 billion (AAAS Science news article), which includes $103 million to begin work on "renovations to its facilities in the Antarctic" (otherwise known as AIMS project) initially at McMurdo. Here's the NSF press release, the AIMS project site, as well as my coverage of one of the first projects, the IT&C Primary Operations Facility, now underway and with its own webcam. Also, this 22 February Anchorage Daily News article has additional information about the Coast Guard icebreaker project.

The Polar Star in WellingtonMore marine news...first, on its way north from McMurdo, the Polar Star made a first-ever port call in Wellington...arriving on Monday the 18th. It was scheduled to leave on the 22nd after giving the ship's crew some liberty in New Zealand's capital city. Two news articles with photos--from and (thanks Russell Rapp and Chris Rock). But there's right is a great photo of the Polar Star with Wellington in the background....this photo is from USAP veteran/2008 Palmer winterover Carla she is sitting in the Captain's chair on the bridge. Carla's photos were taken by Ola Thorsen.

Elsewhere at sea on the other side of the continent, the Nathaniel B. Palmer has been involved in the multinational Thwaites Glacier Collaboration project...but it was diverted to Rothera to allow one of the people on board to be landed and medevaced by air to Punta Arenas. Here is the NSF press release. Also, Rolling Stone reporter Jeff Goodell was aboard and was blogging about the cruise here. And further east, on the other side of the Antarctic Peninsula in the Weddell Sea, the South African icebreaker SA Agulhas II was headed for another project researching the Larsen C Ice Shelf when it first searched for Shackleton's sunken ship Endurance. Alas, the AUV (mini submarine) sent down to explore the sea lost. So no data. Here is the BBC News coverage. one of the BAS AUV'sAt right, a photo of one of the AUV's from the expedition website.

From Washington DC...a couple of news tidbits below the headlines...the passage of the spending bill means there will be no further shutdowns of the National Science Foundation this fiscal year, and also, the Coast Guard received $655 million for continuing funding of the first "Polar Security Cutters" (aka icebreaker)! There is also $20 million for long-lead material procurement for a second new heavy icebreaker. Here's the U.S. Naval Institute article (thanks Russell Rapp!).

the last of the summer people board the aircraftAnd the winter has begun at Pole! The last flight of the season headed north on Thursday (Valentines Day!) leaving 42 souls at the bottom of the world for 8 months (photo from Sheryl Seagraves). A few Pole statistics...there were about 78 LC-130 flights; meanwhile the three South Pole Traverses (SPoT) delivered 313,891 gallons of fuel and 40,000 lbs. of cargo, while 40,000 lbs. of steel was shipped north.

And ship offload is about 0200 on 10 February the cargo vessel Ocean Giant left the ice pier (without icebreaker assistance!) and headed north (remember, no fuel tanker this year). A few statistics: 10.5 million pounds of cargo were delivered and 9.1 million pounds of cargo (retrograde, science equipment and samples, and trash) were shipped north.

Dick Bowers and Paul SipleSome sad news. Richard (Dick) Bowers passed away on 29 January 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana at the age of 90. He was the Navy Seabee construction engineer in charge of constructing the original South Pole Station in 1956-57. In the photo (right) he is at left with scientific leader Paul Siple at the first Pole Christmas party, which was held in the science building on 23 December, as the first group of construction personnel were to leave on the 24th. The two men had celebrated the previous Christmas in a drafty tent on Hut Point, where LTJG Bowers had also directed some of the 1955-56 construction of McMurdo. He had wintered at McM in 1956. Here is his obituary as well as an April 2019 Antarctic Sun tribute article. I was fortunate to have met Dick several times at Antarctic reunion gatherings, he was a great person. The photo at right is by Dick Prescott from the USAP photo library (link to original).

Ocean Giant at the ice pierOn about 30 January the cargo vessel Ocean Giant showed up at McMurdo, and ship offload is now in full swing. At left, a webcam photo from the 31st, after McMurdo got a dusting of snow. Previously, on 25 January: the Polar Star docked at the ice pier (below right) (check the webcams to see what is going on now). The cargo vessel Ocean Giant should be appearing in a couple of days. As for the tanker...well, there will not be one this year. Thanks to tankage capacity, the wind turbines, and energy conservation, this will be the first season since before IGY when no tanker will show up. Back in the day (50s/60s) before there was enough tankage, the program would require several tankers to keep McMurdo and the inland stations well supplied.

Polar Star21 January...the seasons are changing. The NGO "tourist" season is over, as the last of the ski trekkers (Masatatsu Abe) had arrived on the 17th. By the 21st the ALE camp was closed up, and the last staff and clients flew back to Union Glacier on a Basler per this Mattieu Tordeur blog post (in French). Earlier, Mattieu had high praise for the ALE camp's cook reporting that Zach had previously wintered at Pole. Hmmm...I'm thinking this must be sous chef Zach Kinberg who wintered in 2017. And at McMurdo, the shipping season is underway. The Polar Star has been sighted off McMurdo...yes, "despite breakdowns and missed pay, Polar Star reaches Antarctica" per the 18 January Maritime Executive article of that title (thanks Chris Rock and Russell Rapp). As for the breakdowns, yes...electrical problems including a couple of electrical outages, failure of one of the two evaporator (fresh water making) systems, and (as happened last year) another propeller shaft seal leak which required divers to make repairs. Here's a 22 January article, and a 29 January KVAL TV (Eugene, OR) report about the icebreaker's latest difficulties.

There have been a number of news articles in the past couple of weeks about the rapid melting of Antarctic ice, including this brief 14 January Washington Post article that says "Antarctica is melting more than six times faster than it did in the 1980s." The source of this article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences first released on 8 January. It is open access, so have a look at the basic findings!

new radome at leftAt Pole, one of the biggest efforts is the upgrade of the DSCS satcom systems (more photos/info). A new radome was erected next to the RF building, it is being fitted out, and the module installed next to the 9-meter GOES terminal is being fitted out so that that dish can be used for DSCS. This past weekend saw the fourth annual "berming man" work project/party...otherwise known as part of the continuing effort to make unwanted stuff on the berm go away. Other stuff being made to go away (perhaps)--a few more pieces of the summer camp area. Discussion and planning was underway to safely demo some buried structures, including "Chades" (the head module that once was surrounded by Hypertats), inside Building 68and the Building 68 substation, which may still be providing power to some summer camp facilities. At left, one of my July 2008 photos inside the Building 68 substation from when I was asbuilting things...access was from a roof hatch and down the ladder. Not many folks have been in here since.

rock drill at work on the earth station siteMeanwhile, the construction activities underway at McMurdo include a significant project to install new buried fiber optic clearance for the new Ross Island Earth Station uphill from T-site and west of the wind turbines. This project will ultimately replace Black Island as the primary satellite terminal. The photo at left (from David Huntsman) shows a rock drill at work on the site--Crater Hill is in the background. The effort this season is involving 648 holes in support of six blasts. More than 55,000 cubic yards of material (soil, permafrost, and rock) must be removed from the hilltop for the foundations and to provide clear visibility. Here's a general site plan...the project details are available here. The earth station will access satellites to be launched by a NOAA partnership which "includes the NOAA collaboration with the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT). EUMETSAT will launch a series of enhanced satellites beginning in Fall 2021 that will outstrip the current capacity of the present BITF satellite communications infrastructure supporting the collaboration between NSF and NOAA." Another major project just getting started is the new Network Operations Center. SSC addition constructionI've described this project here before; the first phase involves an addition to the south side of the SSC. Site clearance is currently underway, while construction is scheduled to begin in February. Because of the anticipated interest in the project, an additional McMurdo webcam is keeping an eye on right is a sample (13 January) image; the link is here.

1 January sea ice mapIt's January...and that means that the McMurdo shipping season is already getting underway. First, at the end of December the cargo vessel Ocean Giant was in Port Hueneme loading nearly 7 million tons of cargo, including 498 containers, as described in this 31 December 2018 article. The vessel departed on 3 January; by the 13th it was more than halfway to Lyttelton, where it will call on the 19th. As for the ice conditions, on 3 January the NSIDC reported that the Antarctic sea ice extent on New Years Day was 2.11 million square miles, the lowest extent observed in the 40-year satellite record. The extent map is at left, here is the full report. What this means...I've heard a report from the Polar Star that they have only 16 miles of ice to cut through, compared to 40+ miles last year. As of the evening of 12 January, Polar Star was working at 77º-42'S, well south of Cape Royds and several miles west of Tent Island. As for the tanker, it doesn't look like the Maersk Peary will be the one this of the 13th it was in the Med en route to Rotterdam. Meanwhile, the McMurdo ice pier webcam has also been put in operation--go here and select that tab.

ICESat-2 Traverse pre-departure hero shotScience stuff..On New Years Eve, the second year of the NASA ICESat-2 traverse got underway. This year, glaciologist Kelly Brunt is accompanied by fellow NASA glaciologist Adam Greeley, with support from equipment operator Matt Means and mountaineer Chris Simmons. They'll do another quadrant along the 88th parallel adjacent to the sector done last year, doing a high-precision GPS survey in support of the recently-launched ICESAT-2 satellite. They'll be out for about 2 weeks. At right, a panorama of the traverse equipment that Kelly shared (photo by Matt Means). And here's a closeup of some of the equipment, including those pre-pitched tents (photo by Adam Greeley).

That pesky government isn't any fun for the furloughed employees, but "the U.S. Antarctic program remains operational 'for the foreseeable future.'" per NSF OPP director Kelly Falkner...from this 28 December Washington Post article. Meanwhile, the "great race" across the continent between Colin O'Brady and Lou Rudd is over. Colin O'Brady at the end of his trekColin finished first, and Lou met up with him at the finish two days later. The New York Times covered both their finishes in articles about Colin's finish and about Lou. And of course it must be noted again that neither man admitted that they used a "road" aka the South Pole Traverse (SPoT) route for 1/3 of their cussed and discussed by ExplorersWeb. The article includes Colin O'Brady's finish line hero shot (left)...behind him is the SPoT route marker denoting the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf. I have more coverage and discussion here.

Traverse news...the first of 3 traverses arrived on 4 December...and the second one (SPoT 2) showed up on the 16th. Interestingly, Thor, one of the people on SPoT 2, posted this highly interesting blog about the trip (incomplete archive site) I like his sense of humor!

As for other nongovernmental venturers...they've all been struggling with bad weather and lots of snow (!) Some folks have quit, and a noob has just started. Oh, the New York Times published an update on the Rudd/O'Brady competition on 18 December. But my updates are now more current, although I had remiss in updating things...just spent a couple of weeks rambling and tramping in New Zealand.

Mt. Newall repeater generator buildingMORE sad news...two more USAP deaths on the ice. In this case it was two fire techs who were working on systems at the remote repeater site on Mt. Newall in the Dry Valleys. They were discovered on 12 December by a helicopter pilot who was waiting for them to return to his aircraft for the flight back to McMurdo--the pilot found them unconscious on the floor. One of the workers was pronounced dead at the scene; the other was pronounced dead a few hours later at the McMurdo medical clinic. The site was originally set up in the 1980s to support field operations in the Dry Valleys, and it later would transmit seismic and other data from several CTBT monitoring stations. The site includes a wind turbine and solar panels as well as diesel generator backup and a large battery bank, and it is equipped with a CO2 fire suppression system. The CO2, or perhaps carbon monoxide, may have caused the deaths. At right is a photo of the site, the main repeater site building is behind the green New Zealand repeater building. Here is the 13 December New York Times article, the 12 December NSF press release, and my coverage, updated in late January.

There's another McMurdo webcam out there! In addition to the various USAP webcams available here, a University of Oregon project has set up an underwater webcam known as the McMurdo Oceanographic Observatory (MOO). It is 70 feet deep, offshore of McMurdo Station, and it has several different cameras which can be seen here.

An interesting media update on the race between Colin O'Brady and Lou Rudd to cross Antarctica alone and unassisted, is in this 29 November New York Times article. They are on essentially the same route but are some miles apart and haven't seen each other since they started. As of 3 December SP time, Colin had traveled 408 miles and was 102 miles from Pole, while Lou Rudd was about 35 miles behind him. My links and more information for these and other expeditions are below. As of 23 December the race was almost over, as both men were speeding down the Leverett Glacier traverse route with less than 200 miles to go.

e may be a few more neutrinos out there to be found" align=left>What will be going on at Pole during the 2018-19 summer? A contractor will be on site assisting ASC folks with the electronic/IT portion of the DSCS upgrade that was begun last season. On the science side, the IceCube drill camp components are already being dug out for inspection...this is in preparation for a future project (next summer?) to drill for and install seven new strings (October 2018 IceCube press release). Some of the drilling equipment will be retrograded for refurbishment as needed (at left, the two drill towers and some of the camp modules--photo from Sheryl Seagraves). The new project is called the "IceCube Phase I Upgrade." Meanwhile, in support of the recently launched ICESat-2 satellite, the second of four traverses will be conducted to calibrate and validate GPS altitude data. This year, glaciologist Kelly Brunt will be accompanied by Adam Greeley as well as two ASC support personnel; they will traverse about another 300 km along the west quadrant of the 88ºS latitude line, connecting with the segment that was traversed last year. The total distance traveled will be about 750 km or 450 miles. And the "cosmic dust sucker" (aka CRREL's "Sampling comet dust from Antarctic air" project) will be decommissioned and moved to the building berm. And speaking of CRREL, they will show up with the new GPR SPoTbot robot to do another subsurface survey of what might be left of Old Pole. Another project which seems minor unless you've tried to sleep in one of the berthing rooms with (seemingly) paper-thin demountable partitions--some of these partitions will be replaced with more permanent/soundproof walls.

Elsewhere on the continent, the first South Pole overland Traverse (SPoT) of three planned for this season left McMurdo for Pole on 12 November 2018, with 8 tractors and one Pisten Bully. And the nongovernmental tourist/traverse season is well underway as well.

aerial shot of Pole on 3 NovemberThe first LC-130 finally arrived at Pole on 12 November. And there was another the next day, getting (I'm thinking) the last 4 winterovers, including Robert Schwarz, to McMurdo at 0230 on the 15th. Whew! And not only did IceBridge take an amazing aerial photo of the station on the 3rd (right), but Robert left on a DV flight which did a couple of photo passes, giving Robert a chance to take some great aerial photos. Which are here.

first LC-130 flight of the 2018-19 seasonAn update on Pole flights (or lack thereof)...the first LC-130 Pole flight of the season was scheduled--and actually happened, on Monday 12 November--I'm thinking that this may be the latest first Herc flight ever. Why...various reasons, the major one being the relocation of Williams Field which didn't get completed until the 4th (the airfield move and other information is discussed in this 23 October Antarctic Sun article). In any case, the first aircraft didn't get to McMurdo until Friday 9 November. From NSF: "This was the first LC-130 flight of the Antarctic research season and officially opened the newly relocated airfield" (photo at left by Mike Lucibella). By the way, all but one of the NYANG's LC-130 aircraft now have those 8-bladed propellers, a modification which began in 2008.

carrying Paul to the LMGPalmer Station update...Paul Kyllonen, age 57, a contractor employee died at Palmer Station due to natural causes at about 1130 local time (UTC-3) on Tuesday 23 October 2018. Here is the preliminary death announcement from the 1 November 2018 Ely (MN) Echo and the 24 October NSF press release. At right, a photo of the Palmer Station community carrying the remains to the Laurence M. Gould (photo by Zenobia Evans). The research vessel had been scheduled to arrive at Palmer Station on Thursday the 25th and return to Punta Arenas on 3 November. There have been previous several USAP deaths on this this side of the continent, but they all occurred aboard ship, either at sea or in Chilean ports.

And the Pole opening flight DID happen, on Thursday 25 October 2018 SP time. With a Basler (!) Why? Although the Hercs have started arriving in Christchurch, Williams Field is being relocated a couple of miles, and it won't be ready for a couple of weeks. This 23 October Antarctic Sun article discusses the program's attempt to recover from the earlier weather delays, and it mentions the Williams Field project. Anyway, the first flight brought in 15 people and took out six (that is about the maximum number of pax that can be carried northbound.

Basler landing at Polefirst main body C-17 landing at McMurdo21 October...the past week finally saw some completed Antarctic flights. At left, the first Kenn Borek flight--a transiting Basler from Rothera heading to McMurdo, arrives on Monday 15 October...bringing freshies from Chile (photo from David Wolf, also seen in this 20 October Detroit Free Press hero shot). And at right, a C-17 unloads passengers at McMurdo's Phoenix Airfield (photo from the NSF Polar Programs Facebook page)--one of two flights to arrive from Christchurch on Tuesday the 16th after that record weather delay. By the end of the week, McMurdo saw a total of 5 C-17 and 3 Airbus flights between Tuesday and Saturday, so the main body operations are finally starting to get underway. And some of the winterover Polies could be heading north as early as Tuesday the 23rd. Presumably on a Basler, as the NYANG Hercs didn't start heading south from Schenectady until 17 October McM/Pole time, scheduled to get to Christchurch on Monday the 22nd (18 October National Guard news article).

Updates on the Polar Star...on Wednesday 17 October it returned to its Seattle home port after six months of maintenance at Mare Island, per this Thursday Coast Guard press release. What went on at Mare Island--here is my earlier page of information and photos. Also of interest, for the first time since 1995, this season the Polar Star's 2018-19 mission will not only include clearing the channel into Winter Quarters Bay, but also conducting official inspection visits of foreign Antarctic stations in accordance with the Antarctic Treaty. The inspection visits will involve a joint team of Coast Guard, State Department, and NSF/Antarctic Program personnel, and they will also require specialized training for the helicopter crews and support teams, as the Coast Guard expertise for polar helicopter operations has atrophied since the 2005 closure of the Polar Operations Division at the Coast Guard's Aviation Training Center in Mobile, AL. Source of this info--page 13 of the first issue (Autumn 2018) of the Coast Guard Roundtable newsletter.

14 October update...all Christchurch-McMurdo flights have been cancelled until at least Monday the 14th after what Antarctica New Zealand is calling the "longest delay in decades" for the start of the season (14 October Christchurch Press article), and there are at more than 500 people in (and somewhere near) ChCh waiting to fly south. Reportedly this has broken the record for the longest delay of the first main body flight. Here's an earlier NSF Polar Programs announcement on Facebook. Meanwhile, at least the first of the NSF chartered Twin Otters arrived at Rothera on the 9th (presumably Rothera time).

Robert Schwarz at PoleOther interesting stuff from NSF--this 11 October "discovery" news article about that awesome astrophysicist (and German citizen) Robert Schwarz, who is just finishing up his 14th winter. One of those winters was shared with me. There IS a video as well! At left, a random screen grab.

McMurdo webcam on 9 October9 October...while the weather at Pole isn't THAT bad (well, it is breezy, 16-20 mph winds, overcast, with blowing snow, temperature -47ºF/-44ºC, wind chill -79ºF/-62ºC), it has been very bad at McMurdo for over a week. The first main body flight was supposed to arrive on 1 October. By now at least seven flights have been cancelled, leaving perhaps 300 people stranded in Christchurch. Some of them have been moved out of town to ski resorts and other places away from ChCh to make room for the new arrivals, while someone unsung isn't getting much sleep while reworking passenger manifests and reprioritizing people, only to rinse and repeat. Looking at the McMurdo webcams, things look like they are improving at the moment, but here's what things looked like at about 0500 McM/Pole time on the 9th (right). Of course, when things finally calm down there will be lots of snow clearing and runway work before flights can land. Current perhaps as early as Friday (the 12th) but more likely not until Monday. Oh by the way, here are the NOAA weather sites for McMurdo town and the Phoenix Airfield. Oh, bad weather on the other side of the continent has delayed the transit of the Kenn Borek aircraft from PA/Rothera to Pole. The first of these was originally scheduled to show up at Pole around the 5th.

30 September: the Defense appropriations bill saw final passage and presidential signature this past week. But although it includes funds for Navy shipbuilding, and the Navy is involved with the Coast Guard icebreaker procurement, the icebreaker funding is included in the Homeland Security funding bill, which won't get discussed in Congress until after the midterm elections. the meantime the Coast Guard has renamed the icebreaker program the "Polar Security Cutter" per this U.S. Naval Institute article. Hmmm...

Sunrise dinner 201827 September--lots of news! First, that sunrise dinner happened last Saturday the 22nd...and yes, the sun has been sighted. Dinner documentation at left in a photo from David Wolf--showing the amazing station cake along with Robert Schwarz at front left, IceCuber Raffaela Busse at front right, and SPT guy Adam Jones a few seats behind Raffaela in the white T-shirt (photo thanks to David Wolf). BICEP Array mount being assembledElsewhere (in Minneapolis) pieces of the next newest BICEP Array telescope are being received and assembled at the University of Minnesota. It will replace the current SPUD/KECK telescope in MAPO, but not until Robert Schwarz will have one more winter on that project. For more info on the BICEP Array assembly, grad student Mike Crumrine has started this blog with more photos and details! And for even more, here's Mike's August paper "BICEP Array cryostat and mount design" with background, history, and photos.

Elsewhere...a glacier update. It seems that the Board of Geographic Names has changed the name of what was the Marchant Glacier. Why? Sexual harassment accusations against Boston University geology professor David Marchant, made by Jane Willenbring who worked with him in a 1999-2000 field camp. Most recent coverage: this 24 September New York Times article and this 20 September E&E News article which depicts the glacier location in the Royal Society Range not that far from McMurdo. Earlier coverage with details: this AAAS/Science news article has more information and links to the earlier story and investigation, which included this December 2017 letter from the House science committee to NSF director France A. Córdova. ambulance loads medical supplies onto the C-17Interestingly, also in September NSF announced new measures to protect researchers from harassment, sexual and otherwise--here's their 19 September press release, and here is the related fact sheet.

Older medevac news I just learned about...on 25 August just after the final WINFLY flight had returned to Christchurch, the C-17 crew learned of a medical emergency at McMurdo. So instead of heading for Guam, they prepared to go south again (at left, a St. John ambulance provides medical supplies to the C-17 prior to the flight south). When the aircraft reached McM, the weather was a bit severe...temperature -65ºF/-54ºC and wind chill -94ºF/-70ºC. But the mission was successful--a critically ill patient (who had just been flown to McMurdo on the final WINFLY flight) as well as another patient requiring medical attention reached Christchurch within 24 hours after the medevac request. The full story is in this US Air Force press release which included the photo at left as well as another photo of the C-17 on deck at McMurdo.

12 September...first, I'll briefly mention that the Pole sunrise dinner is scheduled for Saturday 22 September. More amazing new map of Antarctica has just been made public. What is called the Reference Elevation Model of Antarctica (REMA) has just been released by a collaboration of Ohio State University and the Polar Geospatial Center at the University of Minnesota. Here's their basic 4 September announcement page, and if you follow the link you will encounter the documentation page with download links. Be careful what you click on--the full image with all layers is more than 43 tb and your hard disk probably will cough at that. But you can get an annotated (with lat/lon lines and info) or an unannotated PDF here. Both are about 48mb. The best article by far that I've seen about this map project is this 7 September New York Times article, which includes sample image grabs from the huge map as well as links to the Minnesota project site.

twilight looms on the horizonlunar eclipse at Pole

3 September...spring is coming, and with it the end of the aurora viewing season. Actually, Pole has been in some form of "twilight" since 1 August, when "astronomical twilight" began. with the sun less than 18º below the horizon. Currently the place is in the midst of "nautical twilight" with the sun between -12º and -6º below the horizon. Back in 1977 we of course didn't have the internet to look this up, but our high-powered (!?) computer had a program that would calculate the sun angles.Anyway, that twilight photo by Johannes Werthebach appeared on the NSF Polar Programs Facebook page among other places. Of course, the aurora shows were "eclipsed" literally on 28 July by the total lunar eclipse. The weather was windy with blowing snow, but folks still enjoyed the show. The photo at right is one of several photos and videos from Robert Schwarz--(more of his stuff here). Mars is above the moon.

Other events that happen this time of year--WINFLY! Perhaps not quite as big a thing these days as there were some winter flights, but between 23 and 26 August there were several flights (delayed by weather of course) by the Airbus 319 and the C-5. Interestingly, it doesn't look like the "frequent flyers" (ie folks with a lot of ice time) get the airliner flights with windows vs the Air Force aircraft. installing new vinyl flooring And at Pole...August saw an actual "Iron Chef" competition in the galley--something a bit more real than the "Iron Chef" videos we used to watch at Pole on Sunday afternoons during my 2008 winter. Also in August, the winter project of replacing the station corridor cement board subfloor and vinyl flooring was completed. This winter the target was the second floor of A3 between Medical and the bridge to B2. The photo at left by Marco Tortonese shows Peter Gougeon and Ted Violette finishing up one section. And a bit earlier, the official midwinter photo was taken on the last weekend in July (more on that later).

Icebreaker update...on 13 August the president signed a $717 billion defense authorization bill, which authorizes SIX new Coast Guard icebreakers, with the first to be delivered in 2023! Of course, there's still the funding bill out there somewhere (?!)'s the CNBC news article (thanks Chris Rock) and the actual text of the authorization act. Other insight, this 21 August U.S. Naval Institute article, outlining the 3 August Congressional Research Report (thanks to Bruce DeWald).

graphic of a high energy neutrino from a black hole hitting EarthMajor science news! It seems that a high-energy neutrino detected by IceCube on 22 September 2017 was quickly traced by the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope back to a "blazar" otherwise known as TXS 0506+056, a quasar just off the left shoulder of the constellation Orion, powered by a supermassive black hole. Or so it is thought. IceCube, one definition of which is a "neutrino telescope," has a resolution approximately equivalent to the size of the Moon as viewed from Earth, and the TXS galaxy/black hole is about 0.1º away from the track suggested by IceCube. IceCube has detected a few other high-energy neutrinos since it was first in operation in 2005 (with one string operated in conjunction with AMANDA). I won't go further into the scientific details--rather I'll refer you to this page which provides more information and links, including the IceCube press release which featured the rather amazing graphic at left.

Pan Am Flight 50 over Pole, October 1977Historic flights...there have been many many round-the-world flights, but to date there have been only three that have passed over both the North and South Poles. Another one had been announced in October, titled the Polar Explorer, but it isn't happening...that website is dead, and my contact hasn't responded. It sounded like a good idea and I was sorta considering going...its Airbus A340-400 was to leave from JFK on 26 October (CNN news article). The Antarctic overflight segment was to begin from Rio Gallegos and fly over the Antarctic Peninsula, Pole, Vostok, and Casey stations before landing in Perth. Prices were to start at $11,900, with an on-board staff including Antarctic and aviation experts as well as a hairstylist, yoga instructor, wine and liquor specialists, and...aviation author Brian Baum, who at age 18 was aboard the last such flight in October 1977. Oh...the photo at right is Jerry Gastil's photo of aircraft as it flew over us 1977 Pole Souls (I actually did NOT see it). Here's more information about that 1977 Pan Am Flight 50, as well as the earlier flights--Polar Byrd I in November 1968 (still the only tourist charter airliner to land and refuel at McMurdo), and Pole Cat in November 1966.

Icebreaker news: the procurement process for the next generation of icebreakers IS continuing...the latest announcements include this gcaptain report from one of the bidders, Bollinger Shipyards, who would build the icebreakers at their Tampa, Florida yard. There are reportedly 5 bidders, perhaps also including Fincantieri Marine Group (Washington DC), General Dynamics (San Diego), Huntington Ingalls (Pascagoula, MS), and VT Halter Marine (also in Pascagoula). All of these companies were contracted for the initial design studies, per this February 2017 Coast Guard news update. As for the current icebreaker procurement contract status...the latest amendment (13 July) states that the technical proposal is still due on 24 August, but the price proposal deadline has been extended from 24 September to 16 October. Thanks to 2000 Pole winterover Chris Rock for this news!

The Polar Star in drydockMore icebreaker April, the Polar Star (which we all know is America's only heavy icebreaker, recently entered the Mare Island Naval Shipyard (on the bay 25 miles northeast of San Francisco) for what may be 5 or more months of major drydock and yard work. The major stressors...two of three propeller shaft seals failed, requiring some urgent temporary repairs to stem the leakage...and one of the three 25,000 HP gas turbines also failed. Here's my page of coverage, with more photos and links to videos. H/t Russell Rapp for this info!

the proposed SSC additionMcMurdo news...the program has just officially announced approval of construction of the IT&C building...the project can also be described as a major addition to the SSC, as seen in the conceptual photo at right (the addition is to be to the right of the existing/white SSC). Despite the title of this announcement, its text indicates that construction will start in February 2019, as confirmed by a friend in McMurdo. And in related news, in April 2018, Parsons was brought on board as a Leidos/ASC subcontractor (similar to PAE, GSC and the other program subcontractors), to work on McMurdo Station upgrade projects. Here's the 12 April Parsons press release; my full coverage of this is on this page of my my McMurdo site.

midwinter Pole greeting card1 July...happy (belated) midwinter! The big celebration and dinner at Pole happened on Saturday the 23rd. A few days before that, the midwinter photo/greeting card (left) was created...have a look at more about the event!

auroras above SuperdarnAs described below, there haven't been many opportunities to see stars and auroras in the past several weeks. BUT...there were some last year. Denver resident, photographer, and 2017 winterover Hunter Davis was interviewed in mid-June by Denver's channel 31...and of course the interview includes clips of his photos and videos such as the one at right. Have a look and listen!

snow drift in the LO arch15 June...the mostly windy and stormy weather has continued, and that means that there haven't been many chances to see auroras. The full moon at the end of May didn't help either. Among other things, the storm left this interesting drift (left)last week inside the doors of the LO arch (photo by Raffaela Busse from the 14 June 2018 IceCube weekly news update). During the first full week of June, several daily wind speed records were broken, the highest being 45 knots/51.8 mph/83.4 km/h on 2 June. Meanwhile, the folks at Pole are getting ready and psyched for the midwinter dinner coming up in a week.

In other news, a recent paper in Nature determined that more than 3 trillion metric tons of ice have melted away from Antarctica between 1992 and 2017. Two good reports, this one from Live Science, and this one from The Conversation. And from the northern hemisphere, here's the 23 May report to Congress on U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker procurement, from the U.S. Naval Institute.

OAEA 2018 reunion seal29 May update...things at Pole continue to be quiet...but it has been warm of late. Which means it also has been windy. During mid May the winds got up to 30 knots/56 km/h, which meant visibility went down and the amount of required snow shoveling went up. Otherwise and elsewhere, the ninth Old Antarctic Explorers Association reunion was held in San Antonio 9-11 May (logo at right), here's a link to my photo album.

Other interesting Antarctic stuff...icebreakers may be cheaper if bought in quantity. Here's a May U.S Naval Institute article outlining a report to Congress about the heavy polar icebreaker procurement program--buy one for $1 billion, buy 3 for only $2.1 billion. So far, about $360 million has been funded for the preliminary procurement process. And speaking of icebreakers, here from MarineLink is a historical jump back to November 1944 when the first of the four (actually there would be more than four) Wind-class icebreakers was commissioned.

And then there's a hot project called SALSA (!) scheduled for the next austral summer. Actually that is the Subglacial Antarctic Lakes Scientific Access project, which will bore into subglacial Lake Mercer, which lies below the confluence of the Mercer and Whillans ice streams. The project will use a hot water drill similar to what was used for IceCube, and drill a 4000-foot hole to reach the lake. Here's the project website...note that Bob Zook will be involved, as the project will include the deployment of the Deep SCINI underwater ROV--this will be the first ROV deployment into an Antarctic subglacial lake. In 2017-18 a traverse team hauled 500 tons of equipment and supplies to the drill's a great video!

Nicholas JohnsonA bit of iconic history, otherwise elsewhere described as the "WikiLeaks of Antarctica..." is the iconic book Big Dead Place. Author Nicholas Johnson, unfortunately, is no longer with us after he blew his brains out in 2012 (archived page), but his work survives. And his work was given a new lease on life. On 30 April, ABC's program Earshot aired a 30-minute podcast/download which describes and details Nicholas' work, life, and the rest of his story. The interview and accompanying web pages include the voices and photos of several friends. Two ABC links of interest: this page gives basic information about the episode along with links for listening to or downloading the story...and this page gives additional background information as well as more photos. But that is not all. Nicholas' sister worked to get THE BIG DEAD PLACE WEBSITE back up to coincide with the release of this documentary. At least for awhile...the site died at some time after November 2020 and this is an archived link. Have a look! Not everything is there, but there is a lot of the good stuff. The photo of Nicolas at left shows him at work in the McMurdo waste barn in about's from Kathy Blumm and used by permission.

2018 Pole sunset dinnerPalmer Station 50th anniversaryThere were not one, but TWO significant Antarctic celebrations at USAP small stations in late March...of course, the expected one was the sunset dinner at South Pole on 24 March (left above, photo by Raffaela Busse). But there was more...on 20 March a major celebration was held at Palmer Station commemorating the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the permanent station! More details of that, as well as links to documentation of the 1968 dedication event...are here.

Other important stuff...the Pole winterover statistics page has been updated for 2018 Check it out!

As I also keep track of NSF's Arctic program, I'll mention that the Arctic support contract is being rebid. It was previously awarded to CH2M Hill for a 4-year base period beginning on 1 February 2012, with options for two 2-year extensions. More recently, CH2M has been acquired by Jacobs in 2017, but the Arctic support contract organization site Polar Field Services has not been updated to mention Jacobs (perhaps this is because the person in the Littleton office who used to update these things, Kip Rithner, is no longer with us. Anyway, the draft RFP was to be issued in April, with proposals due in September and award due in August 2019, presumably to begin on 1 February 2020. Already at least one company (Parsons) is seeking to hire people to work on the proposal. The presolicitation info is here.

Argentine Navy helicopterA bit of news from the Antarctic Peninsula area...a research team from UCSB was studying raised beaches (a sign of historic sea level changes) on Joinville Island just north of the Peninsula. But when it came time for the Laurence M. Gould to pick them up, the sea ice conditions were too think. So instead they were picked up by an Argentine Navy helicopter (right) on 11 March for eventual transfer to the Gould. Info/photos/video....

"Breaking" news from...the Washington DC Navy Yard (my first duty station in my early 1970's Navy days). On 2 March, the official request for procurement (RFP) was issued for from one to three new heavy what is called the Heavy Polar Icebreaker (HPIB) program. The RFP release was announced in Coast Guard commandant ADM Paul Zunkunft's 1 March State of the Coast Guard address, and described in these Navy Times and US Naval Institute news articles. The official RFP posting is here, although most of the the technical specs aren't/won't be available to the general public. The first vessel is supposed to be available in 2023, and there are provisions for possible armament. While the icebreakers are destined for the Coast Guard, the procurement is being handled by the Naval Sea Systems Command, which has much more experience with the procurement of large military vessels. Five bidders are expected to submit proposals.

partial solar eclipse at Pole18 February...last week of the summer season. As with the first weeks of the season, several flights were cancelled. But there WAS a final flight on Friday the 16th. But first...earlier that day there was a partial solar eclipse (right, photo by Robert Schwarz). More than 40 percent of the Sun was covered! It was a bit hazy as you can see, and the weather continued to deteriorate, so the last flight opted not to do a fly-by. After it disappeared, there were 40 winterovers left behind--this is the smallest winterover crew since 1998--before the elevated station construction got underway.

10 February...the summer season is winding down...people are leaving, winterovers are arriving, and it is cool (-35ºF/-31ºC). The summer construction and science season is over...more details are here.

the Polar Star in McMurdo SoundYes, there was yet another government shutdown, although it didn't last long enough to have any effect on USAP (although I didn't get up in the middle of the night to see if the NSF and Coast Guard websites had been shut down).

Speaking of the Coast Guard, on 6 February they put out this news article about the Polar Star's adventures and misadventures on their 2017-18 trip to McMurdo. The ice conditions were not as bad as last season, but there was that "flooding" and "engine failure." At left, one of many Coast Guard photos (by CPO Nick Ameen) from the Flickr album accompanying the article--this shows it breaking ice in McMurdo Sound on 13 January. Other photos depict some of the repair efforts. Meanwhile back in the USA, the U.S. Naval Institute has announced that the RFP for a new Coast Guard heavy icebreaker is expected this month. I will be watching for that. Hmmm...FIVE prospective bidders?

peak of the McMurdo shipping seasonA wrapup on the McMurdo shipping season...after the Ocean Giant arrived on 19 January (photo below left) and was securely tied up, the "offload" portion of the evolution took only 2-1/2 days. The backload would take a bit longer, but it departed on the morning of 2 be replaced at the pier by the tanker Maersk Peary. At right is a rather unique photo (from Michael Christensen) of the Ocean Giant departing, the Polar Star standing by, and the Maersk Peary lurking until the coast is clear. The tanker would tie up later that day...and stay until 6 February. Here's a webcam view of it heading off in the distance.

22 January...yes, there was a government shutdown. But this time, since the one in 2013, USAP has changed its funding structure so that there is no immediate impact. For a time the Armed Forces Network was shut down, cancelling TV broadcasts to McMurdo, but later it was declared "essential" meaning that folks could watch the NFL playoffs on Monday instead of, say, flying LC-130's to Pole. But it is early yet. In 2013, things went along normally for about a week before things started getting shut down and people started to lose their jobs.

the Polar Star at the pierAnd it IS the shipping season! The Polar Star first appeared off McMurdo around 14 January. By the 19th it was at the pier, checking in before heading back out to continue breaking out the channel. In the photo at left, the Nathaniel B. Palmer is waiting for the Coast Guard to go away so it can dock. The cargo vessel Ocean Giant left Lyttelton on the 18th and is supposed to reach McMurdo around the 25th. And the tanker Maersk Peary is now south of Australia after a stop in Fremantle.

17 January: after the successful lowering of the beer can stairs and adjusting all of the attached piping, some of the attention has turned to doing a bit of jacking and leveling of the elevated station itself. It's early so no photos yet.

But...the calendar and the news bring to mind the discussion of another US government shutdown this week. What might this mean for the US Antarctic program? Too early to tell, of course. And hopefully we won't have to find out. The last time a shutdown actually happened was in October 2013...resulting in major program disruptions and lost jobs--many people already deployed to McM or en route were sent home. Some never were rehired. And the end of the shutdown happened less than 24 hours before the Palmer Station summer science season would have been cancelled. Details!

DSCS module foundation13 January: here is a glimpse of one of the more visible summer construction projects--a new equipment module to better manage reception of the DSCS satellite. Here's the foundation support structure (from Sayer Houseal)...yes, more photos coming soon. Otherwise at Pole...the berms continue to be attacked...including the third annual Berming Man (no bonfires were created for this event)...and Kelly Brunt's NASA ICESat-2 traverse has completed and the team is back at Pole (latest blog post).

The NGO trekkers continue to arrive and approach as their season starts to wind down. Veteran Ben Saunders reached Pole on 29 December but opted not to continue his planned unsupported trip to the Ross Ice Shelf due to a shortage of food (Telegraph article). And Robert Swan opted to leave his South Pole Energy Challenge trek temporarily as he felt he was slowing the progress. He rejoined his group, along with some "last degree" folks, at 89ºS. They are one of the last 2 NGO teams/individuals still trying to reach Pole. Looks like the deadline for them to reach Pole before ALE pulls out is 17 January.

the 2018 South Pole Marker2 January...Happy New Year! Of course New Years Day brings with it the unveiling of the brand new South Pole by BICEP3 winterover Grant Hall and IceCuber Martin Wolf. Here are the details. The quote "By endurance we conquer" is a translation from the Latin of "Fortitudine vincimus" which was the Shackleton family motto. More info with photos...this 6 January Saxony FreiePresse article (in German)--which includes the photo of the makers at right. From left--the fabricator, machinist Matt Krahn, and the designers Grantland Hall and Martin Wolf (Martin's photo).winter photo of the 2018 Pole marker creators

The past weeks have brought significant progress to the summer construction projects--one of these--a significant effort to lower the stair tower in the beer can was recently completed. This was required because the station is settling faster than the vertical tower structure. The project involved setting up screw jacks on each of the ten columns and slowly lowering the steel structure 12 inches in two six-inch lifts. Modifications to the plumbing, piping, and elevator systems were also required. The result--perhaps one or two less stair steps in that torturous stair climb! Meanwhile, the other projects including the ice tunnel wall cutting and escape raise work, as well as the new DSCS platform are also well underway.

The McMurdo shipping season is fast approaching. The first part of that will be the icebreaking by the Coast Guard's Polar Star. It departed Honolulu on Friday 15 December local time (gCaptain article) and arrived in Lyttelton on the 29th. They stayed there for the New Years weekend, during which time some of the crew were to participate in a tree-planting project in the area of last year's Port Hills fire ( article). They were to head south on 2 January, taking with them a New Zealand naval officer who will be observing things. Meanwhile, the cargo vessel Ocean Giant left Port Hueneme on 2 January SP time and is now heading southwest toward Lyttelton...and the tanker Maersk Peary is heading southeast in the Indian Ocean after transiting the Suez Canal and the Red Sea.

Christmas dinner at PoleMerry Christmas! At right...the Christmas dinner, which happened on Christmas Eve. Christmas morning brought the latest rendition of the Race Around the World. That dinner photo is from Kelly Brunt...she and her NASA traverse team were a bit delayed in their departure, so they were around for the festivities, before eventually setting off around 2 January. As for their traverse on:

Brunt's traverse route16 interesting NASA science traverse is about to get underway from Pole. Glaciologist Kelly Brunt, along with cryospheric scientist Tom Neumann (and a lucky mountaineer and mechanic to be named later) will set out on 21 December in two Pisten Bullys, each towing a magic carpet (plastic sled) carrying their supplies and equipment. This will be a 470-mile 2-3 week traverse. The goal is to provide accuracy assessment and ground truth for the IceSat-2 satellite (which will be launched in 2018 to measure and track ice sheet elevation changes). They will head north initially along the SPoT traverse route, and then turn east to follow the 88ºS parallel to 131ºE, where they will turn south and head back to Pole (map at left). Most of this terrain is unexplored. They will collect GPS elevation data and set up reflector cubes that the ICESat laser beams may be able to find. Both Kelly and Tom are no strangers to the ice--Kelly has worked on various other projects on continent and remotely with IceBridge as well as in Greenland, and Tom wintered at Troll in 2007 before the first year of the Norwegian-American traverse. More project info... as well as their blog!

11 December. By this point the major summer projects are finally ramping up after the early season flight delays. On station, the big ones are the rework of the ice tunnel escape raises (emergency access ladders--something that has been cussed and discussed for several seasons), the upgrade of what originally was the GOES-MARISAT antenna (both of those satellites are no longer around) to handle the current DSCS satellite, and the relocation of the sheet metal shop--the last of the old construction Jamesways originally put up to support the elevated station construction. Meanwhile, on the science side, perhaps the largest project is the expansion of the Askaryan Radio Array (ARA) project from three to six sites--the first major expansion of this University of Wisconsin project since it was originally set up west of the IceCube laboratory in 2011-12.

Otherwise, the first group of NGO tourists visited Pole recently after having been flown in from Union Glacier...and most of the long polar and other NGO treks are well underway.

The Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star headed south from Seattle a week of 11 December they were approaching Hawaii. The cargo ship, presumably once again the Ocean Giant, will be heading south from Port Hueneme at the end of the month.

the traverse vehicles in front of the stationthe traverse en route4 December...the first South Pole Traverse (SPot) reached Pole last Thursday the 30th. Two photos: the one at left is from Sheryl Seagraves, some of the equipment in front of the station shortly after arrival. The photo at right is earlier and also of interest. It was taken by members of the Spectre Expedition team, who met up with the traverse team on about 25 November at about 87ºS. The expedition was headed north to the Gothic Mountains where they intend to do some significant rock climbing...they briefly followed the traverse route, which allowed them to get some serious kiting on the freshly broken tractor trail. The second traverse left McMurdo around the same time, and should get to Pole around the 21st.

Tuesday 28 November: the dearth of flights continued...until yesterday. On Tuesday the 21st was the last ChC-McM flight to bring Polies south--the New Zealand Air Force 757. But they ended up being stuck in McMurdo over the Saturday Thanksgiving holiday, as did the last seven 2016 winterover Polies who'd flown north to McM on the 22nd. But as I write this, an aircraft just left Christchurch, which should get those last winterovers in ChC early Tuesday morning. And the waiting Polies in McMurdo, including a large SPT crew, reached Pole around 2300 on Monday the 27th.

21 November: a bit more of an update on the Pole flights (or lack thereof). As of the 20th there had been exactly THREE Herc flights to Pole...the most recent of which was that DV flight mentioned below. Which had an extremely rough landing...touching down on the last 1000 feet of the skiway. Well, there WAS another Pole flight on 18 November...but it was a C-17 doing the annual airdrop practice, and it obviously didn't land. But it DID stop at McM on its way north to pick up waiting Pole wo's and others and transport them to Christchurch, although they did carry enough fuel to not land on the way north if the McM weather had turned bad. Did the airdrop drop anything useful? No. Just sand or shredded paper (?). Another good bit of insight on the recent McMurdo weather--this blog post from the University of Wisconsin automated weather station team stating that the McM weather at this time of year is the worst that blogger Carol Costanza and others have ever seen. Slight update...this morning, folks were being checked in at the CDC for a southbound C-17 flight...they haven't posted that they were sent back to their hotels, so hopefully they are in the air as I post this.

18 November...and it has been more than a week since there have been any McM-Pole flights...or ChCh-McM flights, for that matter. Bad weather can be blamed for some of this...a couple of days ago McM was in Condition 1. But at other times the weather seemed perfect. So...this has left the remaining winterovers are stuck at Pole, while others have been stuck at McMurdo...not to mention many southbound pax also stranded. The most recent ChC-McM B-757 was just cancelled, and the next McM-Pole flight is currently scheduled for Sunday 19 November...the NYANG normally does not fly on Sundays.

Perhaps the last flight in and out of Pole may have been this one on 9 November. After leaving Pole, McM was socked in so the aircraft and passengers spent the night at the Italian station on Terra Nova Bay. There were no Polies on board, it was a DV flight, so presumably there were USAF public affairs folks presumably that's why that article was written.

But that's not to say that there haven't been flights into Pole. On the 13th, the first AL&E Twin Otter showed up from Union Glacier, bringing staff to start opening up the NGO/tourist camp. And the NGO trekkers have already started heading south. Meanwhile, the first AL&E Ilyushin IL-76TD aircraft arrived at UG from Punta Arenas on 4 November--two weeks earlier than last year due to good weather. And the flight brought Ben Saunders, the Ice Maiden team, as well as Astrid Furholt and Jan Sverre Sivertsen" (archived site).

8 usual, more LC-130 flights had been scheduled in the past week, and cancelled for various reasons, some for weather, some for ??. But the second one finally did show up late evening on Tuesday the 7th, taking about 30 winterovers north. The summer season is well and truly underway.

More strange sad news from Washington state about an old subject...Al Baker's 52-year prison sentence for murdering his reported fourth wife Kathie Hill Baker in June 2012. On 6 October 2017 it was reported that he'd filed another appeal, this time claiming that his trial attorney had been ineffective. ?? the story yourself in this 6 November Whidbey News-Times article.

Trivia with a bit of an update: to date the NOAA winterover teams have included a total of 13 women over the years. As of now, the 2018 w/o team will consist of two women--both the NOAA Corps officer and the civilian tech. Only once before did the NOAA team include two women--that was in 1993 when there were three NOAA folks wintering. The two women were Katy McNitt Jensen and Kathie Hill, who was not part of the ongoing NOAA global monitoring team, but rather monitoring a separate wind profiling project. Yes, THAT Kathie Hill who was murdered in Whidbey Island, Washington, in 2012...per the above paragraph.

a fake LC-130 photo in front of the NOAA webcamYes...the winter is over! The first Herc arrived on Wednesday 1 November 2017, after 2 Baslers showed up on the previous Monday and Tuesday, bringing the first eight new people. The Herc brought in 40 more folks. And now the winterovers have started to leave! Of interest to me of course was this NOAA webcam photo (left) which appeared on Monday. is not an LC-130 taking off between the station and ARO...rather a small photo suspended in front of the camera with the bamboo fishing pole. The NOAA guys are great people.

first Basler at Pole for 2017-1826 October...DA PLANE! At right, the first of two transiting flights showed up on 22 October from Rothera en route to McMurdo...amidst the huge piles of snow from recent storms. New people!! This Basler stayed only an hour to refuel, but the Twin Otter that showed up a few hours later stayed overnight...well, two nights, actually, before the weather at McMurdo improved. Before it departed, a second Twin Otter showed up. And yes, the flights brought freshies...including mandarins, pineapple, Kiwi fruit, and more. Photo from Richard Osburn, thanks! Here's a closer look at the Basler from Martin Wolf...note the prop blades! Meanwhile, some of the 2018 winterovers have gathered for training in Colorado.It looks like a big year for field camps/small aircraft, as there were to be as many as FIVE more Baslers and Twin Otters passing through Pole in the coming days...some of these aircraft are chartered to USAP/NSF, others to other national programs including Australia. The isolation is over...can the LC-130's be far behind? The opening flight is currently scheduled for 1 November.

Other preparations for other visitors...AL&E got their first two opening/setup flights into Union Glacier in the past week. Just in time, perhaps, as the first expeditioners heading to Pole (as well as Mt. Vinson) will be arriving shortly. Who is coming this year? Remember that this is the only website that has been listing and tracking these expeditions for 19 straight years...

18 October...the first main body C-17 arrived at McMurdo on 13 October, several days late due to weather delays...not at all unusual at this time of year. Meanwhile, the LC-130 Hercs have been heading south from Schenectady...the first one left on 13 October, and two more departed on the 17th. All 3 should be in ChCh by the end of this week (Stars and Stripes article). Also expected next week at McMurdo is the FAA's Challenger 600 business jet...for runway certifications. As for Pole, the opening Herc flight is scheduled two weeks from today, and the transiting Twin Otters could arrive from Rothera by the end of this week.

The Antarctic Sun podcastSome new and different stuff...PODCASTS! Actually the Antarctic Sun podcast isn't exactly new...there were two episodes last season and two more so far this season. The most recent episode takes a look at "The Galley." It's available from the link at left as well as from your favorite podcast app. And there's another one-off one out there...last July the folks at the Antarctic Report interviewed that intrepid German 13x winterover Robert Schwarz. For over 30 minutes. Have a listen!

7 October...less than 2 weeks until the Twin Otters show up at Pole en route from Rothera to McMurdo. Perhaps bringing freshies. And weather permitting, of course. Lots of storms lately. A week ago there were 41-knot winds, and at -50ºF the wind chill was in three digits.

Poetry time! Since this past May, Antarctic-themed poetry has been being collected for an exhibition to be staged this summer at Pole. This is a project of 25-year-old Auckland native Laetitia Laubscher--participant in the University of Canterbury's Antarctic studies program. Less than a month left for entry is here.

Auroras 2017 highlightsThe winter auroras are but a memory...but Robert Schwarz captured them in this awesome 2017 highlight reel. Most of this is time lapse, but several of the clips are in real time. With great musical accompaniment. As Robert says...turn off the lights, relax for 15 minutes, and have a watch!

Scott statue under repairAs of 6 October 2017, people in Christchurch can once again see Robert Falcon Scott...or at least his statue, which was toppled by the February 2011 earthquake, which caused it to tumble from its plinth, and upon hitting the soft ground...break its legs, which were the weakest point. In the immediate aftermath of the quake, other priorities were more urgent, although for a time in 2012 the damaged statue was on display in Hagley Park in a glass case. At left, a late September view of the statue being reinstalled. It was formally unveiled on 6 October.

Serious attention was turned to the restoration of this statue in early 2016, after repairs to other statues had been completed...and after other options, such as displaying the unrepaired statue and constructing an entirely new memorial, were considered. The issues included not only displaying an accurately restored and strengthened statue, but also meeting building code safety requirements. Accordingly, a scheme was developed (and tested) to use carbon fiber rods drilled into the legs and fixed using adhesive at the broken joints. The plinth was reinforced by drilling and epoxy grouting stainless steel rods. And the statue was attached to the plinth using a heavy steel spring to provide flexibility during future earthquakes.

the Sun is up at Pole22 September 2017...the sun is up! I'll spare you a refracted image from earlier this week, but instead present Martin Wolf's photo (right) today of the real Sun above the horizon! Time to bring out the lawn chairs, shorts and cold beers (yes, that happened too). The beer was cold, as it should be--as of now (about noon on Friday) it's a cool -95ºF/-71ºC. The official sunrise dinner, with a food truck theme, was held on Saturday the 23rd.

10 September...yes, it has been awhile, but more on that later. First...the effects of Hurricane Harvey were felt...on the seventh continent. UTMB in Galveston is the longtime USAP medical subcontractor, dealing with hiring of medical folks, PQ processing, and medical consultations from the ice. NSF announced this week that UTMB was being impacted by the hurricane, but it now appears that things were already back to normal, unlike September of my 2008 winter when Hurricane Ike clobbered Galveston and wiped out UTMB for many months.

cool temperature in AugustAugust brought with it the coldest temperatures of the winter, as documented at left. It was almost as cold 2 weeks earlier. And of course the skies are much too light to make auroras or all but the brightest stars visible--and the window covers were removed at the beginning of September. But August was an amazing month for auroras. Robert Schwarz has put more than 100 awesome images here...and there are videos on his Facebook page which anyone should be able to access whether or not you use FB.

Other events that have happened recently include the "Christmas in July" which of course included that insane inane gift exchange that I remember from my Christmases at Pole in the late 80s. Too bad we didn't do one of those during my winters in this century.

Another unique August event...on 4 August, the ARRL conducted a remote exam at Pole for amateur radio licenses. Not the first time for this...which was in 2010, but this time there were 12 examinees, the largest ever such remote exam event. Folks had to wait until the DSCS satellite was back the examination required three volunteer examiners, one of these was James Casey at Pole (his blog post); James had also conducted the ham radio class. Pole amateur radio operatorsBut the exam required a total of 3 examiners, so two more folks monitored things remotely via Skype. At right, Martin Wolf's photo of the exam group as well as a link to my timeline information.

In July and August I spent 2-1/2 weeks on an Alaska trip...mostly a tour...which included time in backcountry Denali, an amazing flight around the mountain, and a Prince William Sound cruise. And there were Polies the Skyline Lodge in Denali park as well as in Anchorage.

And then there was the 21 August total eclipse, which I saw with ice friends north of Lusk, Wyoming. I'll spare you my lousy attempts at photographing it (I was more interested in just watching)...but it does bring to mind the partial eclipse I did see at Pole on 27 January 1990 SP time. partial eclipseThis was actually an annular eclipse, with the annular portion only visible in places where nobody was. As I saw was cloudy, which meant that I could look at (and sort of photograph it, left) without any glasses or lenses, while I was doing a long morning run on the skiway. I still don't understand the bright image to the right of the crescent sun, perhaps that was a reflection from my camera lens. Interestingly, I saw another partial solar eclipse 7 months later in Anchorage, on 22 July.

21 July, now for a bit of news from Pole. First of all, at the beginning of July the DSCS satellite terminal in Christchurch FINALLY got fixed...and this returned the fastest satellite to service after more than 2 months. The impact--lots of delayed large software updates and science data...not to mention a few bits of entertainment such as the first Game of Thrones episode. And at the same time, the folks geared up for the South Pole Winter Games...these contests included physical events such as volleyball, a treadmill 10k, and a Vertical Tower well as mental events including Rubik's Cube, Settlers of Catan, and Supreme Commander. Many medals were awarded. And on 15 July there was a bit of excitement when one of the power plant alternator bearings caught fire, resulting in a 10 minute power outage. The power plant person on duty was able to extinguish the fire with a fire extinguisher, and the alternator has since been replaced.

replacing the hallway subfloorAnd winter construction continued...the current major project is the subfloor replacement in some of the hallways. This is a continuation from last winter, and once again it requires frequent and frequently changing detours around the work areas...not to mention a good bit of dust. At right, a look at some of the work underway in the second floor A2 hallway near the galley (more info and photos).

A couple of website notes: first, I try to collect the aerial photos from each year, but I've been behind in putting them up. No more...I've just added the 2016-17 and 2013-14 photos, although I'm still looking for the missing years. And I also have reviewed and updated the list of nongovernmental Pole visitors for the upcoming seasons.

20 July...lots of Antarctic news from the Antarctic coast has come up in the past week. The best coverage has been from the New York Times--perhaps because they sent an investigative news team to McMurdo this past summer. Said team attempted to get to Pole five times...including several cancelled flights as well as one boomerang where they flew over Pole but were unable to land due to low visibility. Anyway, their most recent article appeared online on 17 July and in print the next day...a detailed and serious article titled Where Else does the U.S. Have an Infrastructure Problem? Antarctica." It addresses the deteriorating McMurdo infrastructure, the need for new icebreakers, and the increasing development of the Chinese Antarctic program--and it also mentions and depicts folks you and I know. As for the icebreaker issue, here's an 11 July article with more information (thank you Russell Rapp) which provides more information and discusses this 11 July report by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine.

Iceberg A-68And then there was last week's news...the calving of a large iceberg from the Larsen C ice shelf on the east side of the Antarctic Peninsula at some time between 10 and 12 July 2017. This got lots of news coverage, but again the New York Times covered it well, with great detail, photos, and graphics. The impending calving of this new iceberg, now named A-68, has been watched and extensively covered for the past year or so. At 2,240 square miles, it has been compared in US media to the size of Delaware (other media around the world have used other comparisons...for example it has been said to be 4 times the size of greater London). But...this iceberg is a little guy compared to B-15, which calved off of the Ross Ice Shelf on 17 March 2000. That iceberg was 4,200 square miles--a size often compared to the state of Connecticut. B-15 started to break up soon after it calved, and A-68 has also already lost a few small pieces. And B-15 and its fragments, being close to Ross Island, seriously threatened the shipping to McMurdo and also impacted the penguin colonies on Ross Island. A few more quick links about the Larsen C iceberg--this NASA article (source of the image at left); this 17 July BBC News story, and this 12 July "The Conversation" article. And for comparative reference, here is a 2001 USA Today article about the B-15 iceberg, as well as the B-15 Wikipedia article. Like the Larsen C calving, the impending calving of B-15 was anticipated and watched for from about 3 years before it actually broke off.

Pole midwinter photo26 June...happy (slightly belated) Midwinters Day! The official solstice happened on 21 June at 0424 UTC/1624 South Pole time. At left is the greeting card sent out to the other Antarctic stations as well as to the rest of us. The midwinter dinner was on Sunday 18 June, the first day of a two-day weekend (more info about all of the festivities).

signed Antarctica mapA winter anywhere in Antarctica is never forgotten by anyone...and needless to say, those of us who have wintered at Pole continue to mark the midwinter date. Forty years ago (gulp) 21 of us wintered at Pole in 1977; we continue to send each other midwinter greetings every year. This year, one of us sent around a photo of the Antarctica map most of us signed at our two reunions in Boulder in June of 2000 and 2007--something I'd actually forgotten about. The 2000 gathering included all 21 of us, well, including our visit to Gary Rosenberger's grave--he died in a motorcycle accident near Queenstown less than a week after we left the ice in 1977--he's buried in Boulder. And sadly, since our last meetup Lee Sundblad has also left this world.

And more recently, in 2004, 75 folks wintered at Pole...unlike 1977 this group included WOMEN! A few of this group (as well as yours truly) got together in Denver last weekend for a mini reunion. Event photos are here.

6 June...midwinter month. Pole continues to be humming well and lets look back to last June. I finally "think" I've got the June 2016 medevac well covered. I was traveling when it happened and couldn't get everything written up at the time, but this year there has been more/better media coverage out there, including some great video. And fortunately the two patients are both doing well. Meanwhile, Anthony Bourdain's Antarctica show aired on 4 June in the US on CNN...some familiar faces and stories from the 2016-17 summer season. And it may yet be out there on repeats, Amazon Prime, your cable system, or for download somewhere. Very well done!

auroras over the radomes29 May...things are very quiet at Pole. Which is mostly good, meaning that everyone is busy doing science, out watching auroras, or...involved in those continuing maintenance projects. As for the aurora, at right is a photo with amazing blue color by Hunter Davis from a couple of days ago. Here's a better look from Hunter's website, lots of great photography here for viewing or for purchase. Update...this photo and a few others were shared on EarthSky on 29 May!

Another reason things seem to be quiet at Pole is that DSCS, the fastest of the 3 satellites, has been mostly unavailable for awhile, apparently due to some significant problems with the satellite terminal in Christchurch. Apparently these problems were significant enough to require NSF to authorize $$ for repairs, but other approvals are still pending.

The 40th Antarctic Treaty meeting, in Beijing, has been underway since 23 May, continuing until 1 June. As in the past couple of years, not much news has surfaced in the media. About all I've seen are reports about China's first paper, about the expansion of their research program (a report from China's Global Times)--they're building a second icebreaker, and planning a fifth research station in the Ross Sea area as well as an airfield (near Zhongstan Station per this April 2017 China Daily article). Interestingly, ABC News chose the headline " mining in its immediate plans..." when they reported on that Chinese paper.

That fifth Chinese station---earlier reports indicated it would be in Terra Nova Bay, but no location has been selected yet. This past summer, the icebreaker R/V Xue Long investigated a number of sites; the present alternatives include Cape Bird, Marble Point, Inexpressible Island (southwest of the Italian Mario Zucchelli Station in Terra Nova Bay), Brown Peninsula (north of Mt. Discovery), and Newport Point (between Cape Royds and Horseshoe Bay) (February 2017 Xinhua news agency article). Interestingly, the Brown Peninsula and Marble Point sites have no maritime access. And I must also note that Newport Point (called New Port Point on some Chinese sites) was named for NZ carpenter Terry Newport, one of three fatalities of a 13 October VXE-6 helicopter crash at that location.

nacreous clouds behind the CD3 Williams memorial29 May is Memorial Day, when Americans remember veterans. Hundreds of thousands of these have fought and died, other combat veterans lived to return home, and then there were those service members who gave their lives in Antarctica. This classic photo silhouettes the memorial to Construction Driver third class Richard Thomas Williams, who died on 6 January 1956, when his D-8 went through the ice as he was hauling construction cargo from one of the cargo ships to Ross Island. The photo, from the USAP photo library, is by friend and fellow Pole 2005 winterover, he took it on 14 August 2006 during one of his McMurdo winters (link to original photo). That "Our Lady of the Snows" shrine was dedicated on 6 January 1957. In the background are polar stratospheric (nacreous) clouds. These are highest of all clouds at 80,000 feet and frequently visible at McMurdo in the spring...but they are also a cause of ozone depletion.

Speaking of McMurdo, the next of the every-six-week flights scheduled for this winter was scheduled for 31 May. But the winter flights for 2018 have been cancelled. At one time, plans called for one "reverse winfly" flight in April and no further flights until WINFLY, but that was later changed.

South Pole TelescopeApril aurora12 April 2017...and it was getting dark. The first auroras have been seen...and documented! At right, a link to Hunter Davis's photo, which he shared with The auroras had to compete with a rather spectacular full moon. Meanwhile, the newly upgraded South Pole Telescope is in the midst of a 10-day Event Horizon Telescope event...hoping to grab exclusive images of the "event horizon" of black holes--the area where the black hole's gravitational pull is strong enough to prevent anything from escaping. Here's more coverage. Meanwhile, closer to "home," the menu selection at Pole will be a bit limited for several weeks, as the kitchen was shut down to allow for cleaning and sealing the ductwork as well as replacement of the copper force main piping. Microwave munchies, anyone? And back in the northern hemisphere, a new tourist venture has been announced for next season...two week road trips to Pole and the Ross Ice Shelf by Arctic Trucks. Only $165,000 per person, but folks like British fund managers and Swiss bankers have already booked. Here's the 23 March Bloomberg article, as well as a link to the vendor, The Explorations Company.

26 other news, some of you may remember that I also have a Palmer Station site. I finally decided it needed a bit of updating, perhaps partly because the 2017 winterovers are now approaching the Drake Passage on their way south. So have a look!

the sun setting behind the ceremonial polethe sun close to sunsetThe sun is setting at Pole. The official equinox happened on 20 March at 2329 South Pole time, or 1029 UTC (daylight time for Pole and NZ doesn't end until 0300 on 2 April). So, as for the actual Pole sunset--the green flash showed up on 24 March. This is the first 2-day weekend of the winter, with the sunset dinner on Sunday the 26th. The classic photo at left was taken by IceCube guy Martin Wolf on 23 March. And check out this timelapse video from Robert Schwarz of the Sun circling the station between 8 and 13 March (right).

Oops...the photo at right below, taken on 5 March, shows the R/V Hero sitting on the bottom, where it ended up the day before. This is the Palix River estuary at Bay Center, Washington, 40 miles north of Astoria, Oregon...near extremely productive oyster beds. Perhaps it was a lot of rain...not uncommon for this time of year...or perhaps the pumps failed. No word yet on what actually happened, the R/V Hero on the bottombut on 6 March the Coast Guard hired a contractor to deal with the lube oil and diesel fuel that was starting to leak. 21 March updates...the contractor is hard at work. The latest news and details, updated frequently.

the current SSC buildingFuture McMurdo news...the original master plan is now FOUR years old. Yes, it has seen some major revisions, but now it appears that something is actually to get built. In February of this year the program held meetings with prospective bidders for a new design-build project--an addition and upgrade to the existing SSC (left) to house additional data center and operations space. The contract will not be awarded until after a site visit in 2017-18, with project completion scheduled for 2019-20. This could be the first significant USAP building construction project that engages a contractor separate from ASC. The details....

Another reason for that dome photo at right...there was an opportunity to get some pieces of it ;) . After skipping last year, it seems that there WAS an Antarctic auction this year...5-6 April 2017, accessible only from a mobile app, although the items were available for inspection/pickup at Port Hueneme. Here's the basic website which includes one version of the auction flyer. Another link to the auction brochure with photos is available here. The auction itself was online only, through their mobile app, which no longer contains listings or photos of the items, the dome as viewed from a kite in 2001 as the Ocean Giant just got back to Port Hueneme on 1 March. The website also announces that they are selling off some of the old dome pieces which have been sitting in Port Hueneme for awhile. More info and item photos are on their Facebook page,. Yes, they DID auction off 15 of the dome panels (photo from the auction site)...some of these went for upwards of $800.

So what's that photo of the dome at right all about? As of 1 March, things are nice and quiet at Pole which is as it should I'll share the first of several reviews of the first of THREE recently acquired new books about the winterover experience. Two of them were written BY winterovers...and the one featuring that dome photo is nonfiction, so you can rest assured that no one dies. Seriously...the book is One Day, One Night, Portraits of the South Pole, by Jennifer McCallum and her then-husband and atmospheric scientist John Bird, describing their 2001 winter...which included among other things some amazing kite photography, as well as that Foucault pendulum experiment in the then-under-construction beer can. I said no one dies...but they did witness and describe the midwinter medevac of Dr. Ron Shemenski at temperatures of -95ºF/-71ºC. The couple are Canadians...and after John was offered a winter research assignment with the University of Illinois LIDAR experiment, a frantic scramble ensued so that his wife Jen could certify dual Canadian/US citizenship, which would allow her to be hired as a DA. Here's John's website about the book...from which one learns that John was a speaker, as was US Secretary of State John Kerry at the November 2016 COP-22 climate change conference in Marrakech. I will say that while the book contains photos, it is not a picture if you are interested in a hard copy to read, purchase the paperback; if you want to see the color photos, buy the Kindle edition. If you want to do both, buy both...rather than investing in the $85 color version of the paperback.

Another medevac from McMurdo...remember that a month ago a passenger on the cruise ship M/V Ortelius was flown to McMurdo by that vessel's helicopter and then flown to Christchurch on a regularly scheduled C-17 flight. That occurred during the Ortelius' westbound cruise from Ushuaia to Bluff (Invercargill). Well, on 28 February, during the Ortelius' return cruise to Ushuaia, there was a similar medevac event, with the patient flown to McMurdo by the ship's helicopter on 27 February (NSF press release). This time...there were no more scheduled C-17 flights, so the program had to call upon the AAD for help. Accordingly, the A-319 Airbus flew from Hobart to the Phoenix runway on the 28th, picked up the patient, and flew to Christchurch...not long before a Condition 1 storm hit the McMurdo area.

The Polar Sea in better daysLots of icebreaker news...first of all, something that has been obvious for awhile was recently announced...the inactive Polar Sea (left) will not be reactivated...rather it will serve as a "parts donor" for the Polar Star, according to this 17 February US Naval Institute article. This Seapower posting states that the three main shafts from the Polar Sea will be transferred to the Polar Star during its next maintenance period. As for the next generation of icebreakers...on 22 February, Fox News reported that $20 million in new contracts had been awarded to study heavy polar icebreaker design and analysis...the goal being to award the first construction contract in 2019, in order to obtain a new class of ships between 2023 and 2026. Not all of such contracts are publicly announced, but two items of interest I was able to find--this $4 million study contract awarded to Halter Marine on 22 February 2017, as well as details of this 18 March 2016 "Industry Day" held in MacLean, VA. And a more recent "Industry Day" took place on 6 February 2017. All of these links include further links to extensive technical details and schedules.

last flight of 2016-17It's that time...15 February, the last LC-130 for 8-1/2 months departed Pole, taking away the last few summer folks and leaving behind 46 souls, many of whom will spend some time watching The Thing movies this weekend. Also, the NOAA team was briefly interviewed by their PR team and asked about their thoughts at station closing. At right, Dave Riebel's photo from that interview. There's also a video(!)

The NGO drama is not over yet. Although ALE has closed operations, solo kiter Mike Horn was still on the ice after leaving Pole on 11 January heading to Dumont d'Urville. He was not relying on ALE or ALCI to pick him up...rather his yacht Pangaea was supposed to get him. had to turn back to Hobart due to electrical issues, and it could be a week or more before Pangaea could make it to the French base. On 8 February Mike reached the coast at Dumont d'Urville after some impressive kiting distances--he was not afraid of taking chances with the wind. He was supposed to be picked up on 15 February, but that didn't work. He left DdU on the weekend of 18 February...aboard the French supply vessel M/V L'Astrolabe...and was reunited with Pangaea back in Hobart on the 24th. Thus ending the extended South Pole tourist season for 2016-17.

Back in McMurdo...the Ocean Giant left the ice pier at around 0100 1 February and headed for Christchurch. And it turns out that the predictions of heavy ice conditions were correct. The ice pilot on the Ocean Giant reported:

It was a heavy ice year. Seventy miles of sea ice in McMurdo sound. From Beaufort Island to the ice pier. Did a bit of unescorted crunching barely making four knots at full power. Hooked up with the Polar Star off Cape Bird for a sixty plus mile transit in first year fast ice. First off...Polar Star did a fabulous job with channel preparation and transit execution. Can't say enough how enjoyable it was working with that Captain. He worked his way up the ranks, had a lot of boat driving experience and time on the icebreaker Mackinaw in the Great Lakes.

tanker Maersk Peary departingOn the third, the tanker Maersk Peary took its place. If you watched the McMurdo pier webcam you could see how the offload was progressing--as the fuel was pumped ashore, the ship rose in the water. In the early morning of 7 February the tanker was departing--the photo at left is from 0255, and you can see that it is fully ballasted down with sea water. Shortly afterward the Polar Star moved briefly to the ice pier before heading north toward Lyttleton--to be the first Coast Guard icebreaker to call in New Zealand in decades because of the old nuclear weapons's the article updated 8 February, as well as this 10 February NSF press release and this 9 February press release from the U.S. Embassy in Wellington. This port call in New Zealand will save fuel and transit time, as otherwise the Polar Star would have to stop at Hobart, Tasmania.

Oh...also in 1 February there was a medevac--the second non-USAP medevac of this summer season. It seems that a 66-year-old Dutch woman had a stroke while traveling on the cruise ship MV Ortelius in the Ross Sea north of McMurdo. NSF announced that they would assist in the medevac (NSF press release). The cruise ship headed south, and on 31 January the patient was flown by the MV Ortelius's helicopter 60 miles south to McMurdo, from where she would be flown north on the 1 February C-17 flight to Christchurch. Here is the initial 31 January Christchurch Press article, as well as a 2 February update after she'd arrived in Christchurch.

hauling off the old rodwell buildingThings are winding down at Pole as it is about 2 weeks before closing. Folks are finishing up with landscaping after the old rodwell building was dug up and hauled off (right) and all but one of the old construction shop Jamesways were demo'd.

If the cargo operations are underway at McMurdo, that means there are less than 3 weeks left before Pole station closing. The last of the NGO skiers/kiters have completed their Pole trips...all except for Mike Horn, who is still heading north, now about 560 miles away from his destination at Dumont d'Urville. He's not dependent upon ALE or ALCI to pick him up...rather, his yacht Pangaea headed south from Perth on 29 January so he can continue the next leg of his travels.

Polar Star in Winter Quarters BayShipping updates...the icebreaker Polar Star was sighted on 16 January by some of the Polie winterovers at McMurdo for R&R. On the afternoon of 17 January it showed up on the webcam (left) approaching the ice pier...although it would do a bit more channel clearing work before docking. You could have watched the activity in and around the pier by selecting the McMurdo Pier Camera from this webcam link as well as the 24 hour archive (slide icon). Also, this gCaptain article describes their voyage with more photos; it also notes that this year there was more than 60 miles of ice to break, significantly more than the 12-13 miles they found in the past few years. cargo ship offloadAnd the research vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer, after passing the Bay of Whales as it cruised west along the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf (aka The Barrier as named by the early explorers, because that is what it looks like), arrived off McMurdo on the 19th but couldn't dock because the Polar Star was still taking on fuel at the ice pier. Here is Kris Perry's offshore view of McMurdo from the Nathaniel B. Palmer. By Sunday 22 January the research vessel had replaced the Coast Guard icebreaker at the pier. Not long afterward it departed for Lyttelton. The cargo ship Ocean Giant showed up on the 25th...and cargo offload is now well underway, as you can see from the webcam (28 January sample at right). The deck cargo has been offloaded, and they're digging into the holds.

the 2017 South Pole markerHappy New Year! Yes, the holiday season was celebrated in a traditional manner, with the festive Christmas Eve dinner on the 24th...followed by the 2 mile Race Around the World on Christmas morning...and a holiday brunch. New Years Eve brought a major party in the gym...and the next morning the 2017 Pole Marker (right) was unveiled...UPDATE! The marker designer, 2016 winterover Warren Shipley, provided detailed information about the marker design...and more photos! Check this out!.

It's January...and that means that the shipping season is approaching. The cargo vessel Ocean Giant headed south from Port Hueneme on schedule on about 31 December, it will call at Lyttelton on the 17th; the tanker Maersk Peary was heading southeast after leaving the Gulf of Aden. It will call at Fremantle WA on 14 January before continuing to McMurdo; and the icebreaker Polar Star left its homeport in Seattle some time ago. It stopped in Sydney for a few days, sailed from there on New Years Day, and as of the fourth it was 30 miles west of Macquarie Island. It is supposed to reach the ice edge sometime the week of 8 January. AND...the research vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer is on a science cruise making its way west along the Antarctic coast from Marguerite Bay...scheduled to reach McMurdo around 20 January. Want to know what it's doing? Check out IT guy/friend David Pablo Cohn's blog as well as University of Rhode Island professor Tatiana Rynearson's science blog.

the collapsed BIFThere are lots of projects happening at Pole this summer? Will they all get finished? One reason they might not is because as of New Years Day, Pole had received only 29 LC-130 flights...which is about half of what had been scheduled to date. Partly because of frequent mechanical issues, partly because the plan in recent years is not to have C-17 support during the middle of the season...meaning that the NYANG has to cover all of the flights between ChCh and McMurdo. And partly because of ??? Needless to say, the lack of Pole flights is seriously impacting fuel deliveries, science cargo...and mail. One project which does not require any construction material to be flown in is a major effort to demo or move old unneeded and drifted-in facilities in the vicinity of the summer camp. Including the former structurally unsound balloon inflation facility (BIF) which was undermined several years ago when the sewer bulb overfilled into the firn. One end of the cryo building was turned into the new BIF last summer, although there is some remaining work to do on that facility. Anyway, at left is what the old BIF looked like when it was safely pulled down with the D-7 (?) and some well-designed rigging. More photos are here...and I'll have more soon of the ongoing demo of the old construction trades shop Jamesways.

The first South Pole Traverse of three scheduled for this season showed up on 5 December...yes, Forrest McCarthy was along, and yes, he created this video! ( I wrote this on 14 December Forrest was already chilling out in Christchurch....) The second traverse showed up in time for the Christmas festivities and headed north on the 30th...hauling a bunch of those waste triwalls out.

Buzz Aldrin in hospitalBuzz Aldrin, the second person to walk on the Moon and currently 86, was medevaced from Pole on 1 December South Pole time after suffering from apparent altitude sickness while visiting with a private tour group organized by White Desert. He was flown to McMurdo that evening and arrived in Christchurch the morning of 2 December. Here is my coverage with more photos.

Dr. Jefferies at Pole in January 2008A new solar observatory...or perhaps an updated reprise of an older one. Georgia State professor Stuart Jefferies is leading a multinational team that will reestablish the "South Pole Solar Observatory" starting in December 2016 (Georgia State University press release). Stuart is no stranger to this stuff at Pole...this is his seventh visit, and the hero shot at left is from his previous Pole project in January 2008 (more photos from that visit). His first such venture was in 1987-88 with Marty Pomerantz, when they installed an upgraded optical system at the Pomerantz Land solar telescope site 5 miles east of the station (see this October 1988 Antarctic Journal article ). In 2002-03 and 2007-08, Jefferies was the principal investigator for what was known as the Jefferies Solar Observatory...more recently at a site in the dark sector about 2-1/2 miles west of DSL. The photo at left (from the Georgia State press release linked above) depicts Dr. Jefferies at that site. This first season of a 2-year project will send a total of six people to Pole over the summer to set up at the same location.

Michel's RV-8 at Mario Zucchelli baseAnother strange aircraft story just seems that 61-year-old pilot Michel Gordillo flew south from Hobart on 1 November to begin a successful crossing of Antarctica in a single-engine Vans RV-8 kit-built aircraft (right, Michel's photo of the aircraft at Mario Zucchelli station. Note that he left his skis behind to reduce fuel consumption). In theory this was a scientific venture sponsored by the Andalusian Center for Environmental Research (CEAMA, based at the University of Grenada, Spain). He was carrying an aethalometer for them in an effort to collect carbon particles from the atmosphere. Supposedly the project and flight was approved by the Spanish Polar Committee, but it was NOT recognized by the American or British programs, nor by ALE, none of whom would have provided him with fuel had he landed at one of their airfields. In a way I can't blame them...a solo pilot in a small single-engine aircraft, with admittedly little fuel reserves...collecting upper air samples which are much more easily and safely gathered by NOAA and others.

Michel's aerial view of PoleMichel was born in what was then French Cameroon, and gained his flight training and experience in the Spanish air force. On this trip, he arrived at the Italian Mario Zucchelli Station after a 16-hour flight from Hobart. He had ordered avgas to be delivered to him there from Christchurch, but after that flight was delayed he ended up using mogas. His weather window was 9 November, when he left for the 20-hour flight to Marambio. While he was offered emergency landing rights at several sites, none of them would grant him additional fuel. And he reported he was unable to contact Pole by radio...perhaps because of difficulties with his own HF radio. Given favorable tailwinds, he eventually landed at the Argentinian Marambio base (located on Seymour Island on the east side of the Antarctic Peninsula). With two hours of fuel reserve remaining. In any case, at left is his photo documentation of his Pole overflight, looks to be in the afternoon of 9 November. Here's his detailed blog entry where he describes his flight across Antarctica, as well as this news article from the Hobart, Tasmania Mercury.

C-17 certification landing15 November...after 15 months of work by half a dozen folks, the first C-17 flight landed at the new Phoenix runway (right)...twice, in fact. All part of the certification process, which is now successfully completed. Info and photos...

News from the north...includes the severe earthquake that struck New Zealand at 0002 Monday morning 14 November. At 7.8 on the moment magnitude scale, it was rated more severe than the ones that devastated Christchurch in 2010 and 2011, but as it was centered in a more rural area between Hamner Springs and Kaikoura on the northern South Island, there was less severe damage. Still, several people were killed, and damages were significant, particularly in Kaikoura, an East Coast town I'd visited in January 2014, as the main coastal state highway and rail link was severely damaged. Two links...this national article from the Christchurch Press, and another from the New Zealand Herald.

Secretary Kerry with Art Brown
Secretary Kerry chats with NSF DPP director Kelly Falkner outside of the CDC as Art Brown looks on.

Kelly Falkner introduces John Kerry to the community
Kelly Falkner introduces John Kerry to the McM community before his remarks in Building 155 (another view of Kerry addressing the crowd).

A few days before the earthquake (and as US election results were becoming known, secretary of state John Kerry made a brief visit to McMurdo station. He arrived in ChCh at 1730 Wednesday evening NZ time. The next morning (Thursday 10 November) he met with the NZ Foreign Minister Murray McCully in the morning and spent time at the Antarctic Centre and CDC clothing issue that afternoon. He flew to McMurdo on a C-17 on Friday morning. Here's the NSF press release and the Press article about his Wednesday Christchurch arrival. Immediately after his C-17 landed at McM early Friday afternoon, he and his entourage of about 13 press and staff (50 more members of his entourage had been left behind in Christchurch) were to board an LC-130 for a flight to Pole, but that was scrubbed due to weather. So he was given a helicopter tour of the Dry Valleys, visited other McM and Scott Base facilities and historic Ross Island huts, spoke for about 40 minutes to a crowd of about 450 folks in the galley on Friday evening, and later attended a smaller gala reception in the Chalet.

He flew back to Christchurch on Saturday 12 November (12 November Christchurch Press article), continuing almost immediately to Wellington where he met with Prime Minister John Key as well as Embassy staff. A few hours before the earthquake he flew to Oman en route to the United Nations COP-22 in Marrakech, where he was expected to speak. Here's the State Department page with full details of Kerry's trip, a link to all of the State Department photos including the ones I've used above, and a 14 November commentary article from the Washington Post with a few more photos.

Kim Stanley Robinson with Liz SutterA couple of days before Kerry's visit, author Kim Stanley Robinson spent a bit of time in McMurdo and also addressed an assembled crowd. He'd previously visited McMurdo and Pole with the Artists' and Writers' program in 1995-96 when he was digging up stuff for his somewhat prophetic work Antarctica. This time his visit was more of a media event, as he was researching the 1911 winter journey by Apsley Cherry-Garrard, Edward Wilson, and Henry "Birdie" Bowers to Cape Crozier to collect an unhatched penguin egg, for a Smithsonian article. He went with Elaine Hood to the site of the "stone igloo" which is well described in Cherry-Garrard's book The Worst Journey in the World. At right, he's seen with Chalet administrative secretary Liz Sutter (photo courtesy Liz Sutter from the "Great Race" website)

After the transiting aircraft, the first "real" summer flight from McMurdo was a Basler which showed up on 27 October with 8 summer folks; it took 6 winterovers north. The opening flights this season seemed to be a bit different...a few years ago there were serious efforts to schedule early arrivals on a Basler before the first Herc, but after their flights kept getting cancelled, an LC-130 actually made the opening flight. This year...there was a second Basler on 29 October, and the first LC-130 didn't show up until 2 November, followed by another Basler. At present (15 November) the LC-130 flights continue to be severely delayed.

22 October was a sad day for the US Antarctic Program...Gordon Hamilton, a 50-year-old glaciologist from the University of Maine, died after the snowmobile he was driving hit a crevasse and fell 100 feet down. This occurred at the Shear Zone, 25 miles south of McMurdo, where the Ross Ice Shelf meets the McMurdo Ice Shelf. As both of these shelves move in different directions, the area needs to be remediated by exploration, blasting, and other means before the South Pole Operational Traverse can journey through the zone with fuel and other supplies for Pole. At the time of the accident, Dr. Hamilton's science team was camped about 200 yards from the traverse remediation team, so it was a sad day for all concerned. Here is NSF's 23 October press release, a 24 October Washington Post article with an excellent photo of Gordon, and a more reflective article about Gordon from the New York Times.

first plane of the seasonAt Pole...the isolation is over. The first Basler landed on 11 October as documented by Darren Lukkari (left)... followed by a Twin Otter soon afterward. These aircraft were transiting from Rothera to McMurdo; the Basler headed north after refueling while the Twin Otter stayed overnight.

News from Colorado...starting on 11 October, many of the winterovers gathered at the YMCA in Estes Park for a few days of team-building stuff, to be followed by fire and/or medical training...after which many of them will be flying south. I met a few of them in Denver the day before.

Summer is coming...and surprisingly the first two McM main body flights, scheduled for 3 and 4 October, were NOT delayed by weather! And the Kenn Borek Air flights (two Baslers and one Twin Otter) are still scheduled for the 11th. In slightly different flight news, the long-time private company operating the Union Glacier camp/runway mainly in support of private expeditions, has completely rebranded itself as Adventure Networks and Explorations (ALE), getting rid of the former Adventure Network International nameplate of the company created by Giles and Anne Kershaw. Here's their company announcement.

And who might some of this summer's private expeditioners be? As far as I know, there is now only one website that is continuing to track them...this one.

time lapse of a NOAA balloon launchAnother unique sign of springtime at Pole--frequent NOAA ozone balloon launches. At right is a time-lapse of one of the launches (from about 14 September) showing the balloon illuminated by the glow in the sky. This was created by IceCuber Christian Krueger and shared on the NSF polar programs Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Hopefully the final bit of news from Whidbey Island, WA on this sad subject--the final appeal process for Al Baker ended on 15 September (without his knowledge, presence, or consent). He's been resentenced to the same 52-year term that he originally had received. Details in this 21 September Whidbey News-Times article.

And if the summer aircraft season is approaching, it must be the peak PQ season. Hmmmm, this just in from

McMurdo dispensaryChristina Hammock KochOn a more significant medical note, on 13 September NSF and NASA announced a joint medical collaboration, which will sponsor medical research, development and training in extreme polar environments (the NSF press release and the NASA press release). On the NASA side this will be a part of their Human Research Program to reduce the physical and mental risks of space operations on the humans who go there; on the NSF side it will mean that NASA flight surgeons will rotate through NSF's Antarctic clinics (at left, from the NSF press release, Peter Rejcek's 2006 photo of the McMurdo clinic), providing additional assistance and expertise. There will also be physical and psychological studies on volunteers in the Antarctic community. The photo at right, from the NASA press release, I recognized immediately as I'd seen it before. That's Christina Hammock Koch whom I wintered with in she's an astronaut! She assured me this was a selfie although that term wasn't in use back in 2005.

No more winfly? That's hinted at in this Antarctic Sun article. The 2015 winter saw flights to McMurdo about every six weeks; plans for next winter call for more frequent flights, perhaps once a month--this would negate the requirement for an early season cluster of flights. In other flight-related news, the new Phoenix runway at McMurdo is undergoing final shaping, leveling and compaction...with certification scheduled for November. Shortly after that occurs, Pegasus will be closed. As for Pole, preliminary work for opening the station has begun. The schedule now calls for two Baslers and one Twin Otter to show up from Rothera around 11 October en route to McMurdo.

sunrise on the polar plateauAdam Jones heading for his roomHere comes the sun! As documented at left by UT Darren Lukkari on 21 September...actually above the horizon. Interestingly, it made a brief appearance on the 7th, while still 5.9 degrees below the horizon, thanks to ducted refraction produced by an unusual bit of strong thermal layering. It only lasted a few minutes...a strange teaser. Oh, around the same time, network engineer Adam Jones was caught heading to his A1 room (right) in shirt sleeves...well, the temperature WAS in three digits. What for...well, the construction crew is replacing the floor in the second floor hallway, and the inside hall was blocked off during working hours. As documented in this IceCube weekly news report with photos by Christian Krueger. There's also his shot of that refracted sun. In the previous news report, Christian had shared this time-lapse video of removing the window covers at the end of August. (All of the recent IceCube weekly news reports are available here.)

Sad news from Australia--Anton Brown, the 2015 winterover machinist, passed away on 6 September. He was 57. Here's the brief obituary from the Perth newspaper. He, of course, created the present/2016 Pole marker; I have a few photos of him on this page.

Early in August, an intrepid multinational construction crew got together and erected...a massive igloo. Large enough to sleep five and keep them warm and toasty (well, about 0ºF/-18ºC). And then it was demo'd. Story and photos here.

Yes, as of 16 August the USAP Antarctic support prime contractor is now Leidos. Huh? The details...and of course an updated jobs page.

first WINFLY flight landing at McMurdo23 August...the first of five WINFLY flights landed at Pegasus at 1216 on 23 August (left), ending the long winter--or perhaps not exactly, as McMurdo had regular flights every six weeks or so through the winter. This flight was the Skytraders A319 Airbus (left, photo from Antarctica New Zealand). There will be a total of five flights, two more using the Airbus and two using a C-17.

igloo in front of the stationConstruction update...the winterovers began construction of the new berthing structure the last week in July...uh, yeah, it was an igloo. It was completed on 7 August, and occupied overnight by FIVE intrepid winterovers. At right, a photo of it showing it glowing from the intense interior illumination. More information about its construction, occupation, and rapid demise--with more photos/credits--here thanks in large part to one of its architects Darby Butts.

On 29 June, the GOES-3 satellite, which had been used by USAP for 21 out of its 38-year life, was decommissioned...only to be officially replaced by that much-faster DSCS-3 bird (more details).

medevac aircraft at Pole

Yes, there was a medevac. NSF made the public announcement on 15 June SP time, after the two Twin Otters from Kenn Borek Air headed south from Calgary. A week later, one of the aircraft arrived at excellent weather, clear, calm, the Moon was up, and the temperature was -75.6ºF/-59.8ºC. At left, the aircraft was being unloaded after arrival. The evolution was successful...two Polies needing medical attention were safely brought to hospital in Punta Arenas, Chile. The full story is here.

Another Polie in the news back operator Bruce Tischbein, who has been on the ice since last August, has a feature page on the Zionsville IN Current in Zionsville site. Zionsville is a northwest suburb of Indianapolis.

Lots of satellite news in June! The good news is that the DSCS-3 satellite is now in daily use...although this is presumably still in "testing" mode, as this satellite is not yet listed in the online satellite pass schedules. It is considerably faster--with bandwidth approaching 30 Mbps, significantly better than the 1.5-5 Mbps typically available previously. And its visibility fills in part of the gap between the other satellites, thus extending the daily satellite window from 10-11 hours/day to 14-15. On the flip side (perhaps) of the coin, it was just announced that the GOES-3 satellite is being decommissioned, beginning on 8 June per this blog post from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The loss of GOES may not be such a big deal, as it has been the slowest of the satellites currently in use...and its visibility window mostly coincides with that of the various faster TDRSS/SPTR satellites. On 15 June it was being moved to a "trash orbit."

the Polar Sea being towed down the ColumbiaElusive icebreaker sighting...on 23 May 2016 the Polar Sea was observed heading down the Columbia River at Astoria. What you don't see in this photo (left) are the tugboats providing the motive power. The inactive icebreaker was being towed back to the Coast Guard base in Seattle after a five-month yard period at the Vigor shipyard in Portland. This included survey, additional mothballing activity, and presumably an effort to update the cost estimate to put it back in service. Here's the Daily Astorian article (the source of the photo seen here) with link to video ; despite the tone of the article, the vessel is NOT headed for the such decision has been made. Also, this article from the Puget Sound Business Journal depicts the Polar Sea in drydock, discusses the prospect of future icebreaker construction...and mistakenly identifies the vessel as the Polar Star. Oops.

opening of the 39th ATCMThe 39th Antarctic Treaty meeting, running from 23 May through 1 June, is underway in Santiago, Chile. As with the last couple of meetings, the event is mostly below the news radar...perhaps not a bad sign. Anyway, at right is a 23 May photo from the opening day of the meeting. This photo of the first day of the meeting is from Lisa Kelley who is there as part of the IAATO delegation...and yes, she also was the Palmer winter manager in 2010.

cold temperature scroll in MayThe end of May...things are quiet at Pole...well, mostly. Lots of noise about the auroras. Robert Schwarz continues to show them off as he does so well, and he's even added a Facebook page South Pole Skies that anyone can see, you don't even have to give Mark Zuckerberg your vital information. On 15 May, the thermometer dipped below the -100ºF mark...and actually was there for about 3 days. I actually won a guessing contest for this date...well, all I did was pick the middle of the most common month for the first 3-digit temperature. It got close to -105ºF...not sure of the exact measure, but the documentation at left (from Lindsey Clark) must be close.

new Phoenix AirfieldOn 7 April 2016, NSF announced that the new "alpha runway" (right), under construction near McMurdo last season, would officially be named "Phoenix Airfield." Plans are for it to be completed, certified, and in use in 2016-17. The full story and background.... Meanwhile, at Pole, as the remaining twilight faded, the station windows were covered the first week in April. By now (late April) it is really dark, but in late March it was still light enough for Robert Schwarz to create an awesome TWO WEEK timelapse of an entire lunar cycle--the moon rising, circling the station, changing phase, and then slowly setting. You MUST watch it!

March 2016 sunset

The sun finally set on 24 March 2016, after its usual dilly-dallying around...and after presenting a rather spectacular display. At excellent shot by Darby Butts which shows the green flash. He blew it up, here's a larger version of the green flash.

Satellite update...starting this past austral summer, tests were conducted on another aging military satellite--one of the DSCS-III satellites that is slowly slipping away from an exact equatorial orbit. Not the first time these were considered...their use was mentioned back in 1999 (NSF meeting proceedings) conclusion of that discussion was to consider running a fiber optic cable north, perhaps as far as Concordia station at Dome C. Nothing came of that (fortunately perhaps). But now in with the satellites in use continuing to fail, and communications requirements increasing, the DSCS-III is again being considered (Wikipedia article and diagram). Currently it only reaches about 1 degree above the horizon, but when it is a bit below the horizon it sometimes can still be seen due to something similar to the refraction that makes the sunsets last longer. So far no timetable on its use...but here is a September 2015 Federal Times article about the current satellite situation and the proposal to use the Air Force DSCS satellites.

Updates on the pending prime contract changeover that I first mentioned here last July: On 26 January 2016 Lockheed-Martin and Leidos Holdings announced that Leidos would take over the Information Systems & Global Solutions (IS&GS) unit from L-M in some sort of tax-free deal worth about $5 billion. IS&GS is principally L-M's IT operation, but it of course includes the USAP contract. Here's a 26 January Denver Post article highlighting the deal, a 28 January FCW article which provides more detail on what Leidos is taking over, and a 26 January Leidos press release. I understand that there still are some details to work out regarding such things as the building and the data center, but the takeover is supposed to be complete by October. No changes are expected in the subcontractor structure.

Meanwhile back in Chicago, the South Pole Telescope folks were working on a new and enhanced microwave-sensitive camera, the SPT-3G (third generation)...which will have 16,000 detectors--10 times more than the presently installed instrument, and weigh 4 times as much. It will be used in the continuing investigation of gravity waves and measurement of neutrinos. The instrument will be installed in 2016-17...see this University of Chicago news release, a February WTTW Chicago Tonight article, and Brad Benson's 2014 paper about the instrument. At the same time, the SPT is moving forward to become a part of the Event Horizon Telescope array.

On 30 March, the US Air Force issued this press release announcing the successful completion of the 2015-16 Operation Deep Freeze--the 60th anniversary! Yes, shortly before Christmas Day in 1955, the first few Navy folks were setting up their tents next to Scott's Hut on Hut Point, in preparation for construction of what would become McMurdo Station. The press release includes some high resolution photos of some of the aircraft and vessels involved in this past season.

The closing flight did happen on Tuesday 16 February. Leaving behind 48 souls. A bit larger crew than in the past couple of years, in part because of the fairly major winter project to level and clean the fuel tanks in the arch. The closing was actually planned for Monday the showed up...but visibility was too poor for it to see the skiway...or for folks on the ground to see the aircraft. day of delay.

Tanker at the pier

7 February 2016, and now it is tanker Maersk Peary's turn to be almost finished with its mission as seen in this webcam image (left), riding high in the water. The Polar Star lurks in the background. At Pole, the remaining winterovers have been arriving as summer people pack up and the temperatures start to dip below -40º. The stuck Herc finally was repaired, it departed on 27 January, while the broken Twin Otter left on 3 February.

Ocean Giant1 February...the Ocean Giant was finishing up loading the retrograde cargo and trash (left)...I've been watching the webcam photos and most of them have been cloudy or hazy. This is one of the better ones...but better yet is this 4-minute YouTube timelapse video of the Ocean Giant evolution, filmed by Merchant Marine Academy (Kings Point) cadet Tanner Evans (with no less than 6 GOPROS). At Pole, the ALE tourist camp was being dismantled on 17 January, but the visiting season is not quite over yet. Emma Tamsin Kelty, with Chilean guide Pachi Iberra, are still en route, they should arrive in a day or two. And the next visitor hasn't left Australia yet. Charles Werb is about to embark on a "snow sail" to Pole...after first being driven several hundred miles south of Novo by Arctic Trucks folks. Hmmmm. (Update...he made it to Novo but not to Pole...details here.)

29 interesting period for Pole flight operations...or the lack thereof. There have been few flights for various reasons--one of which is the fact that at this time of year the primary effort is to recover folks who have been at field camps...another of which is that some of the LC-130's aren't working. One of these was stuck overnight at Pole--on 18 January it boomeranged and returned due to bad weather at McMurdo. The next day...the crew had timed out on flight hours, and then folks couldn't get the aircraft started. Twin Otter sans skiThen on 20 January, a Twin Otter taking off for Rothera en route to Calgary at the end of its charter, lost a ski while taking off, prompting a "this is not a drill" station emergency response (right). No one was injured, but all flights were shut down for a couple of days for the accident investigation and repairs (more info/photos). As a result, there were people sleeping everywhere. Finally on 26 January a Herc arrived, and the population dropped back to 156 (remember the max is supposed to be 150). As of 26 January the broken LC-130 was still there.

Meanwhile in McMurdo...the tanker Maersk Peary arrived on the 21st, while the Polar Star is also still hanging around, with some of its activities hampered by engine problems. Here's a series of articles about the mission, posted by freelance writer Brandon Reynolds for KQED--the 22 January article describes some of the propulsion issues.

Antarctic death...Henry Worsley, who visited Pole a few weeks ago on his crossing from Shackleton Bay to Shackleton glacier...was evacuated a mere 30 miles from his destination on 22 January...and died in a Punta Arenas hospital on the 25th. More details here.

the Ocean Giant at wharf 7Shipping update...the cargo vessel Ocean Giant did call at Lyttelton 16-18 January (left) it is seen on the morning of the 18th (from the Lyttelton port webcams). It was scheduled to depart for McMurdo at 1700.

Another Polie interview, this one is with winterover water plant tech William Lindman. He'll be heading south shortly; meanwhile he was interviewed on 12 January by his local southeastern Missouri NPR station. This will be William's first Antarctic deployment, but he's been around...including some time with the Peace Corps in Uganda. He gives quite a detailed description of the PQ and psych process.

Science news: the South Pole Ice Core team reached their original drilling target of 1500m on 9 January! They now may reach 1750 meters by the end of the season.

the 2016 Pole markerIt's almost resupply season at McMurdo. The Coast Guard's icebreaker Polar Star has been working the ice into McMurdo over the past few days, but it has not docked yet. If you're lucky you can catch a glimpse of the icebreaker on the McMurdo pier webcam. Another sign...the Navy's cargo handling battalion was heading south from Hampton Roads, VA to help with the offload (11 January Stars and Stripes article). Coming later this month--the same two ships as last year. The tanker Maersk Peary left Fremantle, Western Australia, on 12 January--next stop McMurdo, and the cargo vessel Ocean Giant was nearing Lyttelton, scheduled to call there 16-18 January.

January at Pole...the sun is going down. Well, it won't disappear until late March, but the peak mid summer temperatures are now history, as are the traditional midsummer events. These included the Christmas festivities and the Round the World race as well as New Years weekend celebrations, the unveiling of the brand-new 2016 Pole marker on New Years Day, and the marathon and half-marathon held the following day. There were seven finishers of the 26.2-mile event.

Work has been continuing on various small and large projects including the cryo/BIF conversion. A significant effort is being made to reorganize/consolidate/retrograde/shred some of the "stuff" on the berms, some of which has been there since before I first arrived in 1976. The cleanup effort included a December work/food/music festival dubbed "Berming Man." Recently the shredder Fargo successfully got rid of...skylab.

safety rail on the cryo roof21 December--midsummer at station folks are planning for Christmas celebrations next weekend, the sun is now starting to head for the horizon. Construction is in full of the major projects (at left) is the conversion of the downwind module of the cryo building into the new balloon inflation facility (BIF). Elsewhere around station, the South Pole Ice Core science project is back, hoping to drill down to 1500 meters this summer. This season's team got to Pole on 25 November, drilling began on 5 December, they moved to 3-shift operations on 7 December. As of 13 December they'd reached 885 meters. Below right...the first ice core recovered this year.the first core of the season

The strange news from Washington State continues. Al Baker's resentencing hearing won't be for a month or two, but in the meantime he's been released from prison and returned to the county jail. More info below...

Back up north, NSF announced at an early December Polar Research Board meeting that the first phase of the program to upgrade McMurdo, known as AIMS, was underway. The year-long preliminary design phase began in October. Brian Stone, head of NSF's infrastructure/logistics section, said that construction could start in 2019 and take about 8 years. As with the previous SPSM project, there would (hopefully) be a separate capital construction budget for the effort (AAAS news article with first phase map).

Munch munch! Here's a great 30 November 2015 story in Vice featuring a lengthy interview with Darby Butts, the 2016 Pole w/o food services supervisor. He describes the lengthy process to get the job...and get to Pole, as well as his current duties. And here is ANOTHER feature, an 8 December article about Darby from the Annapolis Capital Gazette. Enjoy...thanks, Darby!

2015 traverse video2 December...and the summer is in full swing. Documentation...well, the first of three South Pole Traverses (SPoT) for the season arrived on 25 November. It consisted of nine vehicles, and brought 100,000 gallons of fuel. Its journey was documented by an awesome YouTube video created by Forrest McCarthy. I'm no heavy equipment operator or mechanic, but they make it look cool and I'd so like to Jack-O-Lanternjoin them and do that! The main summer season had begun with a Halloween party held the day after the first LC-130 flight arrived on 30 October to double the station population. It featured, of course, a carved jack-o-lantern (right)...well actually one of the ten or more watermelons that were grown in the greenhouse this past winter. Here's a "before" photo of this watermelon, which weighed in at a massive four pounds! These watermelon photos are courtesy of science tech Marissa Goerke, who also tended the greenhouse.

A strange bit of news from Whidbey Island, Washington (!) on 17 November has suddenly loomed on the South Pole radar. Remember the longtime science manager Al Baker...who on 31 May 2012 was convicted of first-degree murder for killing his wife Kathie Hill Baker...because another woman he'd met at Pole was scheduled to visit the next day. Al (who'd actually spent 5 years in prison for child sex abuse in the mid 1990's (6 February 2013 South Whidbey Record article) before he wintered at Pole in 2001) was convicted for Kathie's murder in October 2013 and sentenced to 52 years in prison. But he appealed. Recently the conviction was upheld, but there was still a resentencing hearing in the works (11 November South Whidbey Record article). And there could be further appeals to the state Supreme Court. I haven't heard the final result of that, but I do have a detailed transcript from the appeals court opinion. It is way way way too gruesome to post online. Please ask me about it if interested.

27 October--the Basler returned! Bringing...some management folks, heavy equipment operator/friend Boyd Brown, and 800 pounds of freshies! Amongst the freshies were bananas, mandarin oranges, and...100kg of...popcorn! Let the summer times begin! As they the Basler was soon followed by the first LC-130 of the season, which showed up on 30 October. The station is open.

first flight of springfresh oranges at Pole14 faces! The first Kenn Borek Air aircraft arrived! The Basler refueled and continued on to McMurdo, while the Twin Otter stayed overnight. They brought fresh oranges, apples, grapefruit...and carrots, beets and red onions! Not everything went well...the pump in the fueling module wouldn't start, so the fuel team had to make do with a smaller pump and hoses (photos by Marissa Goerke).

12 October...and the new season for the 2016 winterovers has begun! No...they haven't arrived at Pole just yet, but many of them have gathered in Denver for two weeks of training. First, some orientation in Denver, followed by a week of team-building in Estes Park, fire training at the Denver Metro Fire Academy 18-23 October, and the flight south on the 24th. Meanwhile at Pole the skiway has been prepped, flags reset/reinstalled, and the sun has been shining of late...good signs for the upcoming KBA Baslers/Twin Otters. They had been expected at Pole by now, but as of yesterday they were still in Punta Arenas due to bad weather at Rothera.

The eagle (well, the C-17) has landed! The first C-17 flight of main body landed essentially on schedule at 1425 on 28 September, with 107 Antarctic souls on board. More to come! Meanwhile at Pole the sun has finally been sighted (sort of). And the first flights are only 2 weeks ago (well, the Twin Otters/Baslers transiting from Rothera to McMurdo, that is. From my experience it is a strange sight to see different people in the galley after so many months.

So what comes next? Sunrise...or at least the first refracted glimpse, was scheduled for the weekend of 19-20 September (the latest Pole news update from Marissa Goerke), but mother Antarctica intervened with clouds. Still, there was a Hawaiian-themed sunrise dinner.

removing the window coversTuesday, 25 August...the window covers were removed, after the last sensitive cameras were turned off. And there is video...from Marissa Goerke!

Springtime in McMurdo...or at least the first spring flights. With delays, of course. The first flights made it south on Sunday 23 August...a C-17 and the Airbus (USAF news article about the C-17 flight). But the flight scheduled for the following day was delayed for, well, a week Antarctic Sun article). Now that the bad McM weather has cleared up, the third and fourth flights were in the air again on 30 August. in all there were six flights, four by Australia's A-319 Airbus and two USAF C-17 flights. The last of the six flights happened on 3 September.

Some news from the business pages...the word is out there that Lockheed-Martin may be selling or divesting the division that now holds the NSF USAP support contract. This story came up in July of 2015 when, after announcing the purchase of Sikorsky Aircraft, L-M also announced that they were starting to divest much of its IT business. That story didn't hit the program radar until news articles started to mention that the divestment would involve components of its Information Systems & Global Solutions (IS&GS) operations (here's one news article out there). Well, IS&GS is the Lockheed-Martin division that operates the USAP contract. This could be an interesting process...bringing to mind the fact that a few years ago when the current contract was being bid, PAE was owned by L-M...but by the time the contract awarded, it had been divested. But as it was a part of the proposal, PAE is still the subcontractor organization providing many program employees. And thin back to the PREVIOUS contract bid process, when Raytheon had amassed a huge construction organization known as Raytheon Engineers and Constructors (this was touted in their proposal). But by the time the contract took effect in 2000, this division was sold off after being a major money loser (and the purchaser, M-K, didn't survive after the purchase). Stay tuned.

Things are lightening up a bit at Pole, as it were. Since the beginning of August the station has been in astronomical twilight, which means that the sun is between 18 and 12 degrees below the horizon. The next stage, nautical twilight (when the sun is between 12 and 6 degrees below the horizon) begins on 22 August. Hence there is now a glow on the horizon. But there are still auroras, perhaps right now...for another couple of weeks they may be visible on the new NOAA webcam, which has been up all through the winter.

From up north, there's a bit of information about some of the upcoming projects. In the next year more of the station subfloor will be replaced--the original material is a product generally known as FCB (fiber cement board) which hasn't held up that well over the years. A new project will be a leveling of all of the fuel tanks in the arch...differential settlement is starting to overstress some of the piping.

tour routeIn the past few years, the Icelandic company Arctic Trucks has supported a number of nongovernmental tourist ventures as well as a scientific expedition or two, most of which have been based out of Novo (here is a December 2008 video of some of their vehicles being flown there from Cape Town). But this season they are teaming up with the British luxury travel firm The Explorations Company to offer...a drive to Pole. Yes, for only £110,000, you too can travel in (relative) luxury aboard one of their modified Toyota trucks, on a portion of "the same route that Amundsen used," or, as we know it, a portion of the South Pole Traverse route (left). The 10-day trips will traverse from Union Glacier to the base of the Leverett Glacier (or return), via Pole. This is the company page which offers this journey, and here is a Telegraph article about the venture.

At Pole, the sky has cleared up again, bringing auroras, but the moon rises on 22 July...and when it sets, the station will be in astronomical twilight, meaning that a bit of light from the sun might be visible to the naked eye (or the camera) on the horizon.

The third of three scheduled winter flights to McMurdo took off from Christchurch around noon on Saturday 18 July...but immediately boomeranged and landed after a collision with...a bird, just above the pilot's window. After a quick checkup and windshield cleaning, the C-17 took off again and made it to McM as seen here. The second of the three flights (another C-17) had taken place on 3 June. Next up...the beginning of winfly...currently scheduled to consist of a C-17 and the Australian Airbus A-319 flights on 20 August. Two C-17 and 4 Airbus flights are scheduled between 20 and 26 August.

-108 degreesThe period following midwinters day brought some of the coldest weather Pole has seen in awhile, with some new records--including 20 consecutive whole days spent below -76ºF/-60ºC (21 June-10 July) and 13 consecutive whole days (28 June-10 July) spent below -85ºF/-65ºC. One tied record was 8 consecutive days with at least some time spent below -100ºF/-73.3ºC. The coldest it got was -109.1ºF/-78.4ºC, although the coolest photographed scroll (at left) doesn't show it quite that cold. This extreme cold snap is well documented in Marissa Goerke's August Antarctic Sun article--these were the coldest temperatures since I saw this one in August 2005.

The Pole midwinter greeting cardMidwinters day was 21 June (well, the exact time at Pole was at 0438 Monday 22 June) . was time for the annual exchange of midwinters greeting cards such as the one at right! And that said, it's also time for a news update on the winterover statistics from the Antarctic Sun.

The annual Antarctic Treaty meeting was held in Sofia, Bulgaria (1-10 June), and apparently nothing newsworthy happened, at least according to the news media, which gave it almost no coverage. There were some items of interest discussed, including the annual update of Russia's Lake Vostok activity (Antarctic Treaty home page with links to meeting documents).

27 May--the temperature got into triple digits (-101ºF), perhaps earlier in the winter than about 80% of when it usually happens. It stayed below -100 for perhaps 5 hours. No details or documentation of unusual outdoor activity, other than the continuing amazing auroras.

the moon over Pole via the NOAA webcam10 May...astronomical twilight is over. Which means the sky is very dark. Except when the moon is up. As it is now. CAN see it. Boulder NOAA guy James Salzman sent a new webcam down to Pole that has much greater light gathering capabilities than previous ones...which means it not only is still up...but also it is displaying the almost-full moon behind the station! At left...a 9 May photo from the NOAA South Pole webcam.

Before the moon came up, there were some amazing auroras. Of course I'm not there, but I know that no video or photo will do justice to what you actually can see for yourself. But Robert Schwarz comes close with this early winter aurora video.

Meanwhile and otherwise...Pole has been quiet. No drama, no amazing construction projects...just the continuing cleanup/shaving/widening of the ice tunnels and the replacement of corroded copper waste piping with better stuff...not exactly a photogenic topic.

fall 2015 group photo13 April's been dark enough for the first auroras to be seen. And almost cold enough for the 300 club, as on 11 April it got down to -99.2ºF/-72.9ºC. Back in the last week in March, most of the winterovers gathered for group photos, including this one (right) (Robert Schwarz).

aerial photo from Bill HarrelsonPolar Flight redux...I mentioned in January that pilot Bill Herrelson flew a single-engine Lancair IV aircraft over Pole...and turned around and headed back to Punta Arenas. That much is true...but I just heard from Bill, who pointed out that he did actually break the round-the-world record over both poles by a factor of 5, despite turning he continued his route from PA to New Zealand and thence over the North Pole. And I was also incorrect in stating that his flight was "apparently without any of the requisite approvals," as he forwarded a letter from the EPA stating that his environmental application for the flight met the requirements of the Antarctic Treaty and US law. He was on IFR and communicating directly with Mac Center as he overflew Pole. But no one at Pole knew he was coming, and no one saw him. But...he saw Pole...he just sent me this aerial photo (left). And he told me he was over the station at 2038 (0738 UTC) on Thursday 1 January...wonder what everyone was doing? I don't often do this, knowing that Polies can't download such things, but here is the original 4800x3600 image (6.2mb)...and another one from a different angle (5.7mb).

Book: The Last Voyage of the Bahia ParaisoNews about old news...on 28 January 1989 an Argentine military/hospital ship/tourist vessel called at Palmer Station so the tourists could see the place. They departed via a shallow channel with rocks that were clearly marked on the British charts...but they weren't using those charts. Crunch. Rocks hit. 100-foot hole in the hull. Vessel starts to sink. And not long afterward the 212 passengers and crew found themselves ashore at Palmer leaking oil started to contaminate the water. This little-known disaster has not been well documented until now. The Last Voyage of the Bahia Paraiso (right), by friend Dave Gallas...has just been is available here.

sunset dinner table settingSunset has happened at Pole...although that celestial body may be making a few more refractive appearances before it finally sinks below the horizon. Of course that brought not only lots of sun-gazing, but also the sunset dinner on Saturday 21 January. At left...a photo of the before-dinner setting--I'm impressed by the smallness of the table setup compared to my most recent well as by the tablecloths, window art, and new china. The meal was impressive as well, as reported by Marissa Goerke...that's her photo of the table setup as well as of this menu.

On 5 March, after a 5-day delay for major mechanical issues...the last C-17 flight of the summer season flew to McMurdo to take lots of anxious folks out. This was the last "main body" flight--no more flights for...uh, about 6 weeks, in mid-April.

The program AIMS higher...or more simply, NSF has requested $3 million in the FY 2016 budget request for the Antarctic Infrastructure Modernization for Science project, to continue such efforts as the McMurdo master plan conceptual design, and replacing the Palmer pier (hmmm...I worked on that project a bit way back in 1986, and the pier hasn't changed since then except for its deterioration). Details in this 23 February Antarctic Sun article.

And speaking of Palmer Station...two other bits of news...first, the last week in February brought the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the original "Old Palmer" station at Norsel Point. Here's the NSF Polar Programs Facebook page about it, which anyone should be able to see. Captain Pieter LenieAnd then, sadder news. At about 0100 Florida time on 1 March, Captain Pieter Jan Lenie passed away from complications of pneumonia. More information soon...meanwhile, at right is an undated photo of Captain Lenie doing what he loved best, this shared by his grandson Pieter Glenn Williams.

Trash talk...last year's auction of USAP surplus was cancelled because the Maersk Illinos had to leave early due to bad weather, before all of the merchandise/trash could be loaded. In 2015, the Ocean Giant was able to get everything loaded, and the auction was being run directly by Best Recycling, the ASC waste subcontractor...and it was online, due to increasing security restrictions at the previous auction site on the Port Hueneme naval base. The auction site was, where you could have signed up to visit/inspect the goods...which did include some of those old stretch D-8s including MaryAnn. The inspection dates were 24 and 25 March, the last auctions closed on the 26th.

last Herc flight northPole had more than one closing...the main one was on Friday 13 February when almost everyone left, but that Herc left behind an "A Team" of folks from McM, led by Anthony Andrade, who were finishing up an overhaul of #3 generator. That was done on Saturday, but the Sunday flight was cancelled. So, the last flight happened on Monday 16 February, as documented (left) by Jeremy Bloyd-Peshkin. Left behind for the winter...45 souls, including 8 women.

And with the oncoming Pole winter comes another one of those "weird" articles about it, from The Atlantic magazine. Well, they got the date and the number of folks wrong, can you really believe much else here? I don't think writer Philip Sopher has been to the ice.

More than a thousand miles north of Pole, the icebreaker Polar Star didn't have an uneventful trip north. After breaking ice, it arrived at the beset Australian fishing vessel Antarctic Chieftain and took it under a stern tow. Two Coast Guard news stories--this 17 February "final update" news story, and this 14 February story with photos. After reaching open(er) water, the fishing vessel proceeded under its own power while being escorted for the moment by the Polar Star. The Antarctic Chieftain would later be escorted back to Nelson by the NZ fishing vessel Janus (16 February MercoPress article).

Ross Island satellite view12 February. A day before scheduled station closing "weather permitting" of course. And it is cooling off...I just saw that the temperature was -40º. F or C...same thing. Up north in McMurdo, the tanker completed its offload last week, much of it during a "tanker storm" (Antarctic Sun article). The storm also blew much of the ice out. At right is an 11 February MODIS satellite photo over Ross Island (NASA MODIS page with the full sized image and others). Meanwhile, the icebreaker Polar Star has been diverted on its trip north to assist a beset 207-foot Australian-flagged fishing vessel (Coast Guard news story)

Here's my compilation of the private/nongovernmental trips to Pole during the 2014-15 summer--what happened, what was postponed, and what got cancelled or whatever...

5 February...the Pole population is winding down as the summer folks leave and the rest of the winterovers show up. Only about a week left. Meanwhile at McMurdo (hmmm...isn't that a book?) the Ocean Giant headed north on the afternoon of 2 February...only to be replaced by the tanker Maersk Peary around midnight on 4/5 February. Check out the pier webcam here for the current view. It seems that in most years the tanker showed up before the cargo vessel, but apparently not always.

The Pole season is winding down...folks are leaving. But a few hundred miles uphill, the Russians have finally penetrated Lake Vostok (details). For some reason this story hasn't received much media coverage.

More shipping news...the Nathaniel B. Palmer was at McMurdo (and visible in the pier webcam) for 3 days through the 23rd...and the crew of the Polar Star have been putting up blog posts about their trip to McMurdo. Here is one of them...and another.

Ocean Giant in Lytteltonthe Polar Star breaking ice south of McMurdoThe annual McMurdo shipping season has begun. At left...the cargo vessel Ocean Giant arrived in Lyttelton on 16 January for a 2-day port call before continuing south (photo from 2002 McM w/o Paul Dietsche). And for the past few days the Polar Star has sometimes been visible south of the station, clearing the seaway (at right...this pier webcam photo is from about 1430 16 January). As of 19 January the icebreaker had docked at the ice pier. The tanker Maersk Peary is approaching Perth, Western Australia, where it was to call briefly on 20 January before continuing to McMurdo. As for the rest of the season...some of the summer folks are not leaving until April (!) as the flight schedule has been expanded...there will be aircraft landing at Pegasus in April...and June and July!

This 31 October Antarctic Sun article has the details.

new Pole is a new year, so there is a new Pole marker (right). Check it out!

Bill Harrelson in front of his aircraftIt's been a few years, but once again a private pilot ventured into Pole airspace on 1 January en route from Punta Arenas to Hamilton NZ...apparently without any of the requisite approvals. This was Bill Harrelson (seen at left in front of his aircraft), a retired airline pilot from Fredericksburg, a single-engine Lancair IV an attempt to set a record for circumnavigating the globe over both poles. Unfortunately (for his flight) he encountered severe headwinds, turned around, and headed back to PA. Unfortunately (for us), no one at Pole saw him. And unfortunately (for him) his venture will be cussed and discussed at the next Antarctic Treaty meeting. Here's the article with links to more information. The photo is from his public Facebook page.

moving the cryo building27 December...cryo was moved about 50 feet get it away from the sink that used to be the sewer (left, photo from IceCube w/o Erik Beiser). Still to be will this affect the BIF, and what will replace the BIF (more photos and info here).

As the new year approaches, thoughts turn to...cargo and ships. The first one to show up will be, of course, our icebreaker Polar Star...on 3 January it was at 43ºS, south of Tasmania. Next...the tanker. Perhaps the Maersk Peary...that ice-strengthened tanker that came last year. Presently it is at 20ºN in the central Atlantic heading south. Maersk (its owner) recently received a contract extension for FY15 fuel deliveries to McMurdo and Thule (scroll down to the NAVY section). And as for the cargo vessel...the Ocean Giant (which was the January 2013 cargo vessel) departed Port Hueneme on 30 December at 2127 local time. Next stop--Lyttelton, on 16 January. Last year's cargo vessel Maersk Illinois is no more; in March Maersk terminated its joint venture which held that vessel, it has been sold to Denmark's Thorco Shipping, renamed Thorco Isadora, reflagged in the Marshall Islands, and is currently anchored in the Columbia River off Astoria, OR. Here's the 24 March tradewindsnews link, which may or may not work without an expensive subscription. The MV Ocean Giant, owned by Intermarine LLC and on charter to the MSC, is ice strengthened (class E3), 15,377 gross tonnage, with two 400t cranes to handle those containers. It was built in 2012.

Christmas was celebrated in the traditional ways, sort of, with the latest and greatest Race Around the World racecourse, followed by that dinner that couldn't be beat. Oh yes, a few of the NGO skiers/trekkers were around to observe. Elsewhere, on the science front, the SPICECORE folks have been on station since early November, testing and honing their drilling techniques. Follow their blog here.

the FA Cup at PoleSpeaking of NGO visitors...sometime in the last few days this showed up--the FA Cup (right). Perhaps considered by some to be comparable to the Vince Lombardi the FA is the governing body of English soccer. It was brought down as part of a league publicity photographer Martin Hartley (seen here). The Basler that he came down on is clearly visible. Here's the Mail Online article. Martin is no stranger to the ice, he covered the Tetley South Pole Mission by Pen Hadow and Simon Murray in 2003-04.

Antarctica2 expeditionTourists have already visited this season by air, but the first NGO venture to arrive by land arrived at 1630 on 9 December--"Tractor Girl" Manon Ossevoort, seen at left with her team, the Arctic Trucks support crew, and her Massey Ferguson 5610 tractor. She and the team made it back to Novo on 21 December.

On Monday 1 December, controls technician Thomas Lawrence Atkins did not show up for work. After his absence was noticed, he was found dead in his room.

His death was apparently due to natural causes. His body has already been flown to McMurdo; it will continue north to his family. He was from Greenville, KY, and this was his first deployment. Here is an NBC News article as well as the NSF press release. My thoughts are with his family, friends, and fellow folks at Pole now.

1 December marked the loss of the TDRS 5 satellite. It was replaced by TDRS 6 which technically provides equivalent internet coverage...but as it overlaps with the GOES satellite pass, almost half of the 14 hours of satellite uptime has been lost. Here's the latest from the USAP satellite announcement page.

The ExtremeTech site recently interviewed winterover comms tech Marty Keefe...he describes the station, the science, the equipment he works with, the internet...have a look.

Polar Star being escorted from its Seattle pier by tugboat WestracOn 30 November, the Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star departed Seattle for its 4-month deployment to Antarctica...the second consecutive Coast Guard mission to Antarctica (right, USCG photo by PO3 Katelyn Shearer). Here's the official press release with more photos as well as this video also by PO3 Shearer.

Thanksgiving week was a busy one. The first arrival of the SPoT 1 was on Wednesday the 26th, just in time for dinner. What's it like? Here's a timelapse of the trip taken by one of the traverse folks. Preparations were underway for the big dinner, held on Saturday as usual. Only two seatings needed nowadays.

23 November...while the USAP season was fully underway, there were a few brave souls heading to Pole on their own, on the ground. Already.

The season is in full swing. By now, all of the 2014 w/o's should have headed north, and the station population is up to 130. Meanwhile, a bit north, the first traverse team had already reached the Leverett Glacier. heading for the station with a bunch of fuel. They will do THREE fuel traverses to Pole this season...while the other traverse team will be dealing with science cargo at Whillans and elsewhere. On a related note...there are only 78 LC-130 flights scheduled this year...contrast this to 250+ scheduled flights a few years ago when the station construction was still needing cargo and the traverse was still in the "proof of concept" phase.

Yes...a couple of the summer folks have blogs. Check them out!

Another bit of O&M scheduled--a tech rep for Alimak Hek (vendor for that cranky elevator in the beer can) will be spending some time on station...hopefully to get the lift back humming (for freight, not people).

On Tuesday 11 November, the icebreaker Polar Star was headed north to its home port in Seattle after some drydock time at the former Mare Island naval shipyard in San Francisco Bay. Here's a 11 November ABC news article with a photo of it getting ready to leave the drydock. While there, KQED interviewed commanding officer Captain Matt which he, among other things, reveals his sure-fire preventive measure for seasickness.

Thursday 6 November--the first LC-130 of the season finally landed at Pole in late afternoon. Winter is officially over, and the rodwell is back on line. The first Herc flight WAS scheduled for Monday, but it was delayed for mechanical reasons, and finally cancelled after the pax were halfway to Williams Field. It tried again on and the pax made it all the way to Pole but boomeranged due to low visibility.

let's pull a pump tonightSaturday 1 seems that the C-17's did start flying again. One made it to McM on 29 October, and another was en route on 1 November. The first Herc flight to Pole was scheduled for Monday. And on 31 October, the rodwell pump was successfully pulled out of the well (left; more information/caption/credit)--it had been stuck about 160 feet down. Yes...things got fixed, and that second snow melter wasn't needed.

Boyd Brown at Pole28 October...well, about the time the last paragraph was written, the McM weather improved, aircraft started to fly...and today the first flight (the Basler) showed up with freshies, some water drilling equipment, and PEOPLE (including Boyd Brown who shared the photo at right). Let the summer begin!

27 October...a few days before station opening. Or at least that was the plan. As of yesterday the 2 Baslers were still sitting at Pole waiting for McMurdo weather to improve. What will be happening? So far, local attempts to fix the rodwell have been unsuccessful. Well, the first flight (perhaps the Basler) may be bringing some hot water drilling equipment (hopefully with a couple of drillers) to get it back in action.

BICEP3 cryostatOther summer projects...moving Cryo...and starting work to raise the south bay to fit it with taller doors (next year) as the replacement BIF...assuming the current BIF doesn't collapse into the old sewer bulb before then. Oh...there IS the return of BICEP, namely BICEP3...its cryostat was being packed up at Harvard to be shipped south (left, photo from Steffen Richter who will be coming down to help install it)

Otherwise...there are plans to demo the VIPER telescope structure...perhaps in preparation for a future raising/moving of MAPO. Winter project plans include replacing the copper waste piping (which has suffered corrosion from those waterless urinals) and replacing some of the FCB hallway flooring.

17 October 2014...the first LC-130 left Stratton Air National Guard Base to head south...(Air Force news article).

Pole isolation has ended. Wednesday 15 October...two Twin Otters arrived, transiting from Rothera toward McMurdo. And on Saturday the 18th, two Baslers showed up. With freshies...

Bad weather has continued to delay these aircraft from continuing to McM.

first main body flight of 2014-15On Monday 29 September the first C-17 flight to McM was delayed on Monday for 24 hours due to McM weather. But it did head south the next day--one of two flights--the first to arrive was the Australian A319 Airbus (right), photo by Jack Green from the Antarctic Photo Library). The two aircraft brought more than 160 people to McMurdo to get the main body season started (Antarctic Sun article).

snow melterAnd at seems that the rodwell pump has frozen up, and the emergency snow melter has been put into service. It has been moved from outside B1 to outside the power plant (left) so it could be connected directly into the main station water system. In the meantime it is paper plates, no showers, etc...perhaps until some summer folks can show up to help fix things :(

28 September...folks are gathering in ChCh for the first of the main body flights into McMurdo, perhaps as early as the 29th. As for Pole, the equinox happened on 23 September, so the sunrise dinner was held last weekend. It was more informal than the sunset and midwinter dinners...still, it featured the unveiling of the 2015 Pole marker, crafted by machinist Matthew Krahn. It was unveiled only to his fellow w/o's...the rest of us won't get to see it until 1 January.

Winfly finally got underway 4 days late on 24 August, with a total of 5 flights. Due to bad McM weather, most of the 200+ southbound passengers had several extra days to spend in Christchurch. There were passenger flights by the C-17 and the Australian Airbus on the 24th and the 26th--the final flight was the cargo-only C-17 "night-vision goggles" mission (on the 27th, the weather closed in again.

More WINFLY info--this 29 August Antarctic Sun article, which also notes that the first of 91 LC-130 flights to Pole this summer is scheduled for 27 October. Weather permitting...

Update...TDRS F5 may stay around for Polies until sometime in November...a short-term reprieve (latest USAP IT service updates).

Ugh. At Pole...a satellite availability redux. As my 2008 winter ended, we heard that the MARISAT satellite would soon go away, reducing satellite access by about 30% (12 December 2008 Antarctic Sun article). Fortunately for us winterovers at the time, it didn't go away until we left in October/November. But now there's ANOTHER 30% connectivity reduction about to happen. On about 14 August, NASA announced that the TDRS F5 satellite--one of the major satellites used at Pole, would go away in 30-90 days. The major replacement, TDRS F6, will be able to continue to handle data transmission, but the issue is that the TDRS F6 orbit means that it will be visible at the same time as GOES...thus significantly reducing the hours of internet availability. Ugh. Yeah, I must add that we had a great winter in 1977 without any internet connectivity, not that it had even been invented...but things have changed a bit since then.

Anyway, these will be the U.S. Air Force C-17's as well as the AAD A319 Airbus--both of these will bring in pax on two flights each, 2 days apart, and the C-17 will do its night-vision landing (without pax) two days after the second pax flight...although it will take passengers north. As for the rest of the season...this year there will NOT be an annual ice runway. Instead, all flights will use Pegasus through main body deployment in November. After that, all flights for the rest of the season are currently scheduled to be LC-130's operating from a rehabilitated Williams Field, which hasn't been used much since 2009-10. The plan is to preserve Pegasus from the disastrous melt issues. It might or might not be used at the end of the summer season...plans keep changing. But it might be used for April flights...something new that is still being considered. Most but not all :) of these details are in this 15 August Antarctic Sun article, which also describes some of the other major projects...including WISSARD, the South Pole Ice Core Project (discussed just below), and the next-generation BICEP3 instrumentation at Pole...hoping to further confirm the "cosmic inflation" evidence reported by the BICEP team earlier this year. Here is a DVIDS (DOD video/imagery system) article about the beginning of the Operation Deep Freeze season.

It's still astronomical twilight at Pole...defined as when the center of the sun is at or above 18º below the horizon. But at 0307 on 22 August the sun will cross above -12º below the horizon, thus beginning nautical twilight. The glow out there along the horizon is increasing, but auroras are still happening.

Drilling down...two such projects are happening. First, the South Pole Ice Core Project (SPICE) is continuing plans to conduct two seasons of drilling at Pole beginning in 2014-15. The drill site is about 1-2/3 miles west of the elevated station, and a GPR survey of the area was conducted in the area last season. Here's too much more information about the project and the Intermediate Depth Drill, as well as an older March 2013 Antarctic Sun article about the project. And then there is the 28 July 2014 announcement that the University of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD) and professor John Goodge were awarded a $9m NSF grant to develop a new drilling system. Here is a 24 July 2014 UMD article with more information about the drill they'll be using, which is based on a diamond rock-coring system. Both of these projects will be using Estisol-140 as a drilling fluid--this is a synthetic ester manufactured in Denmark. Here's a link to more information about Estisol-140 from the IDPO. Thanks are due to IceCuber Michael DuVernois for some of this information.

There is a bit more out there about that Norwegian "Wild Viking" Jarle Andhøy, whose abortive Pole trip in February 2011 resulted in the loss of three men on his vessel Berserk. He's been out of the Antarctic news for awhile, but in July it was announced that he was refusing to pay his 45,000 NOK ($7,250) fine imposed by Norway for violating the Antarctic Treaty. And...his updated website now contains a cryptic announcement for "August 16,2015--The Hunt for Berserk." My coverage...

Some new news about one of the private expeditions to Pole planned for next summer...the British Antarctic Microlight Expedition. This group of injured/amputee British military folks plan to fly from McM to Pole this coming season along the traverse route, with some ground support presumably provided by Arctic Trucks (which hasn't yet mentioned this). Here's a 4 August gizmag article.

the Pole scrollThe first real cold snap of the winter arrived on 24 July (left), and yes, the three-digit temperatures stayed around long enough for that certain bit of outdoor activity known as the 300 club! According to Robert Schwarz, the temperature actually got down to -76.2ºC/-105.2ºF...not quite as cold as the -77.7ºC/-107.9ºF seen last winter and in 2006. But the -79ºC/-110.7ºF we saw in 2005 hasn't been matched since then.

2014 midwinter group photoBelated midwinter greetings...yes there is can be seen in the greeting card at right. The original plan was to take the photo outside, but the weather didn't cooperate, hence the above photo outside of comms. With lots of toast. The big dinner was on Saturday 21 June, followed by festivities including the flick "The Shining." Here are larger photos, the midwinter Antarctic Sun article, and of course a larger photo and the list of winterovers.

How to survive a winter at Pole? That is a complex question, but Business Week made an effort by publishing "A Guide to Wintering in the South Pole" on 11 June. An excellent article featuring some of the current denizens of the elevated station...but books could be written on the subject. And that's not the only story of Pole life to appear in the week preceding Midwinters Day. We also have a tale from plumber Ryan Boggs in the Janesville (Wisconsin) GazetteXtra. Yes, he's pictured with one of the larger pipe wrenches on station. And then there's an interview with IceCube winterovers Dag Larsen and Ian Rees on the IceCube web site.

28 May...things are quiet at Pole. That may be a good thing, meaning that the winter is going well. Or it may merely reflect on the May satellite/internet/email issues (so what else is new). Meanwhile, our 10x winterover astronomer Robert Schwarz is in the news for what may be his next venture. After the Keck Array telescope project ends after 2 more winters, Robert could be heading for an even more isolated place than Pole. On 20 May he was interviewed by NewScientist about his potential trip to Mars. One way.

Suppose they held an Antarctic Treaty meeting and no one noticed? It was held 28 April-7 May in Brasilia. Perhaps news coverage didn't happen because of a certain sports event that was held in Brazil a bit later. The only media article I saw was one about Southern Ocean marine species protection--not unimportant, but not the sort of story I was looking for. Several items I was interested in--one was the draft EIS for the new Chinese station to be constructed near Terra Nova Bay north of McM in Victoria Land (the full 20mb file can be downloaded here from the Chinese Arctic/Antarctic adminstration site. At right is an artist's conception aerial view of the's another conceptual view of the main station, these are from that draft environmental impact statement. Unlike the nearby Italian and German stations which are summer-only, and the summer/winter Korean station, this one is planned for summer/winter occupancy, beginning in 2016....Brazil's replacement Ferraz station on KGI...and of course an update from Russia on their most recent Lake Vostok drilling activities.

KBA crash wreckageOn 13 May, New Zealand's Search and Rescue Council recognized the USAP for their support and cooperation in the response to the January 2013 loss of a Kenn Borek Twin Otter aircraft and crew. Here's the NSF press release about the announcement, as well as a Christchurch Press article. The tragic crash, which killed 3, occurred on 23 January 2013 (my coverage of the crash, including new photos from Canada's Transportation Safety Board (including the one at left).

More aircraft news recently surfaced about a scary McM aircraft landing on 7 October 2013. A RNZAF 757 encountered low visibility (cloud and fog) after passing the PSR. After circling the Pegasus area for awhile to burn off fuel and wait for a break in the weather, they attempted to land more than once...finally doing so successfully. The passengers had been briefed on emergency landing procedures, but they did not find out until deplaning that McMurdo had fully deployed a mass casualty incident team.

If a landing had not been possible, they would have touched down in the "whiteout landing area" occasionally used by LC-130's in such situations. But...the Herc's have skis, the 757 did not, so while the passengers probably would have survived, the aircraft would not. Why did this story surface now? A report was released to The Press (Christchurch) at the beginning of May under NZ's Official Information Act. Why the interest? New Zealand's Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully was on board. Reportedly he had a stiff drink that night at the Scott Base bar. Here's the Christchurch Press coverage. Oh yes, a good friend of mine was also on this flight.

NOAA guy Joe Phillips working outside

Global warming must REALLY be affecting Pole least that is what one might think looking at this photo (right) of 2014 NOAA station chief and winterover Joe Phillips working outside in a short sleeved uniform this past summer. We know better. But the photo is part of an interesting article in the UNC Asheville (NC) Magazine--that's his alma mater. Joe is featured in the lead paragraphs, and there is also another of his photos showing him holding up the Earth with one hand...something that apparently all NOAA Corps officers must learn how to do.

Amundsen at PoleOkay, not exactly new news, but I finally got around to 2009 a previously unnoticed photo of Amundsen at Pole was discovered by a Norwegian researcher (at left). This is the only extant photo printed from the original negative...of Amundsen's crew looking at the tent they'd just erected at Pole in December 1911 (left). More information than you ever wanted to know...

Sunset...well, the official date and time for what we call the Vernal Equinox in the northern hemisphere was at 0557 Pole time on 21 March, or 1657 UTC on the 20th. That's the time when the Sun winterover certificatecrosses the equator into the northern hemisphere. But who knew when the Sun would disappear at Pole--actually the clouds took care of that. Anyway, it was an excuse for one of the three biggest celebrations, the sunset dinner on Saturday 22 March. In addition to an amazing dinner menu, manager Shelly put together a certificate for all of the folks (right). Oh yes, the statistics are here, and if you don't see what you're looking for, contact me for help to find the hidden stuff.

the BICEP installation teamThe scientific breakthrough of the year...well, it is only March, but this is a BIG THING. There's lots of talk out there about a Nobel Prize...for something that was discovered at Pole by the BICEP2 telescope. Gravity waves...the first direct evidence for cosmic inflation...a sign of the universe being torn apart a trillionth of a trillionth of a second after it was born. The headline-making press conference at Harvard's Center for Astrophysics in Boston was announced several days before the 17 March event. It received massive media coverage...and many Polies who'd participated in the experiment were there, including of course principal investigator John Kovac, as well as friend Steffen Richter, who wintered all three years that the telescope was in operation--2010 through 2012. He also wintered working on its predecessor BICEP 1...and yes, there is a BICEP 3 in the works. Several Antarctic Sun article, the Harvard BICEP2 page which links to the press conference video, the papers, and images, the New York Times article, and Steffen Richter's photo gallery from the Boston event. and installation of the first BICEP telescope began during the 2005 winter when I was is the documentation, which includes the above left hero shot which was taken after the telescope mount was installed in DSL on 30 November 2005 (this photo is from Cynthia Chiang who is at right in the bottom row; John Kovac is just behind her).

Hut Point calves offDelayed aftermath of the February the beginning of March the end of Hut Point calved off. Apparently all of it wasn't solid rock (right) (details).

Late season McMurdo stuff...on 9 March the last flight headed north, leaving behind 142 winterovers. And here's a 3 March Air Force Reserve Command story about the cancellation of all of the main season C-17 flights.'s an Antarctic Sun article detailing that recent storm among other things...including confirmation of that rumor that there may be some wheeled aircraft flights in early March. last, here's my page of info, video, and photos about that storm that drove the Maersk Illinois away before those ice cores could be loaded.

passengers board the closing flightIt is winter at Pole. The last LC-130 headed north on 14 February, leaving 41 Polies behind (along with a few Kenn Borek folks who were passing through in the next few days). Here's a brief Antarctic Sun article featuring manager Shelly Finley's photo (left) of the last of the summer folks boarding the closing flight. Which interestingly did NOT do the traditional photo pass over the station after takeoff.

Remember the US government shutdown? Here is a 13 February ScienceInsider article which describes some of its actual impacts, as well as those of the early cargo vessel departure--per its link to Jessica Lane's blog posts about the storm and its aftereffects. And while that was going on, the decision was made to cancel all of the wheeled aircraft flights because the Pegasus runway was actually more of a lake (109th Airlift Wing (NYANG) press release). There are rumors out there that if Pegasus hardens up by the first of March, one or two C-17 or 757 flights would take place. And they may have by now. But as I said...rumors.

Polar Star's an excellent Antarctic Sun article about its adventures at McMurdo and en route. After all of the news stories about heavy ice, it found the most difficult ice conditions on the way to Marble Point.

cargo ship bumping the pierwaves breaking against Hut PointThe McMurdo cargo operations ended with a bang...not the good kind. A major storm came up on 6 February...because of all the open water, there was nothing to block the wind. The Maersk Illinois crashed against the pier, the pier started to break up, and the Polar Star tried unsuccessfully to pull it off. The cargo ship finally made its departure around 1800 on 7 February. Above left, the Maersk Illinois crunching against the pier (photos by Roxanne Gisler). I've got some archived photos from the webcam, which unfortunately has been turned off. But what did NOT get loaded...perhaps 150 milvans including some containing ice cores, which will probably not get flown north due to the melted Pegasus wheeled aircraft runway...which has caused the cancellation of all of the C-17 flights. Other milvans left behind contain trash, garbage, and hazardous waste...the reefer units containing garbage are on rent (!) A few days earlier, the two of last three stretch IGY-era LGP D8 Caterpillars were loaded (above right) (more photos).

The Academik ShokalskiyThe cargo vessel Maersk Illinois docked at the ice pier at about 1800 on 31 January. Check out the "mobile camera" on the McMurdo webcam site. By the way...the Russian vessel Akademik Shokalskiy that was in the news for being trapped a month ago was also at McMurdo today (photo by Jordan Alexander).

An update on the proposed Chinese station in Terra Nova Bay--the environmental impact statement is currently being reviewed by Australia, per 27 January 3News NZ report. The Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration first announced their plans for the station in October 2013.

Something else that sometimes happens around this time of year--the high temperatures and soft runway have delayed the return of wheeled aircraft such as the C-17s (a 24 January Antarctic Sun article). That's keeping the ski-equipped LC-130's busy with flights to New Zealand. As a result, fuel delivery to Pole is behind schedule. Fortunately, two traverses brought 220,000 gallons of fuel to Pole earlier in the season.

From what I hear, Pole is about fully staffed up for the winter, there should be about 42 folks left when the last plane leaves. A a couple bits of insight...Jessica Barder, one of the winter cooks, has spent the summer at McMurdo and she gave a Q&A interview published in the Guardian on 30 January. Also, here's an article from the Milford (Texas) Times about winterover physician David Curtis, who showed up earlier this month. David is a longtime UTMB employee, he's worked for them for the last 20 years at Texas prisons. The article isn't perfect...among other things--there was a summer doctor on station when he arrived, but he'll be the only physician during the winter, supported by nurse practitioner Lyndsay Brock. new NSF logo on the Christchurch hangar

Old news from December the south gable of the USAP hangar in Christchurch was repainted with a new NSF logo (right). It seems that former NSF director Subra Suresh suggested several years ago that there be more NSF "branding" in Christchurch and at the stations. This was one result...another was that one of the fuel tanks at McMurdo had "NSF" painted on the roof so as to be visible from satellites. I've seen that photo, now I need to remember where. Yes, that photo is mine...I've been vacationing in New Zealand this month, seeing sights and Polie friends in various parts of the country including Chatham Island. I'm now (31 January) at Christchurch airport waiting on the first of three flights back to Colorado.

Speaking of that a Seabee veteran I must point out that it was constructed by Seabees in 1959-60.

the tanker just after dockingWith the Polar Star in McMurdo, the vessels are not far behind. The tanker Maersk Peary arrived around 1900 on 26 January as documented by the photo at left, taken by the McMurdo webcam at about that time (you need to look at the McMurdo Mobile Camera). The other vessel is, of course, the Polar Star,, but some of the previous camera shots have shown the 287-foot private motor yacht Arctic P. It was built as an ice class ocean tug in 1969, was later purchased by Australian billionaire the late Kerry Packer, and is now owned by his son James (who reportedly is not aboard, per this 8 January Hobart Mercury article which mentions an Antarctic trip). three vessels at Winter Quarters Bay The tanker left on 30 January and was replaced briefly at the pier by the Polar Star. At right is another webcam photo from about 25 January showing 3 vessels--the tanker, the icebreaker, and that motor yacht.

Here are some blog posts about the tanker's voyage by some cadets who are aboard. Interestingly, its last port was Diego Garcia, a place where I've spent more time than McMurdo. Meanwhile, the cargo ship Maersk Illinois arrived in Lyttelton on 22 January, it should reach McMurdo around 2 February. Maersk has put up some blog posts about its travels.

Update...on 7 January, both the Chinese Xue Long and the Russian Akademik Shokalskiy have broken free of the ice after a wind change. And the services of the Polar Star were no longer required (NPR blog post). Whew.... The interesting updates: the Akademik Shokalskiy returned to its departure point in Bluff Harbor (Invercargill, at the south end of the South Island of New Zealand) on 14 January--this was earlier than the evacuated scientists. And, the Polar Star appeared off McMurdo on the 16th (Antarctic Sun report and photo).

location of the beset vesselsYes...the Polar Star is headed for those trapped Chinese and Russian vessels, the Xue Long (Snow Dragon) and Akademik Shokalskiy. The Russian ship had been carrying scientists, tourists, and journalists who were retracing the route of Mawson's 1913 expedition (Australasian Antarctic Expedition website and blog) when they became trapped in the ice on Christmas Eve. This National Ice Center page has been displaying current images of the vessel locations--at right is the image from 4 January. On 1 January there was initial word that the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA--the agency coordinating rescue efforts) might consider requesting US assistance--at that time the Polar Star would have cancelled its port call at Sydney and proceed to the location of the beset vessels. Shortly afterward, the successful transfer of passengers by helicopter to the Russian research icebreaker Aurora Australis was completed, and it was thought that American assistance would be unnecessary. However, after ice conditions around the two vessels worsened, the AMSA did formally request assistance on 3 January US time, and the Coast Guard formally released the Polar Star to the rescue effort the next morning. It was expected to depart Sydney on Sunday 5 January and would take about a week to reach the trapped vessels. There is much continuing news coverage, but some of the best articles include this 5 January New York Times article, this 4 January Coast Guard press release, and this 4 January Coast Guard blog post. This 7 January Sydney Morning Herald article provides updates and detailed statistics about the various vessels involved. Stay tuned....

2014 Pole markerHappy New Year! As has become the custom, a small crowd gathered at the Pole on the morning of 1 January to unveil the new Pole marker at the current Pole location. This year's marker is an actual was designed by 2013 winterover Dana Hrubes and created by machinist Steele Diggles. More photos of the marker, the ceremony, and details of its construction can be found here.

2013 holiday greetingOther signs of the holiday season at Pole--the greeting photo (right) taken a few days before Christmas, as well as the Race Around the World held on Christmas morning. This year's event was highlighted by a front-page Wall Street Journal article about the race--the writer interviewed many people including myself and a few others I'd suggested. She'd heard about the race from her son Jake Feintzeig, a runner, who was at Pole working with the IceCube project. You can read the article here.

Prince Harry meets IceCubePrince Harry and the rest of the Walking With the Wounded veterans arrived at Pole at 1325 GMT on Friday 13 December, or early Saturday morning SP time (BBC News article). Their photo shoot at the Pole was held a day earlier than the originally announced Sunday morning event. The event was originally a challenge race between 3 groups of wounded veterans from the UK, other Commonwealth nations, and the US, but the "competition" part of the venture has been cancelled because of difficult conditions. And they got a ride about 50 miles closer to Pole by their Arctic Trucks support crew. After their initial private photo shoot, the groups retired to their camp site 6 miles from the station. They did visit the station for a tour on Monday morning the 16th, along with a very restrictive photo session in B2. Here's the NSF press release about the visit; it included the only USAP-released photo (left) of some of the group. This photo by Andrea Dixon shows the prince in the center. (Here's another of Andrea's photos showing 2014 NOAA officer Joe Phillips addressing the group--the prince is at far right, and in the center is the back of Alexander Scarsgård's head. Alexander is a Swedish actor best known for his role in the HBO series True Blood., he accompanied the American team. Dominic West, star of The Wire, was also a participant accompanying the Commonwealth team.) Shortly after the station visit, Prince Harry and the first half of the group were flown back to Novo; the remaining members left the next day (more of my information and earlier links about the Walking with the Wounded event).

Science news...not one, but two Pole projects were highlighted by Physics World, a British publication. IceCube was named the "breakthrough of the year" (their article). In November, IceCube published the first evidence for very high-energy neutrinos; the first announcement was made in the 22 November 2013 cover story in Science IceCube press release with links to the article and data). The South Pole Telescope (SPT) was also cited for the first detection of B-mode polarization patterns in the cosmic microwave background, as described in this September 2013 Antarctic Sun article which includes links to the paper. And here is the NSF press release about these two projects.

the Polar Star heads out of portWhat have we here? Yes, at right is America's most powerful icebreaker the Polar Star leaving port on 3 December Seattle time. And we all know where it is heading. This photo was taken from the crows nest of the Sarah Kaye, so she's not on board...this season. Here is that day's Coast Guard News article.

preparing to blast Old Pole yet againThings are getting busy...Monday 2 December the SPoT (the traverse team that arrived the week before) gave 24-hour notice that they're going to be doing a bit of blasting at Old Pole. As part of their requirement to conquer crevasses they encounter en route, they carry explosives and a drill for setting them. This would perhaps be round 5 of the various attempts to make Old Pole only a non-hazardous memory...last year there was a bit of digging and filling. At left is Steffen Richter's view of the prep work from MAPO. The blast was postponed for 24 hours...and eventually happened late afternoon on 4 December. 1200 pounds of dynamite. Perhaps that will do it. I do have photos. Meanwhile, the first traverse team is heading home, as are the PSL drillers who worked on the rodwell and sewer access.

the firn drill in action at rodwell 3And closer to the station, the drilling team from the University of Wisconsin's PSL have been busy working on the sewer outfall and the rodwell--separate but related projects. Before the old rodwell (RW2) can become the new sewer outfall, the access hole has to be redrilled. And a bit more urgently, the access into the new rodwell (RW3) had to be reworked--pump problems developed on 27 November after a brief power outage, and the access hole had to be reamed out before a replacement pump could be installed. Which happened late on the 28th. At right is the drill getting ready to do its thing...yes, it is an IceCube firn drill which circulates hot water through copper piping. And yes, that is some ARA equipment in use...although ARA project work was cancelled for this season, the drillers were available (photo from Dave Glowacki). (more information and photos).

Expedition update...many of the delayed private skiers/bikers/kiters finally flew to Union Glacier, arriving in the evening of 29 November 2013 Pole time. And by now Prince Harry and all of the Walking with the Wounded teams were at 87ºS to start their challenge race to Pole. The race started at 0235 2 December (1335 UTC 1 December). But...we do know that Harry isn't the first member of the British royal family to visit...Prince Edward, then 18 years old, showed up on 11 December 1982. He didn't arrive on foot...

Some future science...the South Pole Ice Core Project (SPICECORE) is moving ahead with plans to drill and recover 1500-meter 9.8-cm diameter ice cores in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons. Preliminary site selection happened last will happen in the dark sector about 1-3/4 miles directly west of the elevated station. A more detailed survey is planned this summer. The lead principal investigator is Eric Saltzman of the University of California-Irvine. Here's the current project newsletter and the project website home page.

Other current science news from elsewhere on the continent: Mount Erebus has been more active than in the past 30 years--no, McMurdo is not about to become the next Pompeii, but the lava bombs have been flying (15 November Antarctic Sun article). And in other volcano news, a team has discovered a nascent volcano buried under the ice near Mt. Sidley in Marie Byrd Land (17 November Washington University in St. Louis news article and NSF press release). And...a 270-square mile of the Pine Island Glacier broke off in early November to become the latest big iceberg (B-31) to start floating north (another 15 November Antarctic Sun article and some NASA images).

The BIF in November 2013An update on the BIF demolition...apparently its demise is not quite as imminent as it may have been a week ago. The problems with settlement are still there, but an alternative location to do some of the large-balloon science is not. So while we stay tuned for updates, at right is a photo of the BIF from the beginning of this month (thanks to Boyd Brown). At left, the BIF under construction in 1996-97 a photo of it under construction in 1996-97. Not only is it getting more and more drifted in, making the doors difficult to open--it is also leaning and sinking...presumably in the direction of the site of rodwell #1, which is only 100 feet away. Which also happens to be the old sewer bulb used since 2002. When the new rodwell #3 was put into service last summer, the sewer was supposed to be switched to the old rodwell #2, but that didn't happen...hopefully it will this season. If the BIF is demo'd, the balloon launches would be supported out of cryo...and there has been discussion about moving that building as well (more photos of the original BIF construction). But cryo isn't large enough to handle the larger balloons used by NOAA and other science projects...and its door openings do not presently face downwind. On a historical note, the one-year-old BIF at Old Pole exploded on 31 January 1966 and was replaced by Seabees from NMCB 6 in less than two weeks, before station close.

first LC=130 of the season Late on Friday 1 November as scheduled, the first LC-130 flight of the season arrived, loaded with freshies, fuel, and about 30 more new faces (right, a photo by Dana Hrubes) (his coverage, including some amazing snowdrift photos). The second flight, with another 30 passengers, was scheduled for the next day but it was delayed until Monday due to questionable weather. So the passengers got to experience the Saturday evening Halloween party in McMurdo, always a big event. Update...there were more flights after the weekend. By now all of the winterovers have headed north.

the 2013 winterover photoThe day before the first Herc flight, the winterover ceremony was conducted--the handing out of the Antarctic Service medals. Additionally, the 2013 winterover photo (left) was unveiled (larger photos and info).

Halloween week...meaning the 1 November scheduled first LC-130 flight to Pole is only a couple of days away. And Polies are gathering in McMurdo. What's happening this summer? In a word, less. The government shutdown had little impact on the Pole plans for the season, and the summer population had already been planned to peak at 150 people. No significant new science or construction is planned--which means no jobs for construction folks like me, but it will reduce crowding, wear and tear, and energy described in this excellent Antarctic Sun article.

As for the shutdown aftermath, here's a 28 October NSF press release on that subject. Minimal impacts on Pole and Palmer, but the decisions on some McMurdo area projects are still being cussed and discussed.

21 October, more international/political news: China has announced plans for a large new Antarctic station at Terra Nova Bay, 185 miles north of McMurdo and Scott Base. It would adjoin the existing Zucchelli Station (Italy) and the under-construction Jang Bogo Station (South Korea). Here's a TVNZ ONENEWS story and a article. Oh, and about that South Korean base, it's expected to be completed by March of 2014 (July 2013 report with video). Jang Bogo was designed by Hugh Broughton Architects, the same firm that designed that futuristic Halley VI station for BAS and the proposed AWO for NSF's Summit Camp in Greenland.

Late on 16 October US time the US government shutdown was ended. NSF has hopes to recover most of the austral summer season, but some projects including WISSARD have been cancelled. The full impact on the program is still being determined....(updated coverage).

And on 19 October while all this news was still being digested at Pole, a transiting Basler aircraft showed up with a few more freshies from Punta Arenas.

9 October SP was official. The USAP was shutting everything down for the season except for "caretaker status" per this archive of the official 8 October announcement and this NPR news story. No summer science...people are to be sent home (something that is being frantically planned at the moment). The last government shutdown in 1995-96 occurred during the middle of the season rather than at the very beginning, so there was much less impact. Some things remain essential, such as getting lots of fuel to Pole by air and/or traverse, and that will need to be planned as well. And once people go home there would be no recovery for the summer season--all of the planning and preparation will have been for nothing. A sad day for everyone with an interest in the program...and especially for the many people who just arrived in Antarctica or were about to head south (continuing coverage).

After delays due to dicey weather at McM and Pole, the first official Twin Otter passenger flight arrived from McMurdo Tuesday evening (8 October)--the earliest passenger flight in history. The passengers included some management folks and others to start getting ready for the summer season if there is one. At the time the news coverage included this 7 October NPR story on All Things Considered.

First 2013-14 summer flightsAircraft? Huh, it was only 5 October, but TWO Twin Otters landed on their transit flight from Rothera en route to McMurdo (documentation at left; here's another shot of both of them parked in the fuel pits...contrary to some earlier word, they are staying overnight before continuing to McM. These photos are from Blaise Kuotiong). The weather was good...-47ºF/-44ºC with 8 mph winds and excellent visibility, but McM weather isn't looking so promising. This is quite historic...the earliest flights ever to land at Pole. I don't know what the schedule is for one of them returning from McM with passengers, but the earliest passenger flight to Pole to date was the 16 October 1999 LC-130 which medevaced Jerri Nielsen. The temperature when it landed was -58ºF/-50ºC.

'closed' sign posted on Skylab in November 2005Science shutdown? If the current U.S. government shutdown continues for more than a week or two, it is possible, according to this 4 October Nature news article. It would be much more dramatic and significant than the closure of Skylab (right, a photo posted by Liesl Schernthanner on 29 November 2005, showing a "closed" sign on the ladder--it went cold after all of the science had been moved to the new station). Yes, for the moment (5 October) everything is continuing including the opening flights to McMurdo, and a contingent of USAP NSF staff is still on duty, as they are considered "essential." NSF posted this notice on the site (which, unlike most other government sites, is still up), and a similar notice has gone out regarding the Arctic program in Alaska and Greenland. The contractors were funded in September for the present month, but they'll start to run out of money in a week or two. Similar contingency planning was required during the 1995-96 summer when the government shut down twice (14-19 November and 16 December-6 January). Then the plan was to reduce the Pole 1996 winterover crew from 26 to 10--fortunately unnecessary.

Here is another notice which NSF sent to universities and other nonprofit organizations; a similar notice was probably sent to the for-profit contractors. Most purchasing except for life safety items has been shut down. So...once again, the USAP team (including some unpaid NSF folks) are huddling around discussing contingency situations as they've had to do in past years when there might not have been an icebreaker...or a tanker... or those pesky icebergs were blocking things. What might happen--all science personnel would be sent home, most science would be shut down, and of course most of the ASC employees would be sent home as well, as the stations would be put in "maintenance mode" (essentially winterover-sized support crews) to "protect and secure assets"--the only thing for which funding would be assured. And of course the contractors have to calculate the costs of sending everyone home, for which they probably wouldn't be reimbursed as long as the shutdown lasts. Serious science at risk could include the long-term monitoring projects such as the vital NOAA atmospheric sampling and climatic studies which have continued from the IGY to the present.

More flight news...the first flight to McM on 3 October was a RNZAF 757, as documented by this 3News NZ clip. And it seems that a 5 October flight will be an Air New Zealand commercial Boeing 767-300 airliner. Air New Zealand has never landed in Antarctica before; they briefly did tourist overflights of Ross Island until their tragic crash into Mount Erebus on 28 November 1979. Alas for those folks with a 5 October ice date...the first flight is a "test flight" with no passengers, although there may be two more revenue charter flights later in the season. Here's an article from the Guardian newspaper about the flights. Interestingly, this is NOT the first commercial airline flight in support of the U.S. Antarctic program...that occurred on Dana Hrubes15 October 1957 when a Pan Am B-377 Stratocruiser brought Seabees and others to McMurdo as a Navy test to show the feasibility of commercial flights to Antarctica. Of course the most significant thing about this first such flight was not the aircraft or the passengers...but rather the two woman flight attendants on board...some 13 years before the program would otherwise allow women in Antarctica.

Yes, the sun did return to Pole around the 19th or so depending on refraction. And the occasion was marked by the sunrise dinner on Saturday 21 October. The w/o photo was taken earlier that week.

Science is happening big time at Pole...that South Pole Telescope is digging deep and far back into the origins of the universe..."lensed B-modes," as described in this latest paper by the SPT collaboration. Our hero here is friend Dana Hrubes, whom I lived next door to during my 2005 and 2008 winters. Here's the Antarctic Sun article he wrote about it, and here's another article about Dana, who's now finishing up his seventh winter. At left is my photo of Dana in October 2005 in the old CUSP lab on the first floor of Skylab.

Winfly happened...the start of the 3 Airbus flights was delayed a bit due to weather, but they all arrived during the first week of September. The "main body" flights begin with a scheduled RNZAF flight on 3 October. There's an excellent Antarctic Sun article with winfly info, photos, and details on some of the planned science, happenings, and events. Pole will have to wait another week or so...the first transiting KBA Twin Otter and Basler flights will transit through Pole (from South America and Rothera en route to McMurdo) around mid October. Weather permitting, of course. And once again, the Air Force C-17 cargo aircraft will be absent from late November through late January.

August was movie month...for the past few years it has marked the 48 Hour Film Festival, which this year occurred over the weekend of 3-4 August. Entries in the "48 hour" category had to include five elements selected by the previous year's winning station (Kerguelen)--these were: a sneeze, a ping pong ball, a bathtub, a gingerbread man, and the phrase "Voulez vous coucher avec moi ce soir" (need I mention that Kerguelen is a French station?) There were fewer entries from USAP stations this year, and none from Pole in that category, perhaps because there's no longer a bathtub on station. But McMurdo had two entries, and Robert Schwarz had two excellent time lapse films in the "open" category. Here's the lot...enjoy!

The first of the early flights to McMurdo for the 2013-14 season, what is known as winfly, happened on schedule on 15 August, bringing 50 people south from Christchurch on a USAF C-17. Here is the pre-takeoff video from 3 News NZ in which you may recognize a few of the passengers as I did. The second flight, an all-cargo (with freshies and mail) flight, srrived a day later than scheduled on Sunday the 18th--this flight was to utilize night-vision goggles. This season the winfly schedule is somewhat stretched out--three more flights are scheduled for early September using the Australian A-319 Airbus. These flights will bring about 100 more folks to McMurdo; the final flight is scheduled for 8 September. Here's the 16 August Antarctic Sun article.

the view from the aloft connIcebreaker update...the Polar Star just finished up its successful ice trials north of Alaska and was heading back to Seattle after stops in Barrow, Nome, and Juneau. At right is a 12 July view from the Aloft Conn of some of the ice it found (from the Polar Star web site); here's a 4 August article from the Juneau Empire. After the icebreaker returns to Seattle, it will undergo a bit more rehab and preparation for its first mission since 2006--hopefully Deep Freeze 2014 in January.

McMurdo 2013 w/o photoBefore the end of McMurdo's winter isolation, they took their winterover photo (left) featuring the 141 souls who were left on station after the medevacs earlier in the winter. The folks at Pole have plenty of time yet to take their w/o picture, they can wait until after sunup. In a related bit of McMurdo news, the longest continuously running experiment--Cosray, which was first installed in 1959-60, will be moving in two years to the new South Korean station Jang Bogo (which is currently under construction at Terra Nova Bay next to Italy's Zucchelli Station). The packing and moving out has already begun, per the 2012-13 Science Planning Summary. The cosray lab will be decommissioned in 2014-15 and (presumably) demo'd soon afterward.

the Lake Vostok drill structureThere is new news about the drilling activity at Lake Vostok (right)...but not enough yet. After all, the Russian cores recovered in 2012-13 included only 5.5 m/19.3 ft of what was thought to be ice from the lake water, although the team expects to recover more lake ice cores next season. And there have been related studies as well. Here's my updated report on the activity over the past year.

News from the IceCube team in Madison...we have 2014 winterovers! One of them is Ian Rees. He's no stranger to the ice; in 2005-06 he was a fuelie in McMurdo, and he was an IceCube alternate for the 2011 winter. More recently he's been living in New Zealand. And the other guy is Dag Larsen...from Norway! Dag recently acquired a PhD while working on the NA-61 project--a neutrino experiment at CERN, and he will be the first Norwegian to winter at Pole. That is somewhat surprising considering Norway's significant involvement with polar exploration and science over the it is about time!

So what are the plans for the 2013-14 summer? Well, as usual, there are lots of rumors, but as usual, I'm not privy to most of them, particularly the ones floating around McMurdo. Dealing with the rumors I have heard...what won't happen is a cancellation of Winfly, a reduction of the stations to "caretaker status," or even a "sharing" of one or more stations with other national programs(!) What is known...the NSF/USAP budgets ARE significantly affected by that Federal budget sequester...perhaps as much as 20%. In fact, on 20 June, NSF posted this letter on the home page about the specific answers, but they're seriously looking for suggestions. The Pole population will go down a bit from last around 150 people, and the McMurdo population will be reduced as well. And so far the only major station projects appear to be...moving the sewer outfall to the old Rodwell #2 bulb (this couldn't happen last year because of problems with the hot point drill) and an "adjustment" of the stairs in the vertical tower (VT), otherwise known as the beer can. It seems that the station is settling at a different rate than the stair tower...this caused problems more than once in the past, as the doors from the station would bind up on the ramps to the stair tower. As we thought that problem had been solved...during the 2008 winter the station doors were moved out to where they were supposed to be. But no...the station is still settling faster than the stair tower, so the doors are once again binding up on the ramps.

The British winter crossing of Antarctica...organized by veteran explorer Ran Fiennes, was still mired in a heavy crevasse zone at about 73ºS. They'd hoped to reach Pole before midwinters day. What are their chances? Well, they admitted they had none, and will stay put for the rest of the winter before retracing their tracks. Here's my updated take.

Pole 2013 midwinter greeting photoHappy Midwinter's Day! On 20 June I was at a reunion of the Antarctic Deep Freeze Association in New Orleans--this is the group that originally built and occupied the U. S. Antarctic stations for the IGY, and these gatherings always include a telephone call with the Polies, which gave me an opportunity to say hello to the folks on station. The midwinter weekend included the traditional showing of "The Shining" and a big dinner on Saturday the 22nd. The midwinter greeting photo is at right, and here is an excellent Antarctic Sun article.

It's looking increasingly likely that the icebreaker for the 2013-14 sealift will be furnished by...the U. S. Coast Guard! Yes, the Polar Star is heading off for some extended ice trials in the Arctic. Plans are for it to remain around Point Barrow and northern Alaska until early August. Here is a 6 July Anchorage Daily News article.

Christina, one of hte next NASA astronautsPolies are out of this world! Well, I certainly know that, but now it is becoming a reality. Fellow 2005 winterover Christina Marie Hammock was selected as one of the next eight NASA astronaut candidates! Here is the official NASA announcement. I always knew she was a star, but this is amazing, as there were more than 6,000 contenders for the position. And other Polies have been vying for such a spot as well. Here's the NASA news link; I like the photo from the Huffington Post (left) much better than the one that NASA used. And Christina isn't the only USAP person to have been selected! Jessica Meir was on the ice doing penguin studies for Scripps in 2004-05 and 2008-09. Here is another great article about Christina from the Samoa News.

The 36th Antarctic Treaty meeting (or should I say ATCM XXXVI) was held in Brussels at the end of May. Surprisingly, there wasn't much in the US media about it, but stuff was cussed and discussed. I haven't had time to understand all of the details that the Russians presented about the Vostok drilling program.

McMurdo present and future viewsOn 12 June in the US, NSF officially released the new McMurdo Master's the press release. At right is NSF's comparative image of the present-day McMurdo vs the proposed future station from the press release. So where's the report? Well, it is here...or otherwise available from the home page under "Special Reports." Yes, this is the "coffee table report" so perhaps I need to acquire a coffee table. And in case you didn't know, the prime mover for this report in the Denver office was Shaggy (aka Brandon Neahusan).

Also on 12 June (NZ/Pole time), an inquest was held in Auckland to review the tragic January Kenn Borek Air crash. The coroner ruled officially that the three crew members died from multiple injuries resulting from impact. Further efforts to recover their bodies was expected in the upcoming summer season. Here's my updated report with links to news media and their photos from the SAR team.

The British winter crossing of Antarctica...organized by veteran explorer Ran Fiennes, was still mired in a heavy crevasse zone at about 73ºS. They'd hoped to reach Pole before midwinters day. What are their chances? Well, they admitted they had none, and will stay put for the rest of the winter before retracing their tracks. Here's my updated take.

There just was another McMurdo medevac on Friday 10 May 2013 (Christchurch Press and US Air Force coverage). The US Air Force C-17 aircraft crew again relied on night-vision goggles. This time some replacement winterovers made it to McM, along with freshies. And here's hoping that the medevaced person will quickly go smell the fall flowers in Hagley Park, head home to family, or whatever. The down side to these medevacs is that they cause the small winter crew A LOT of unplanned extra work to prepare the runway, get equipment ready, and work the flight.

Upcoming later in May is the next Antarctic Treaty meeting, this one will be in Brussels, Belgium. Here's hoping that we hear a bit more about the Russian efforts to analyze the Lake Vostok drilling results. Meanwhile we have this inconclusive 30 March report from the Russian Academy of Sciences.

the scroll showing the cold temperatureWith the winter darkness comes (at least in most years) the three-digit temperatures...and this year was no exception. The temperatures stayed below -100ºF for several days; this -104.3ºF (left) was the coldest it got. Yes, this occurrence did trigger the usual 300 Club activities...fortunately the heater in the sauna cooperated fully. Sorry, no photos of the outdoor activity.

IceCube winterover Blaise Kuo Tiong was just interviewed by the Filipino social media site was born in the Philippines, and his family moved to the US when he was 9 years old. He's the second Filipino to winter...and I highly recommend his blog.

The 2011-12 season was the year of the centennial of Amundsen's and Scott's visits to it looks like the 2013-14 summer will be the year of the bicycle! Yes, surprisingly, after last year's failed Pole venture by Eric Larsen, 2013-14 will see THREE separate ventures attempting to reach Pole by bicycle. I'm hoping they all make it!

The winter has barely begun, but already there have been some amazing auroras...I wish I were there to see them in person. Lacking that...some of the winterovers have been posting photos, check out my page of links to see them. But the most dramatic thing I've seen is this YouTube video by Daniel Leussler...handheld, taken from the observation deck above DA. It's hard to photograph auroras, because the cameras typically brighten up the rest of the image excessively, but this video is probably the closest capture of what the auroras really look like.

Yes, there was a sudden medevac flight to McMurdo...a USAF C-17 from Washington state flew south from Christchurch on Sunday 21 April, returning to ChCh on the next day (Christchurch Press article). As is usual with such events, no information about the sick individual or other passengers, but there are now 139 winterovers at McMurdo. The flight was arranged too quickly for freshies to be included in the southbound cargo...and a couple of replacement winterovers were left behind as well. But the patient responded positively to hospital treatment in ChCh. Here's the Air Force news coverage.

McMurdo master planOn 21 March, NSF released its official summary response to last year's Blue Ribbon Panel of the more interesting items it addresses is the work underway in Denver to develop a new long-range plan for McMurdo (USAP/NSF graphic at right). Here's more information and links to the documents.

It's that time of year...time for updated winterover statistics! I think I got things right this time...finally.

Also, it's the time of year for sunset and various associated events. The equinox marking the first day of autumn in the Antarctic occurred at 0002 Pole time on Thursday 21 March, just after Wednesday midnight. The sunset wasn't supposed to occur for a few more days, perhaps on Saturday the 23rd, which is when the sunset dinner was held. Despite a bit of overcast, the skies allowed for views of the sunset, blue flashes and all...and thanks to refraction, the sun was still visible a couple of days later.

Also triggered by the equinox was the start of the now-five-man Coldest Journey winter crossing of the continent...they hoped to show up at Pole for Midwinters Day, weather, crevasses, and D-6's permitting.

A bit of bad news just reported to me by 1981 w/o Mike Gilbert. Off the Florida coast near Cape Canaveral...1981 winterover radio operator Pat Cornelius disappeared...after contacting the Coast Guard on 9 January to say he was having chest pains and tingling in his left arm. When his boat was located, he was not aboard. Here's the Coast Guard news coverage.

Delayed from 5 March 2013 by 3 days of mechanical problems followed by one day of weather issues...the final McMurdo flight of the season was completed on the 9th. The RNZAF 757 headed north after leaving behind 143 winterovers--a group that included 34 women. Before disappearing, it wagged its wings in salute to the group gathered at the Chalet. Almost 2 weeks earlier, around midday on the 26th, the cargo vessel Ocean Giant headed off into the sun, with cargo operations complete.

On the other side of the continent about 45 miles from the Belgian Princess Elisabeth Station (72ºS-23ºE), a surprising announcement came from Ran Fiennes' "The Coldest Journey" expedition, which has hardly even started. Ran will leave the venture. He developed severe frostbite in his left hand after removing his glove briefly to fix a broken ski binding. The air temperature was -22ºF, although the real problem was probably contact with the cold snow. I and many of us have removed our gloves to do things outside at Pole in much colder winter weather. Ran has suffered from bad frostbite in that hand before, during a failed solo North Pole attempt in 2000. His sled slipped through the ice, and he reached into the frigid sea to recover it...the air temperature was -30ºF. After he returned to London and waited awhile for his left hand fingers to recover, he cut them off himself with a fretsaw (similar to a coping saw), in part to save the £6,000 surgery cost. Oof. Frostbite injuries are cumulative, and the team doctor concurred that he be evacuated...which hadn't happened yet due to bad weather in the area. The other five members of the traverse party intend to continue. The expedition press releases are here.

Late in the evening of Thursday 14 February 2013 the last flight of the season departed Pole...after bringing in the last couple of winterovers. The closing date was moved up a day because of bad weather forecasts--a possible storm in McM and cold temps at Pole. And the last flights were not without some boomerang action as one flight had mechanical problems. After the dust settled and that last flyby was over, there were 44 Polies left! Here is Blaise Kuo Tiong's video of the flyby! Oh, the showings of The Thing (all three versions) happened on Friday evening. The final beginning of isolation came on Tuesday the 19th after the last two Twin Otters--one KBA and one BAS, had departed on their way north. An interesting statistic--there were 115 LC-130 flights this season, the fewest in the last 20 years. Hmmm, 20 years ago in 1993 there was no traverse; this year the traverse brought in 140,000 gallons cargo ship at the McM pierwhich is probably about what the 1993 station required for the winter months. And there were were 28 winterovers in 1993--a new record at the time. There are some familiar names on the 1993 w/o list...BK Grant, Katy and Rod Jensen, Joe Crane, Steve Bruce, Jordan Dickens, Bill McAfee, Kathie Hill...was this really 20 YEARS ago?

Back at McM, the NB Palmer departed for its next science cruise on schedule...the tanker finished offloading and departed on Friday was quickly replaced at the pier by the cargo ship Ocean Giant (left, a Friday afternoon webcam view) about an hour later.

Oh by the way, if you've been watching that webcam view as I have, you may have noticed that the cargo vessel sat there for several days with very little activity...not much was being offloaded. It seems that the ship hit the pier a bit hard when it arrived...and the pier moved toward the peninsula and grounded in the shallow water. So it took a bit of time to inspect and adjust things before the cargo ops could begin. Since then things got back to normal, with 80+ milvans coming off in a 12-hour shift. There were 679 containers unloaded, so you can do the math. Now (Thursday) they are backloading about 577.

tanker and NB Palmer at the ice pier11 February...the Nathaniel B. Palmer (NBP), which had originally shown up on 9 February, left the pier in the morning...around noon the tanker had docked (an earlier tanker blog entry)...and then the NBP returned to the bay and tied up outboard for refueling (webcam view at right with the icebreaker in the distance). This DOD press release was only a bit premature as things turned out.

And on 9 February, an airlift update...after earlier cancellations, a C-17 was making its way to Christchurch from McChord Field in Washington. Would the soggy slushy Pegasus ice runway be in condition for them to head to McMurdo on Monday the 11th? YES, according to George Blaisdell, who was quoted in this 18 February Stars and Stripes article. Here is 7 February 2013 Air Force news coverage.

the icebreaker Vladimir Ignatyuk at the McMurdo ice pierSealift update...yes, it is happening. The Vladimir Ignatyuk has made it to the ice pier more than once. It has more work to do, but at left is a view of it from the McMurdo webcam which I grabbed at about 1200 on 7 February. Remember to check all three of the cameras--the mobile camera has a good view of the ice pier. Meanwhile, Nathaniel B. Palmer has been cruising in the southern Ross Sea about 100 miles north of McMurdo, the tanker Maersk Peary is also in the Ross Sea, the cargo ship sailed from Lyttelton and was also heading south. South Pole summer group photo

The South Pole summer season is almost over...perhaps only about one more week to go, and folks have been leaving. The first major group departure happened on 7 January, perhaps they'll make it to NZ on Friday. Northbound departures from McM are still being hampered by the slushy conditions at the Pegasus runway at McMurdo---this continues to prevent the larger/faster C-17's from making the trip to McMurdo...and people continue to be bumped from the LC-130 flights because of weight restrictions. But at the end of January the Polies took time out for a group photo (right) in front of DA. I've seen several versions of this from different folks, but this one is from Jeffrey Donenfeld. I think he's the guy in the red coat.

Twin Otter KBC at CTAM, January 2011Yes, a sad event happened on 23 January 2013...a Kenn Borek Air Twin Otter with a crew of three left from Pole for Mario Zucchelli Station, the Italian base at Terra Nova Bay. At 2200, the aircraft missed its hourly checkin with Mac Center in McMurdo, and a few minutes later its emergency beacon was detected.

Briefly, the beacon was detected near Mt. Elizabeth in the Transantarctic did not permit search activities initially. It wasn't until Saturday when an LC-130 spotted the tail of the aircraft on a steep mountain cliff. Further search missions confirmed that the flight was not survivable... eventually search-and-rescue teams visited the site and recovered the cockpit voice recorder and other equipment, but it was deemed too risky to attempt recovery of the bodies. Memorial service for the Kenn Borek aircrew

Above left is a January 2011 photo of KBC (the aircraft which was lost) at a field camp in the Transantarctic Mountains... and at right is a photo by Jeffrey Donenfeld of the memorial ceremony held at Pole on 27 January. The detailed timeline of events with links to other information and media coverage has been updated, reorganized, and moved to this page...a sad chronicle of events to be sure. Here's my coverage.

Yes, it really is sealift time...and the icebreaker will be first. The Russian icebreaker Vladimir Ignatyuk left the Cape Town area on 9 January 2013, heading southeast. The reported ETA at McMurdo is 2 February. Ocean Giant As for the cargo ships, on 18 January US time, the Military Sealift Command (MSC) announced what we all hoped and suspected...they are en route. The MSC- chartered container ship Ocean Giant departed Port Hueneme on 17 January, loaded with nearly 3500 tons of stuff (right, a 17 January US Navy photo). And no modular pier components(!) It's expected to reach McMurdo in mid-February after a stop in Lyttelton. Meanwhile, the tanker Maersk Peary is in the southern Indian Ocean (about 25ºS on 19 January), it will show up first. Oh yes, the Nathaniel B. Palmer will show up around 7 February after a long science cruise from PA. The Polar Star after sea trials at Seattle

Speaking of icebreakers...perhaps next year at this time the USAP icebreaker will be flying the Stars and Stripes. Yes, in December, the 34-year-old Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star was reactivated in Seattle after a four-year, $57 million overhaul (Seattle Times article). And on 11 January it completed its initial sea trials (left, the Polar Star returning to port) (USCG photo from their Facebook page). It is one of the world's most powerful icebreakers...and at present it is one of only two American polar icebreakers in service.

And speaking of ships which recently sailed from Cape Town...Ran Fiennes' "Coldest Journey" team sailed on 7 January. The expedition ship S. A. Agulhas (a South African ice-strengthened training ship and former polar research vessel, built in 1977 and used for 30 years to resupply the South African research bases in the Antarctic), headed more directly south from Cape Town toward Crown Bay (70ºS-23ºE). They reached that unloading point on 20 January...and after about 2 weeks of unloading and assembly work, the ship headed north on 3 February...leaving Ran Fiennes and the rest of the team on the ice to begin their travels south.

Other means of travel in the news...former NASA astronaut Scott Parazynski spent three days at Pole in mid-January...oh yes, he's now the USAP medical director with UTMB--that may a more difficult job at times than his five space shuttle missions. Scott also visited Palmer Station in December.

ice pier on 12 December 2012As the annual shipping season approaches...attention once again focuses on the McMurdo ice pier. Despite the warm temperatures, it appears to be holding up so far...insulated under all that dirt. But all has not been well... what a difference a month makes. At left...a photo from around 12 December 2012 from ARA team member Mike DuVernois on his way to Pole. ice pier on 11 January 2013However...that snow bridge didn't seem to be surviving the heat wave. So...on 14 December the snow bridge was blasted away along with some of the surrounding ice (YouTube video posted by LDB engineer Richard Bose), and the pier was pulled closer to the as to allow a New Zealand Army team to erect a Bailey bridge. The result...that 11 January photo (right) which has been making the rounds lately. If the ship would show up next week, everything would be fine. But we must wait a bit. And I've also heard that the sea ice in McMurdo Sound may be heavy enough to create a bit more work for the icebreaker than last year...stay tuned. I'm not any good at guessing the sea ice thickness from looking at photos....but at right below is a 10 January MODIS image (source link, from which you can navigate to other images/dates/areas). Note that the top of the photo is south; Ross Island is in the center. I looked back at the past week's images and things were pretty cloudy on most days...I couldn't see what was happening in the northern Ross Sea.10 January McMurdo sea ice

Antarctic drilling projects have been hot news topics this season...back in early November 2012, Peter Rejcek discussed the three biggest ones in this Antarctic Sun article. The most newsworthy of these projects from last season is of course the Russian penetration of Lake Vostok...but there hasn't been much recent news about it...until 11 January 2013, when the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported that the first ice sample of the season had been recovered from the borehole. The sample was recovered from a depth of 3406m/11,175' (a fair distance above the lake surface at 3769m/12,365'). So is it contaminated with drilling fluid? Too little information...presumably we'll hear of more drilling progress later this austral summer, as well as future plans to probe into the lake itself. Their immediate plans are to continue drilling to 3430m/11,253'. Before this news came out, I collected (and summarized) Russia's project technical reports, which were submitted to the Antarctic Treaty meetings each year. Including the fact that they had difficulty evaluating the drilling fluid density because of (inadvertent) hydraulic fracturing. The much-publicized BAS Lake Ellsworth project is located at 79ºS-99.5ºW...175 miles northeast of the ANI/ALE base camp at Union Glacier. (The heavy cargo was flown to UG on the IL-76 aircraft and traversed to the drill site by ALE.) Unfortunately, the effort to drill 10,500' to the lake surface had to be called off after their unique drilling concept failed--they'd planned to balance the lake water pressure (and prevent the drill water from entering the lake or geysering out of the hole) by connecting the drill hole with an underice water reservoir (what we'd call a rodwell bulb full of water) but they were unable to make the two connect. Back to the drawing board.... Here's the project blog (with links to the project web sites), 27 December BBC coverage of the project termination, and an April 2012 BAS presentation by David Blake which describes/depicts the drill scheme and its development (from the 2012 Polar Technology Conference which I attended). And then there is that USAP project, WISSARD, hoping to tap into subglacial Lake Whillans sometime later this month. One of the SPoT teams started hauling their equipment to the site (600+ miles SE of McM near the south edge of the Ross Ice Shelf) on 30 December (due to show up by 12 January). Here's their project home page and blog. Unlike Vostok and Ellsworth, Lake Whillans is not an isolated lake, but rather it is part of an extensive network of lakes and channels running under the ice. It is only about 10m deep, and about 800m/half a mile below the ice surface. They're also using a hot water drill system, which some media (such as this October 2011 New Scientist article) describe as the same method used by the BAS Lake Ellsworth team. But actually the system is more like something from IceCube...and since the team is packed with IceCube veterans as well, it ought to work. Here's their page with photos, information, and a schematic diagram (P&ID) of the drill system.

Not to leave Pole out of the drilling discussion...there is a new approved deep ice coring project in the planning stages--the South Pole Ice Core Project has been funded for a 1500m/4900' ice coring project, planned for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 Antarctic field seasons. The project consortium includes UCI, UW, and UNH...and they had a planning workshop in Boulder across the street from my apartment (!) And in more recent news, the ARA project completed drilling their 12 210m antenna holes at Pole on 31 December, and they're now doing the wiring and testing.

2013 Pole MarkerHappy New Year! The holiday season was celebrated with traditions old and exchange, Round the World Race, Marathon, New Years Eve concert, the unveiling of the Pole marker (right)...and other things I won't mention. And the new Rodwell 3 was finally placed in service the weekend before New Years. Further north at McMurdo, warm weather had softened the runway, meaning that the LC-130's couldn't carry their full cargo load (perhaps a good thing that the C-17s had gone away for the middle of the summer--they'd probably have trouble landing at all). The melting was exacerbated by a dust storm which blew a lot of black dust over the snow surface. From last report there is lots of mail, cargo, freshies, etc., that is not moving south from Christchurch. And the road to Pegasus has softened as well, resulting in long slow travel times. In fact, sometimes wheeled vehicles have been forced to use a "magic carpet"--a plastic sled similar to those used for fuel bladders by the traverse, and towed by a Challenger or similar tracked vehicle. These have been used for anything from passenger vans up to Ivan the Terra Bus.

South Pole welcome sign The solstice has passed meaning the summer is about half over already! But things have been happening...not exactly construction of a new elevated station, but folks have been busy nonetheless. Although the tourist crowd is expected to be much smaller than last year, the first skiers and other visitors have already shown up, so the visitor center has been erected again(!) and the welcome sign has been moved in front of DA (left). Oh yes, Boyd Brown assures me that the sign says the same thing on both some other small towns I've spent time in. As for some of the construction and science's what has been happening so far.

After the solstice of course comes the major holiday season of Christmas and New Years...traditionally a time for great dinners, athletic events, and big parties. I'll leave it to Jeffrey Donenfeld to describe a couple of the of the newer traditions is the all-station holiday photo--he includes a video of its creation. As for the athletic events, the Race around the World comes off on Christmas Eve, and it has a rather dramatic course. This event was first created by Casey Jones and Martha Kane Savage in December 1979...before that there used to be a football game, we played the Pole Bowl on Christmas Day in 1976.

101 year anniversary of Amundsen's arrival101 years ago, on 14 December 1911, Amundsen showed up here. Last year at this time a big multinational crowd assembled to commemorate that event, and this year we have this new tradition...flying the Norwegian flag at the Pole on 14 December (photo from Andrea Dixon).

first 737 aircraft to land in AntarcticaSome interesting aviation news from the other side of the continent...on 28 November local time, the first Boeing 737 aircraft landed in Antarctica, on the 10,000-foot blue ice runway at the Norwegian Troll Station. Troll is located 150 miles from the coast in Queen Maud Land. The six-hour flight from Cape Town was commissioned by the Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI) and operated by PrivatAir, a business/private aviation operator (left; press release photo © NPI). Passengers included NPI researchers and support personnel, some invited guests, and a team of experienced aircraft operations folks to assess the event. The flight returned to Cape Town the next day. Here's the NPI news article (Norwegian page translated by Google) with more photos, the PrivatAir press release page, and the PDF version. What does this mean for the future of Antarctic air transport? Too soon to tell, although this success needs to be viewed in context with two other significant 2012 news items: the USAP Blue Ribbon Panel report which recommended construction of an ice runway for large wheeled aircraft at Pole; and the incipient failure of Australia's constructed ice runway, the Wilkins Aerodrome (40 miles from Casey) due to melting in midsummer (October 2012 article). A new rock-surfaced runway in the ice-free Vestfold Hills (near Davis) may be considered as a long-term alternative.

2012-13 modifications to the South Pole Telescope5 is summer at Pole, and construction is well underway. The jacks were installed under the heavy shop, and by now the leveling process should be underway if not complete. As for science stuff...the SuperDARN control building is being created out of the old SPASE-2 and the antennas will be installed on the east side of the fuel arch. The ARA team has been setting up their hot water drilling equipment for antenna installation...and the SPT folks have begun installing yet another version of a ground shield (right, photo from Amy Bender). This is shield attempt number four, not counting the original plan for a huge inverted dome, bigger than the one that covered the old station. It would have been fabricated by TEMCOR, the same company that brought us the old dome.

Big Dead Place coverA strange bit of news came out on 28 November 2012...Nicholas Johnson, the author of Big Dead Place (left, link) committed suicide. The news announcement from his publisher is rather fact, when I first saw this I assumed it was something Nick had dreamed up, but I have confirmed that it is true. I much prefer to read this tasteful blog post by Jason Anthony. Nick wintered in McMurdo more than once, in 2001 and 2008 at least, and at Pole in 2004, and we'd been in touch for the past 10 years. He had a way with words, sarcasm, humor, and a sense of the Antarctic Program, and he will be missed.

South Pole Traverse status map from 28 November On 29 November the first South Pole Traverse (SPoT) arrived at Pole, only 25 days after leaving McMurdo. I don't know if it is a record, but it is definitely faster than some of the previous ones...although it still had to deal with soft snow on the Plateau. At right, their status map from the day of arrival...after a few days at Pole unloading and resting, they continued on to AGAP to recover fuel and camp materials. Meanwhile, the second traverse, which left McM a few days later on 12 November, reached the top of the Leverett Glacier on 27 November, where they left a depot of 24 bladders/72,000 gallons of fuel at 86º02.221'S, 142º13.334'W and turned around, heading to McMurdo (27 November status map and sitrep. The depoted fuel will be taken to Pole later; meanwhile the next mission for the Traverse#2 team will be to haul cargo for the WISSARD project.

Thanksgiving weekend, 24-25 November now the early season flight delays have mostly been resolved...the major science groups (IceCube/ARA and SPT) have summer teams on site to do what needs to be done, and the summer construction projects are underway. Well, perhaps not this weekend, as Saturday is the day for the big dinner and the first day of a two-day weekend. There are about 155 folks on station, a few are living in the summer camp Hypertats, the only part of summer camp that is being used.

satellite availabilty screen on Thanksgiving weekendDuring late winter, some more satellite tests were conducted with another of the SKYNET-4 series, as the original candidate, SKYNET-4C, got moved so that it was hidden behind the dark sector structures, and RF interference was a concern. Anyway, the tests were successful, so now the NATO-IVB satellite is providing ~4 hours of T1 access per day, currently in the early morning hours (left, a glimpse at the scroll during Thanksgiving weekend). Yeah, what's a T1 line amongst 155 people? Well, it is 4 more hours of internet access than was previously available. Here's a bit of older information about the project.

By Friday 8 November, all but a very few of the 2012 winterovers had headed north...some have made it back to North America already. And the summer people and some of the winterovers have continued to arrive from McMurdo, despite some aggravating flight delays, boomerangs, and cancellations. Both of the 2013 IceCube winterovers have arrived and are busy learning everything. These guys are Felipe Pedreros...who will be the first Chilean to winter, and Blaise Kuotiong...the first winterover originally from the Philippines. And in amongst such things as fire team training, job training, altitude sickness, they've also been blogging and posting photos! Check out the links!

Meanwhile, on the other side of the continent, the tourist season is getting started. The Union Glacier camp is up and running, and the first Pole venturer on the ice is American Aaron Linsdau, aiming to be only the fourth person and the first American to travel to Pole and back without assistance or resupply (ulp, that means not one cookie or drink of water from the Polies). He started his trek from Hercules Inlet on 2 November. And last week another American, Eric Larsen of Boulder, CO, announced that he'll make a solo bicycle trip to Pole starting in December 2012.

Surprisingly on short notice, the second flight arrived on Tuesday 30 was a cargo flight bringing no new people, but it took the first winterovers north. All Pole flights were cancelled on Wednesday for mechanical reasons...Thursday, plans changed several times, but an evening Herc flight brought in 40 more folks. The summer is truly underway! And on Monday the next passenger flight happened...scheduled to take about 25 of the winterovers north. A few of them who left earlier are already back in the US.

passengers get off the first LC-130 flight to Pole in the 2012-13 season

The folks on the Friday (26 October 2012) flight to Pole waited on the ice runway because of a mechanical delay...until 1300. Then the flight was cancelled. On Saturday the Pole flight was an alternate to WAIS...but the first flight to Pole did take off, and landed at Pole around noon on Saturday. At right...some of the new arrivals getting off of the aircraft (photo from Carlos Pobes). Winter is over!

Yes, the big airplanes are coming. The first of the NYANG LC-130's left Schenectady NY for the ice on the 16th and 17th...(Air National Guard article). And the first one, Skier 81, reached McMurdo at 1800 on Tuesday 23 October. For a time it was announced that the first Pole flight would be on Thursday the 25th...a day ahead of schedule...and the weather looked good for the first 30 or so Polies to head south. But was cancelled. Then it was to go on Friday the 26th...or.......whenever. Watch the Pole weather and the McMurdo weather...

Basler aircraft on deck at PoleTwin Otter at Pole on 22 October The Pole isolation ended after noon on Friday 19 October, when the first KBA aircraft, Basler MKB, showed up from Rothera for a one-hour refueling stop en route to McMurdo (left, photo by Sven Lidstrom). Its arrival had been delayed a couple of days. The aircraft and its crew of four did not enter the station...yes, they did bring freshies--including onions as well as fruit (all were enjoyed). A Twin Otter (KBG) was scheduled to arrive that day as well, but that flight was postponed until Monday the showed up at 1235. It was followed at 1300 by another Basler. These aircraft brought more freshies, as well as wine (!) The second Basler (JKB, below left) was chartered to the Australian program and was on the way to Davis. The Twin Otter stayed overnight before continuing on to McMurdo; the Australian Basler and crew stayed for several days because of bad weather at Davis...most recently they were scheduled to depart Pole at Basler aircraft heading to Davis Station 1300 on the 25th (the three photos displayed on this page are by Sven Lidstrom from the Antarctic Photo Library). Here's an Antarctic Sun article with additional photos. More KBA USAP aircraft--another Basler and another Twin Otter, were still en route. Some of these aircraft as well as a BAS Twin Otter were spotted in Punta Arenas on 15 October Chilean time, and another BAS Twin Otter was already headed for Rothera. The original plans called for the first Pole passenger flights to start on the 26th using NYANG LC-130s.

Cynthia Chiang at PoleI spent several days in Colorado Springs between 17 and 21 October...among other things attending some of the Antarctic events being held as part of the Colorado Springs Cool Science Festival. Thursday evening I attended a presentation about the "Cleanest Air on Earth" by Brian Vasel, a 2002 and 2003 NOAA winterover who is currently the NOAA observatory director based in Boulder. Wednesday's presentations included a talk by Katy Jensen and a discussion by Paul Sullivan about the South Pole telescopes...this event included a video conference with Pole featuring IceCubers Sven Lidstrom and Carlos Pobes, South Pole Telescope folks Cynthia Chiang and Nicholas Huang, as well as greenhouse technician Joselyn Fenstermacher. One amazing comment I heard afterward was about a 15-year-old high school student who was extremely impressed by seeing Cynthia (right) talk about physics. Moderators and organizers included Dave Bresnahan and Carol Crossland--Carol was the first woman to winter at all three USAP Antarctic stations...and amazingly I had lunch on Thursday with Rachel Javorsek who just finished a winter at Palmer and is now only the second woman to winter at all 3 stations (so far as I know...have I missed anyone?)

Australian Airbus flight landing at McMurdo on 1 Octobernew passenger transport vehicle at McMurdo1 October brought the first of the main body flights to McMurdo...the prelude was the Christchurch arrival of the Air Force C-17 on Sunday 30 September (Press article). The Australian Airbus-319 arrived first (left), followed later in the day by the C-17. A total of 130 passengers arrived, so the McMurdo population is starting to swell to summer proportions. And the Kress trailer (right) is something new in ground transportation. These two 1 October photos are both by Bobby Werner from the Antarctic Photo Library; here's a closer view of that passenger trailer. The next phase of the Air Force operations were to begin later in October when the LC-130's start heading south ( article). A total of about 50 Air Force flights from Christchurch to McMurdo are planned.

The McMurdo summer population, like that at Pole, will be a bit smaller this year. Many of the departments have been cut at least 20%, and other cutbacks first mentioned at the annual planning conference held in Arlington in June are being implemented. For example, there will be no C-17 flights from ChCh to McM from the end of November to mid-January...and this of course will result in a cutback in freshies and mail, as well as transportation for people before and after the Christmas holidays. Another McM innovation is "the smell of fresh paint" which involves the first phase of dorm renovations, the new McMurdo ice pier in September 2012described in the 21 September "around the continent" Antarctic Sun report as well as this article which details the dorm renovations as well as changes in the housing policy. Other McM changes involve the shuffling of more yoga in the chapel...the gerbil gym moves to the library, and the library gets shrunk and moved to a dorm lounge. On the construction front, work has already started on another new fuel tank, and the new ice pier, which was started in early July, had reached its minimum acceptable thickness of 18 feet by 19 September (right, photo by Mike Rice). From this angle, it looks a bit smaller than the last one, but it means that the backlog of trash and garbage may get sent north this season. As for Pole...the lack of freshies during the midsummer period will affect things here as well, as the greenhouse will be shut down again this summer...for cleaning, repairs, budget cuts, and/or the operational change, as the University of Arizona is no longer involved. And speaking of Pole, many of the 2013 winterovers are in Denver last week and this week, doing psych tests, trauma and fire training. And yes, I got together with a few of them last weekend....

the new worst journey in the world?The last big Antarctic adventure...or another disaster in the making, perhaps comparable to Scott's demise 100 years ago? The ceaselessly intrepid British adventurer Ranulph Fiennes is planning another trans-Antarctic crossing...for next winter (see map at left from the expedition web site)--appropriately titled The Coldest Journey. Their preliminary plans have them arriving at Queen Maud Land by ship in mid-January, at the Lazarev Sea coast near Novo. Starting on 21 March 2013, their motorized venture will head south using the traverse route more recently used by Extreme World Races/Arctic Trucks. They plan to arrive at Pole in mid-June. They then will continue to McMurdo along the USAP South Pole Traverse route, arriving on about 21 September. Hmmmm. Here's the 17 September BBC News article as well as a link to his web site and blog. And more information is out from Alexander Kumar, the British physician who wintered at (and blogged from) Conncordia in 2012. He reports in his 21 September blog post that the expedition has been secretly planned for 4 years; he also provides more freeze dried Levi's? detail about the venture and promises to provide more details about it (and discuss his own involvement) in his next blog post.

Ran last showed up on Pole with his snowmobile-equipped Transglobe Expedition in December sunlight and summer temperatures--at right is Ran (left) with station manager Tom Plyler discussing a certain article of clothing (perhaps from a sponsor) of a type commonly worn at Pole (more info and photos). The following northern summer I met him and the team when their ship, en route to the Arctic, stopped in Los Angeles for a trade show.

After a fairly significant storm, with wind chill approaching -100ºC, things finally cleared up enough for the sun to peek through the haze on 22 September. The sunrise dinner was Saturday the 15th. But it is still cool...there was yet another 300 Club event in early September...about #8 for the season. Sorry, you'll have to go elsewhere for photos :)

Josiah (Siah) Heiser, the heavy equipment operator during my 2008 winter, has just published a book about his life...from growing up, to his work on the ice which included much time at McMurdo as well as the present time (he and wife are currently living in the Philippines). The book is now available on Kindle (readable on most anything) at, for not very much money (here's his blog with information and purchase link). I highly recommend it!

come fly with meWinfly is over at last. The first of the six flights departed on the scheduled Monday 20 August date, but it turned into an eleven-hour boomerang, as the forecast bad weather at McM materialized at the wrong time. What may have been worse than being on the flight...the McM passengers WERE waiting at Pegasus when Condition 1 was declared...a truck carrying baggage lost the flag line and went off the road...after a long wait, all of the vehicles made it slowly back to town. Oh well. The latest storm was to get even worse, and last for a couple of days, so the Tuesday flight was canceled. And on Wednesday morning it was still Condition 1 at Pegasus, so that day's flight was canceled as well. Thursday morning...McMurdo weather was better, things were back to Condition 3, and that evening the flight arrived, boosting the population by 120 people. But the second flight did not arrive until Monday 27 August...the date when the last of the flights had originally been scheduled, before Mother Antarctica had her way. The last of the six flights reached McMurdo on 31 August NZ time (31 August Antarctic Sun update) and article). The McM population is now over 400.

Discussing's a 17 August US Air Force press release about this year's Operation Deep Freeze (ODF); it featured the logo at right...I don't know if this is new, but I don't recall seeing it before. More coverage of Winfly the and summer season is this 17 August Antarctic Sun article...which also describes some of the upcoming events for the 2012-13 summer season. Some things we already knew...such as the 168-person Pole population, and attention to the Blue Ribbon Panel report which was released in July. Other items of note...the first main body flight to McM is scheduled for 1 October, and the Pole opening flight is scheduled for 26 October...with a USAF LC-130 rather than a Basler. One of the major construction projects at McM this season will be another 2-million-gallon fuel tank--it would give the station a better capability to operate for 2 years without a fuel resupply. And the status of the ice pier is still questionable due to a warmer-than-usual winter.

As for other summer projects at is time to do some jacking and leveling of the station, as well as the VMF (garage) building. Hopefully the permanent fuel line from the fuel arch through LO to the VMF arch and under the station toward the flight line will finally be finished, so that the fuel hose can be rolled up for good sometime during the summer. The Old Pole site needs a bit more remediation...using either heavy equipment or explosives. And there will be another attempt to establish communications with another new old satellite, either Skynet-4c or a similar one. The 2012 winter is the last currently scheduled for the BICEP-2 telescope, which is the only all-year science project requiring significant amounts of liquid helium (June Antarctic Sun article). The cryo building will be used for another science project, and there will no longer be cryo tech position after the 2012-13 summer.

Google Street View seems that the team also collected photos INSIDE the elevated station!. You can start here inside the galley and navigate through the hallway to Destination Alpha, and then descend the stairs outside the gym to the first floor! It's a bit discontinuous, but here are a lot of things to see along the way, including even a few Polies.

Thursday 9 August...a medevac flight to McMurdo was underway. As is usual, there were not many details, but there is an interesting twist or two, as well as the usual media kerfuffle. The aircraft of choice is the Airbus A-319 that the AAD now uses for transport to Wilkins Aerodrome, the artificial ice runway near Casey. The aircraft and a 5-person medical team arrived in Chch on 8 August from Melbourne, via Hobart, and they departed for McM on the 9th, expecting to arrive there at 1300 McM/SP time, per this updated CNN article. Here is the 8 August (US time) an 8 August (US time) NSF press release. As a backup, a US Air Force C-17 is on standby in the US. Winfly was originally scheduled for later this month, with six C-17 flights to McM between 20 and 27 August. The media has been confusing things by showing old photos of the South Pole dome and referring to other Pole medevacs. This ABC Australia Radio article stated that McMurdo's Pegasus runway was "open all year round," which some of the equipment operators at McMurdo might take issue with. And the CNN report states that there are "60 or 70" folks wintering at McMurdo...actually there were 153, with another 14 souls at Scott Base. The update...the flight was successful, it was on deck at the Pegasus airfield at McM for about an hour on 9 August during the midday twilight, and returned to ChCh, arriving about 1700 that evening. The weather at McM was good, the temperature was -31ºF/-35ºC when the aircraft landed. fly meThis was probably the earliest landing of a large wheeled aircraft during the austral winter. Here's the second NSF press release of 9 August which announces the successful completion; it also reports that an additional passenger left McMurdo on the flight because of compelling personal circumstances. The press release includes a file photo (left) of one of the first test landings of the Australian A-319 (on the annual sea ice runway) in November 2007 (photo by Ralph Maestas from the Antarctic Photo Library). Also, here is the 9 August Christchurch Press article with a photo of the aircraft in Christchurch. Afterward, the AAD Airbus returned to Hobart, arriving on Friday morning (ABC Australia article). Oh, and in a postscript, the AAD director stated that Australia would pay the the costs of the medevac (10 August Sydney Morning Herald story). Remember that the USAP has assisted in several medevacs from Australian stations over the years, including this one in November 2008.

On a related note, Renée-Nicole Douceur, the 2011 Pole winter site manager who suffered a stroke in August 2011, is reported to be recovering from that mishap, "...about 80 percent back by now," in her words. She's been recovering since April, living in her luxury coach "The Gypsy Queen" in Hampton Falls, NH, and she hopes to head for Wyoming. She hasn't ruled out a lawsuit, and there may also be a book. The complete story is in this 8 August Newburyport (MA) Daily News article.

Another medical update on a more positive note...UTMB, the ASC medical subcontractor, recently hired Dr. Scott E. Parazynski as the director of their Center for Polar Medical Operations. Scott, as an astronaut, flew on five space shuttle missions, and is also a serious mountain climber--he's the first astronaut to summit Everest in 2009. Here's the UTMB press release.

the tip of the icebergThat long-awaited NSF Blue Ribbon Panel report addressing the future of the US Antarctic Program WAS announced and released on 23 July. My brief summary...Pole is in good shape because there's a new station, but the rest of the USAP needs some improvement in infrastructure and logistics, such as that pier at Palmer that was obsolete 25 years ago when I was involved with the engineering study for its replacement that never happened. (Ulp...25 years ago??? I'm getting first visit to the ice was 40 years ago). The only Pole-specific recommendation is for a hard-surface runway so that wheeled C-17s and other large aircraft can land. That is a hard problem. Although many studies have been done over the years, and some have stated that the solution was imminent, the real story is that every other Antarctic ice runway that has been certified for large wheeled aircraft is based on blue ice, and there isn't any of that at Pole.

Several links to note. First and most important, the actual page to download the full report or the executive summary is here. My summary? I defer to others; actually the executive summary is good, or a shorter excellent one was written by Peter Rejcek in this Antarctic Sun article. For more background information, this NSF page includes links to the 23 July webcast which announced the panel's results, as well as shorter video statements by panel chairman Norm Augustine and members Don Hartill, Bart Gordon, and Duncan McNabb, and acknowledgement of the report cover art (right) by NSF illustrator Zina Deretsky. Three of the panel members, Hugh Ducklow, Lou Lanzerotti, and Diana Wall, have spent lots of time doing research in Antarctica, and Hugh spent much of the 2008 winter at Palmer studying microplankton.

A couple of other interesting news stories have been making the rounds this week. First, this 17 July feature from the Washington Post's weather blog, "South Pole weather: 200 degrees of separation from Washington D.C.'s scorching heat." It features commentary from several winterovers, including meteorologist Dale Hershlag, IceCuber Sven Lidstrom, South Pole Telescope observer Cynthia Chiang, and physician Dale Mole...and if that isn't enough, given the current Washington D.C summer heat, there is a link to Antarctic jobs (!) And earlier this month the discovery of the Higgs boson stirred new interest in IceCube; one of several good articles appeared in the Huffington Post...this features one of Sven's many amazing outdoor winter photos.

show me the road homeGoogle Street View hits Pole! doesn't matter that there aren't any "streets," but Google has been continuing to expand their Antarctic coverage (left). All of this interest started when Google employee David "Pablo" Cohn (his blog) took a sabbatical from the Mountain View company to work the Pole help desk for the 2010-11 summer. Over the past year they've improved their mapping coverage, and on 17 July at the international SCAR meetings in Portland, OR (meeting web site), they announced some enhanced Street View coverage not only outside, but also inside some of the historic huts on Ross Island, as well as the Crary Lab and the BFC at McMurdo. The Pole coverage features the roof of DSL including the BICEP2 and South Pole Telescopes, as well as the Ceremonial Pole. The Google team visited the ice in November 2011 with the Street View camera system to capture the images. The link--the Google Lat Long Blog which briefly describes the project and links to some of the video. And as well, here is a December 2011 Antarctic Sun article about the Google/USAP collaboration...but since Sun editor Peter Rejcek had lunch in Portland on 16 July with Alex Starns, the Google technical program manager for Street View, Paul Morin, director of the University of Minnesota's Polar Geospatial Center, Pablo, and other perpetrators, I expect a revised article soon.

Got helicopters? It seems that the contract for McM helo's, currently held by PHI, (company web site), is up for renewal, effective for the 2013-14 season. PHI got the original contract in 1996, taking over from the Navy flight squadron (VXE-6). Here's an Examiner news article, as well as the announcement page which has additional links and info.

da boatIn a surprise announcement released by NSF on 3 July, arrangements with Russia's Murmansk Shipping Company have been concluded successfully, so the diesel icebreaker Vladimir Ignatyuk will again handle the McMurdo Sound icebreaking and escort operations for the upcoming 2012-13 season. According to the NSF announcement, the agreement follows a series of technical discussions with the shipping company. Here is the NSF press release, as well as a 6 July AAAS/Science Insider news report. The one-year contract with renewal options was originally announced 25 August 2011; more details about the Canadian-built vessel and the original contract can be found here. At right is the vessel in front of Hut Point on 26 January 2012; this photo was taken by Steve Royce and can be found in the Antarctic Photo Library.

A celebration of life for Kathie Hill was held in the Denver area on 4 August (details).

Time to highlight some excellent artistic work. First, Anthony Powell, from Hawera, NZ, has spent 9 winters on the ice (and a few more summers), some with his wife, working at Scott Base, McMurdo, and under NSF Artists and Writers grants. His work has appeared in various places around the world, most recently in the BBC "Frozen Planet" series. Now he's in the final stage of putting together his feature film, "Antarctica: A Year on the Ice," a ten-year project. He's been soliciting funds on Kickstarter, offering copies of the completed DVD and other now has been successfully funded, and the Kickstarter preorder period has now closed. But there may be other options to preorder, stay tuned. A glimpse of Anthony (Antz) is at left along with the first trailer; his website is here, it also includes the time-lapse video of the 2012 McMurdo ship offload. His blog includes both the first and second trailers.

Another worthwhile project, although a bit smaller, is already funded, This is "Mikey Going Down the Book" put together my Mikey Kampmann from Portland, OR (and Portlandia) while working at Pole last summer. The kickstarter preorder period has now closed, but stay tuned to mikey going down for other options.

The NSF/USAP annual planning conference, 26-28 June 2012 in Virginia, is over. And a bit more news about the upcoming seasons is coming out. The lingering contingencies that were discussed include the possibility of no icebreaker in the upcoming summer, the thin condition of the sea ice around McMurdo (which could affect the science projects traditionally based on the annual ice, not to mention the annual ice runway), and planning for the ice pier (well, if there IS an icebreaker). Closer to Pole...the peak summer population this season may be only 168...or to put it into my perspective, only 200% of the planned peak population for my first season in 1976-77. Instead of opening summer camp (which still has that frozen sewer outfall, remember?) a couple of Hypertats would be moved over close to the station to house the peak population; the occupants would use the bathroom facilities inside the station. I wonder if they'll try and move the freshly upgraded solar-powered Hypertats...perhaps if it can be done this way as was done with the Jamesways in 1997-98.

the nifty fiftyMidwinters weekend is over...and the sun is slowly moving back up toward the Pole horizon. The celebration and the food seems to get bigger and better every year. At right is the official midwinter greeting photo (more information)...and be sure to check out the great photos by Robert and Cynthia!

Kathie in happier timesMore sad news...TWO Polies lost their lives in a one-week period at the end of May. Kathie Hill Baker, for many years the met coordinator for RPSC (and a 1993 and 1995 winterover) was tragically murdered in Whidbey Island, Washington, on about 2 June. Her husband Al Baker, who wintered in 2001 and since then has been the Pole science support coordinator, has been arrested and charged with first degree murder. I didn't know Kathie personally, but we'd been in contact. This whole story left me seriously shaken. Here's a tribute page, with that amazing photo of Kathie (right) as well as some even more impressive commentary by the photographer. Lockheed-Martin ASC has offered counseling to Polies past and present.

A week earlier, 2011-12 summer carpenter Jesse Peterson died in a Colorado canoeing accident (story below).

The middle of June...things were quiet on the ice. Well, after all, it is the month of midwinter (and the McMurdo folks celebrated on the weekend of 16-17 June). And it has also been cold. At Pole the temperatures dipped back into 3 digits (scroll image and weekly climate summary), with, of course, some of the traditional events associated with that phenomenon.

So...much of the major ice news is happening north of 60ºS. First, it must be said that folks are being hired for next season...PQ's are underway...and planning for the summer is happening. On the jobs front, next year's Pole winter site manager has been hired and starts work on 2 July, but there are still lots of openings out there. Is it too late to apply? Well, maybe not, but it is not getting any earlier. Remember, the ASC job postings are on this page, along with links to a few of the other subcontractor positions. ASC announced that they planned to get job offers for next winter for current winterovers made and confirmed by September...but there are lots of other jobs to fill.

Otherwise, what happens in the rest of the world during the middle of the austral winter is...meetings. The biggest one is of course the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting which was held in Hobart between 11-20 June. So far there have not been any earth-shaking announcements, but some of the news of interest includes formal approval of a new Korean station next to the Italians in Terra Nova Bay. This will be a futuristic US$ 91 million 50,000 square foot facility depicted and described in this news article, it will be completed and occupied in March 2014. The Koreans as well as the Chinese were being courted to set up major science/support bases in Hobart. And on the science front, an Australian geographic study identified 15 distinct Antarctic regions--a far cry from the generic East and West Antarctica we are familiar with (AAD press release).

Concurrently with the Treaty meetings, an Australian Green Party spokesperson hosted a forum on 17 June to discuss a proposal to seek World Heritage status for Antarctica...but some consider this to be an opening to reopen the minerals debate (The Conversation blog post).

Other meetings in America...the Blue Ribbon Panel, which visited Antarctica this past season, has held several formal meetings which are documented on the NSF web site. Minutes for the first 3 of the meetings have been published; the first meeting covers the initial charter of the panel, the second is a followup after their visit to Pole and McMurdo, and the third is a later followup after they visited Palmer. The fourth meeting (for which minutes have not been published) addressed the final details of report preparation. Some interesting thoughts...some may get implemented, some we may consider a bit surprising, and some are probably out of the question considering the current state of the economy and the NSF budget. But...remember, the 1997 report by the previous panel resulted in many significant changes...including the final impetus for the current elevated station. The final report is expected to be released before Winfly. Here's the NSF link to the Blue Ribbon Panel documentation; these pages also include other older reports including the seminal 1997 document.

And then there was the NSF USAP Annual Planning Conference, which was held on 26-28 June at a Lockheed Martin facility in Crystal City, Arlington, VA. The conference web site includes the agenda and a list of point papers and discussion items...interestingly, some of these are items of interest which were mentioned in the Blue Ribbon Panel meetings...such as icebreaker support, McMurdo and field camp housing, and a runway at Pole for heavy wheeled aircraft (something that people have been talking about since the early 1960s).

 jesseA sad bit of Pole news from...Colorado. Jesse Peterson, a 2011-12 summer carpenter, was lost on 25 May in a canoe accident in Willow Lake...a remote lake at 11,660 feet, in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness about 100 miles southwest of Colorado Springs. The canoe overturned, and he disappeared. His companion, Natalie Brechtel from California, made it to the lake shore and was assisted by an Outward Bound team which was training nearby. Jesse, age 27, was from Alma, Colorado. Natalie also worked at Pole last season. At left is the announcement of his remembrance on 9 June; here's a Denver Post article.

The first weekend in June saw the voting for the next version of the South Pole marker, which will be created by machinist Derek Aboltins and unveiled next New Years. There were SEVENTEEN entries in the competition this year!

Remember the dome? The top ring with the five holes was installed at the new Seabee Museum in Port Hueneme last year, but it was incomplete. The American flag was put in place atop the dome ring by Steve Bruce, Lee Mattis, and Jerry Marty, on 29 March 2012 California time (Antarctic Sun article).

Lockheed Martin appears to be progressing with their assumption of the USAP contract. Folks are being hired by them and the subcontractors, the PQ process has been set up by the UTMB (University of Texas Medical Branch) in Galveston, the same organization that studied my swollen knee during my 2008 winter. And plans are being made for next summer (well, assuming there is an icebreaker, see below). At present it looks like the station opening will be one or more LC-130 flights on 27 October, rather than Baslers.

The auroras have been amazing this year, or at least so it seems compared to my 3 winters (well, I thought they were amazing then). In addition to miscellaneous photos posted by the winterovers on the links page (and I've added a couple more links), check out this Japanese site for the very latest photos and videos from equipment maintained by science tech friend Ethan Good.

On 9 May 2012, NSF announced that the Murmansk Shipping Company, which had contracted to provide the icebreaker Vladimir Ignatyuk for the 2011-12 and future seasons, had advised that the icebreaker would not be available in the future. Here's the "Dear Colleague" letter from Scott Borg, NSF Antarctic division director...and here is a fresh 9 May solicitation by NSF on the FedBizOpps site. They did this last year about this time after the Swedish government withdrew the availability of the Oden. The US Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star is still in refit and will not be available until 2013. Of historical interest...the solicitation (as did the one in 2011) includes a detailed spreadsheet of US Antarctic icebreaker operations since the IGY.

The denial of the CH2M Hill protest of the contract award to Lockheed Martin was announced tersely by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on 18 March. Finally on 9 May we have the detailed report, or at least a redacted version. Here's the Washington Technology article with a link to the pdf of the decision (which has now also been included in the GAO decision page.

protect the parts7 April was a cool day at Pole...literally (right)! This year was the earliest ever that the temperature dipped into 3 digits (ºF). The previous earliest running of the 300 Club was also on 7 April in 1982, but this year the temperature dropped below -100ºF about an hour earlier than it did in 1982. Nice to know that Polies are still crazy enough to risk extremities and lungs in this athletic endeavor. The past 12 months have brought several weather records including the highest temperature and the highest recorded wind speed. Here's a fresh Antarctic Sun article.

3-5 April 2012...I attended the annual Polar Technology Conference in Fairlee, VT...close to sponsor CRREL (the US Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory) in Hanover NH, not to mention Dartmouth. This is a somewhat ad-hoc production...the conference is a volunteer effort, this one drew about 70 people including new and old friends. NSF was represented by Vladimir Papitashvili, the astrophysics/geospace program director. It was a great experience. The formal discussions included power and communications for small remote data collection stations in the Arctic and Antarctic that need to be powered with wind and solar and high-tech batteries, and equipped with hardware that will send data out via Iridium and other satellite systems. There was also discussion about bigger stuff...the traverses to Summit in Greenland as well as from McMurdo to Pole...the new BAS station at Halley that is currently in its first winter season...and the future plans for Summit and/or nearby stations in the middle of Greenland. bigger, better?One interesting data seems that a consortium from Taiwan, the Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics (ASIAA), and the Smithsonian, were recently given a "free" 12 meter telescope...a prototype constructed at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in New Mexico, for development of the ALMA (the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) in Chile (Academia Sinica news release (archive) and February 2011 Nature article), (left, NRAO photo by Kelly Gatlin) (more information and links to larger images and usage info). The consortium is planning to move it to a site at or near Summit...which has hitherto been a small "clean" research site. Two meters bigger than the one at Pole...although it won't be doing any CMBR stuff so it won't need a ground shield, just a foundation...and a bunch of electrical power. Should be interesting.

A bit more "polar technology" mid March a feature story was broadcast on Catalyst, a news program on ABC (the Australian Broadcasting Corporation) highlighting yet another possible communications satellite system to offer broadband communications to Pole and other Antarctic stations, using small satellites (cubes only about 8" on a side) somewhat comparable to mobile phones...or mini cell towers. The concept has been developed at the University of Toronto, and the Australian company, Antarctic Broadband, is currently looking for funding; their current schedule calls for a test launch in 2012 and full deployment by 2014. The satellites would have elliptical polar orbits. The Catalyst video includes a bit of a Pole teleconference with researchers John Kovac and Brad Benson, as well as a "G'day" greeting from Daniel Leussler at the ceremonial Pole. Well, we know that NSF has been looking for more bandwidth between Pole and the rest of the April 2011 a Request for Information was issued looking for industry recommendations for satellite-based broadband communications with Pole. This RFI included an extensive and detailed report on the requirements for such a project.

2 April...Jarle Andhøy was in the news again...his boat Nilaya and crew were arrested by Chilean authorities in Chilean waters while en route to Argentina. They were taken to Puerto Willams...across the Straits of Magellan from Ushuaia, Argentina. The search was conducted in a civil was reported that the Nilaya would stay at the Argentine base until Busby Noble, the Kiwi who was aboard when the vessel left Auckland, was issued a temporary passport. The vessel and crew were released a week later and headed to Ushuaia. They later sailed to Buenos Aires...Andhøy flew back to Norway on 8 May (update).

31 March...the RPSC contract was at an end, as indicated on their web site. Lockheed-Martin has been updating their contract web site. A bittersweet time especially for the Raytheon full-timers who weren't picked up by the new contractor...reminds me of what happened to Bill Spindler in 1990 when ITT lost the contract. It worked out well for me...I ended up in Alaska, and 15 years later I got back into the program.

In March 2012 I moved to Boulder, Colorado, and one of the first things I did when I got here the last weekend in March was attend the "1970s/1990s H&N/ASA Gathering" at Jim Chambers' place in Parker, just south of Denver. 130+ people there, beautiful weather, and great fun.

get striped

Before the official sunset at Pole, the weather was raunchy...but at the time of the dinner on the 18th visibility started to improve. At left is a 27 March photo of the sun...well below the horizon but refracted above to ARO. With thanks to SPT winterover Cynthia Chiang.

Anthony Powell has put together a fantastic video of the 2012 ship offload...this is the HD version from his web site. He said he used 4 Canon SLRs, and a GoPro HD, condensing over 150,000 photos were condensed down to make this video. The details of the operation are described in this Antarctic Sun article. My collection of time lapse photos and other images is is here.

14 March, there was news that Jarle Andhøy was heading back to the Antarctic...this time to one of the Argentine bases on the Antarctic Peninsula for repairs to a broken boom on his boat Nilaya. There hasn't been much news since then (updates).

13 March, the shadows were getting longer. There was less than a week until the equinox (1814 SP time on Tuesday the 20th), with the sunset happening a few days later. The big dinner was on Sunday evening. New Zealand (and Pole) are still on Daylight Saving Time until the first Sunday in April.

The last flight of the season, a RNZAF B757, left McMurdo shortly after 1800 on 6 March 2012, leaving behind 153 McMurdo winterers as well as 14 at Scott Base (Antarctic Sun article)

I smell smokeOn the other side of the continent, there has been a major fire in the power plant at the Brazilian research station Comandante Ferraz on King George Island. It broke out around midnight local time Friday night (1600 SP time Saturday 25 February 2012) and reportedly destroyed the main station facilities. Two men were killed, and two others were injured. The BBC has excellent coverage here. Comandante Ferraz is located in Admiralty Bay (Wikimedia map) on the south side of King George Island; it is only a few miles from the Polish station Arctowski (where the injured were treated) and Copacabana (the Pieter J. Lenie Field Station), the longtime USAP penguin study site. There were 65 researchers and support personnel on station at the time of the fire. The photo at left is by Pedro Guerreiro, posted on this the Science Today (Portuguese) blog page.

Yet another vessel in McMurdo Sound...Jarle Andhøy's yacht Nilaya was spotted offshore near Scott Base on the 21st. On Saturday 24 February, Andhøy told a Norwegian paper that their Antarctic venture was at an end, and that they were heading for South America (updates). There was no further news until mid-March.

whatever floats your boatThe Green Wave arrived at McMurdo around noon on Valentines Day. It originally tied up at the relocated ice pier, and the pontoon causeway was constructed on the outboard side (left, webcam slide). The assembled causeway was then moved to the offload site...and then the ship moved as well. You could watch the progress on the McMurdo webcams. The backload started on the 23rd...two days later the causeway was disassembled and picked up, and the Green Wave had headed north. Check out the slides; (full coverage of the 2011-12 shipping season)...including seven pages of time lapse photos!

At Pole...15 February...and the last 2 flights. Winter has begun for the 50 souls left behind. Here's the documentation from the Antarctic Sun with photos from Sven Lidstrom.

And at McMurdo...having a blast at McMurdoover this past weekend the ice pier was blasted loose from the shore (right) and moved closer to Hut Point to make way for the pontoon causeway setup. On the 11th the Nathaniel B. Palmer had been docked at the ice pier.

Jarle Andhøy's venture crossed 60ºS into the Antarctic. He's been off the coast of Victoria Land, and planned to head to Franklin Island before trying to get through the ice to McMurdo Sound. The Kiwi workman on board, a Maori activist, actually stowed away...and there are other strange stories about Jarle from Norway.

this is only a drill9 February...boring news from Vostok...the lake drilling has been completed (6 February SP time)! At left is the drillers' hero shot. There is lots of news out there, but this is my translation of the official press release. Other recommended news links...this report from RiaNovosti which includes an excellent animated graphic of the drilling process; two articles from the Russian commercial news service RT..."We raised 40 liters of water" which includes some of the technical details, and this one which features 2 videos with file footage of the drilling operation. Here is the New York Times coverage...and they also have this blog which addresses the Nazi conspiracy theory. Where is Art Bell when we need him? When the researchers get home, maybe they'll publish some papers and we'll find out the rest of the story. Meanwhile, this NOAA site depicts a 2001 aerial photo of Vostok, I don't think the place has changed that much since then.

Lockheed (remember the contract?)...I've updated that page about the contract rebid/transition, including the latest in the fast-changing set of links to the hiring information. Briefly, Lockheed and their subcontractors are focusing on employment arrangements for the current winterovers and incumbent full-timers in Denver... along with all of the other administrivia that goes with the transition. The CH2M Hill protest did not seem to have any impact on the contract turnover process.

Shipping update...the tanker (photo below left) finished offloading about 6.3 million gallons of fuel, and undocked from the ice pier on 2 February...the too-thin ice pier will now be moved out of the way to Hut Point to make way for the Green Wave. It reached Lyttelton on 5 February. Because of the weight of the pontoon causeway on board, some of the other containers were offloaded there and are being flown down. The vessel headed south on the 7th. The offload, plus setting up/taking down the causeway, will take about 11 days...the extra time for the ship offload plus the added flights will stretch the McM closing into early March. Pole reportedly received all of its needed supplies.

NPXBack in the IGY before there were Pole markers, there already was a certain distinctive abbreviation for the station (right). So what does NPX stand for?

photo from Carlos Pobes

2 February 2012, the Pole tourist season was over. The last two teams in the Extreme World Races Race to the South Pole arrived on the 28th. After a brief tour of the station, the remaining racers were quickly flown back to Novo, and the Arctic Trucks team packed up their camp a few miles away, and headed for Novo--they should be back by the fifth. The visitors center complex was dismantled the last week in January, and the deserted tourist camp site has also been left to the winterover Polies (left). The only other NGO travelers still moving on the continent are Dixie Dansercoer and Sam Deltour, who have now kited over 3000 miles on a looping track from Novo via Pole and Dome C...setting a new long-distance Antarctic travel record. They were still perhaps 1800 miles from Novo...will they make it back before the end of the season or will they need to get picked up?

tank you very muchThe Russian icebreaker Vladimir Ignatyuk arrived at McM the last week in January, here's video of it at work, from the I drive. And after that bit of work, the tanker Maersk Peary showed up on the 27th...(left, a 28 January photo by Steven Royce/Antarctic Photo Library). As for the cargo vessel Green Wave, it left Port Hueneme on 10 January, but it had a few mechanical problems. It was in Lyttelton in the beginning of February. Meanwhile, a crew of as many as 40 members of a US Army causeway battalion arrived to deal with the pontoons that will be used in lieu of the ice pier.

News from NZ...Jarle Andhøy and Samuel Massie, the surviving members of last season's tragic Berserk Pole attempt, have come up with a yacht and crew in Auckland and are heading for the Ross Sea...with a Maori worker who was working below when they cast off. and the NZ authorities were looking for them. They announced plans to head for Pole using the quad bikes they left behind at McM last year, or perhaps they're just going to pick up their gear at Scott Base (the latest news).

fat tire special25 January...the last few weeks of summer...the tourist season is almost over. Although the ALE camp at Union Glacier is closing this week, several teams from the Extreme World Races (EWR) event (supported out of Novo by the Arctic Trucks team) were still en route hoping to reach the station by the last week in January. Other recent visitors official and otherwise included Michel Rocard, the 1988-91 prime minister of France, as well as British TV star Helen Skelton (right; EWR/Arctic Trucks photo). Helen's polar venture has created an international media frenzy and at least one dubious "world record" claim (ExplorersWeb commentary). Elsewhere around the station, various science projects were finishing their summer work, efforts were continuing to get rodwell#3 operating, with assistance from John Rand, and the team from Lockheed-Martin arrived to begin the contract transition process. And there has been some testing of the new Skynet-4c satellite link.

100 years on100 years ago...5 Englishmen showed up at Pole on foot. No warm visitor center, no elevated station, no aircraft to take them back to London...nothing... but a tent left by Amundsen's party which had preceded them by a month. So...the leader Robert Falcon Scott's comment on reaching his goal was, "Great God! This is an awful place and terrible enough for us to have laboured to it without the reward of priority." Gee, what would you say under such circumstances? Perhaps words that I'd rather not put on this web site. Well, on 17 January 2012 things were a bit different, there were perhaps about 70 NGO visitors, and there was a ceremony to mark the occasion. gyroscopeOne of the speakers was area manager Bill Coughran (left), another was Henry Worsley, a member of the Royal British Legion and a relative of Frank Worsley, the captain of the Endurance on Shackleton's 1914-16 trans-Antarctic attempt. Worsley had arrived at Pole via Amundsen's route as part of the British Scott-Amundsen Centenary Race. The team following Scott's route did make it to Pole before midnight on the 17th. Henry also took Scott's route to Pole a few years ago (more photos and information about the ceremony). Meanwhile, there also was a commemorative dinner at Scott Base, one of the attendees was Falcon Scott, Robert's grandson, who has been working with the Antarctic Heritage Trust on the restoration of the Terra Nova hut at Cape Evans.

Yes...1 January did bring the unveiling of the latest and great Pole marker (right) amazing construction by Steele Diggles, the 2011 machinist.

Just when you thought it might not did. There is a contract protest. CH2M Hill was officially debriefed by NSF on 5 January and filed a protest the next day. This Engineering News-Record story is no longer available to nonsubscribers, but this article should be around longer. "CH2M HILL Antarctic Support, Inc. is disappointed with result of the NSF's selection process for the Antarctic Support Contract," the company said in a statement. Lockheed-Martin declined to comment on the protest. And NSF contracting officer Bart Bridwell noted, "I'm afraid Federal acquisition isn't for the faint of heart." According to the official court docket, a decision was due by 18 April.

fire at seaAt sea 375 miles north of McMurdo, the Korean 167-foot fishing vessel Jeong Woo, with 40 aboard, caught fire on 13 January (right), 3 crew members were killed in the fire...and various vessels including other fishing boats and the Nathaniel B. Palmer (NBP) rushed to the rescue. Seven of the most seriously injured crew members were taken aboard the NBP, which headed swiftly toward McM, reaching the ice edge around 0700 on the 13th. The injured personnel were taken to McM and put on a LC-130 which arrived in Christchurch that evening. The NBP had been on a science cruise from Punta Arenas, studying phytoplankton production in the Ross Sea, and had originally been scheduled to dock at McM on 6 February. Here is a 17 January Christchurch Press article. Earlier articles are from the New Zealand Herald and from Sail World...the photo at right was taken by NBP crew member Johnny Pierce. The final marine update from NZ appears to be from Maritime NZ dated 13 January; here is a 23 January Antarctic Sun article which describes the excellent response by the NBP and the rest of the USAP community.

busted in AntarcticaThe folks from Arctic Trucks have been doing some amazing long-distance off-road and on-road late December they made a quick dash from Pole to the McMurdo area (blog), they'd previously said that they'd head to McM via the Beardmore Glacier, but they actually made both legs of the journey on the Leverett Glacier USAP traverse route. They met up with Felicity Aston along the way, reached the coast near McMurdo on 14 December, and dashed back to Pole on the 17th. Then, after making further preparation for the South Pole Race, they had some extra time and did a side trip to the Pole of Inaccessibility, which they documented with the photo at left at the bust of Lenin that the USSR erected in the 1958-59 season. It's on top of a building which has a guest book inside, but none of the recent visitors have dug their way in to sign it. After that, the Arctic Trucks folks have been supporting the 2011 Race to the South Pole, an event that started on 4 January. It's 500 miles consisting of 2 250-mile legs...originally there were 7 3-person of 12 January the racers were halfway to Pole...the Norwegian team was the first to finish, on 20 January. Oh, in addition to supporting/following the race, the Arctic Trucks team was also supporting that ski/kite/bike trip by UK TV celebrity Helen Skelton, her trip also happens to be 500 miles...she reached Pole on 22 January.

Finally, on 28 December US time, almost a week after the announcement on the ice, we have some official press releases about the contract award. Here's NSF's news release, and here is the Lockheed Martin announcement. Interested in jobs with LMCO or their subcontractors? Go here to the Antarctic Memories message board for hints and tips.

hot times at PoleIt turns out that 2011 brought not one but TWO major weather records! On Christmas Day the official high temperature was +9.9°F/-12.3°C...which significantly exceeded the old record of +7.5°F/-13.6°C set on 27 December 1978. Yes, you'll notice the scroll image at left is a bit off...some things don't change from 1977, when our thermometer was a bit off when we did the 300 club. Here is a blog post from the folks at the University of Wisconsin.

hi mom!Merry Christmas...Happy Holidays...and the best for the New Year! At right, the 2011 greeting card...created from the group photo with the Norwegian prime minister.

Friday the 23rd around noon SP time...the announcement was made that Lockheed Martin would be awarded the Antarctic support contract. Nothing on the news wires at the time, but the official announcement was made by Sam Feola to everyone in the program. Here's a copy of his email announcement to the community. And Lockheed Martin put up a special preliminary job announcement page for some positions in the program. That is gone, but the current The Lockheed Martin project web site is here.

Tuesday the 13th at Pole was "science day" for Prime Minister Stoltenberg...he toured ARO and the dark sector; at left, Bradford Benson explains to the PM what is going on with the SP telescope (info/credit). As for the 14th...the plans did change...he and his party went out a few miles from the station and skied back with some of the Norwegian skiers (the "South Pole 1911-2011" was still 50 miles away...and then a miracle happensJan-Gunnar Winther and Stein Aasheim from that expedition were picked up and flown to Pole on the 13th, and the rest of the team breathlessly arrived the next day. The big ceremony and video presentation did happen...the major event and ice sculpture unveiling happened at 1600 on the 14th...and filmed to be broadcast later in Norway. It featured a solo performance of the Norwegian national anthem by Zondra Skertich, on flute. Here's the official video! My coverage starts here, and Peter Rejcek was on site for the occasion, check out his excellent Antarctic Sun article! Later, there was a private dinner for some of the senior DV's, and a reception in the gym which turned into a party with live music. There was another bit of a ceremony early in the morning of the 15th...the folks figured that Amundsen had arrived around 0430 on the 15th SP time. And then, despite low visibility...the LC-130 landed on the third attempt...and the PM and his entourage departed. The tourist camp was still full, but since then many folks have departed...while others are en route.

Monday 12 December US time...the Norwegian press is not the only media covering the events. The New York Times published this feature article which describes not only the Scott-Amundsen "race" but also the past and future science objectives on the continent. And on the editorial page, there is also a great opinion piece about Amundsen's venture.

I forgot my skis, can I borrow a pair?Monday 12 December...Jens Stoltenberg, the Prime Minister of Norway, with entourage, arrived at Pole in time for lunch (!) (right, more info/credits) They stayed for about 3 days...and Jens briefly donned a pair of skis and tweeted "Skiing at the South Pole..." (!) The visit is a record...while heads of state have visited before, none have ever stayed overnight. The group included a state secretary, Hans Kristian Amundsen (!). On Wednesday the Prime Minister gave a speech, which was televised on both of Norway's TV networks. There also was live music from the Ceremonial Pole and participation by the Crown Prince Haakon, from Tromsø, Norway. Here are two news articles from Norway: an article in Norwegian from with video in English and an article in English from Stay tuned...

keep right and don't feed the bearsTourist time has begun...the Norwegian press entourage has shown up to prepare for the visit of the prime minister. He of course would arrive on an American LC-130, but meanwhile the official Norwegian centenary traverse was also on track to arrive on 14 December, as of the 10th they were at 88°33'S, only 100 statute miles/161 km away. Meanwhile, the first skier teams arrived...and the tourist tent city was growing fast as folks flew in from UG and Novo. Three of the Arctic Trucks vehicles also showed up, led by Extreme World Races (EWR) CEO Tony Martin, reached Pole (or more exactly, the ALCI camp/fuel depot a few miles away) on 6 December...thank you for flyingthey were doing preparation for the EWR and leading some high school student skiers. They all arrived at Pole the next day...the skiers were flown out, and the EWR vehicles are soon to be off for McMurdo via the Beardmore glacier. Other tourists are starting to arrive by air (right, more info). The building complex in the background is the visitor center, and the square booth was used for electronics for the ceremonies on Amundsen's centenary day.

an august bodyElsewhere on the continent...the Antarctic Ice Marathon was held at Union Glacier on 7 December. And some rumor control...the Blue Ribbon panel (right) led by Norm Augustine (more information and photo caption) is now in McMurdo...on Sunday 4 December 2011 they held an open discussion. Before the main presentation, Dr. Karl Erb said that that an announcement about the contract rebid would be made within the next two weeks. Yes, the team visited Pole as well.

Still more shipping seems that after all that work on the new McM ice pier, it won't work. Too much warm weather and bad weather has prevented its proper completion; it is too thin to support the cargo ship offload. So...the engineers spent some time figuring out what to will be towed out of the way, and pontoons will be used for cargo offload. Where will the pontoons come from and how will they get there? One plan is for the U.S. Army to deploy a modular causeway system (pontoons) with a team of about 40 aboard the cargo ship Green Wave (note, this is NOT the same Green Wave that has visited McM in the past, but a newly reflagged vessel (the rest of the story about the cargo ship contract). Another plan...the responsible agency (the U.S. Navy Military Sealift Command) is looking for a separate breakbulk or LO/LO ("lift on/lift off") ice class vessel--one with cranes that can carry and offload 27 of the 40' causeway sections into the harbor. On 1 December they issued a request for information looking for what's out there. Like yesterday. Hmmm. Remember how easy it was to charter the icebreaker? Here's the 2 December Antarctic Sun article about the pier.

Amundsen didn't have anything like this waiting for himPreparations are continuing for all of the official and unofficial summer visitors expected around mid-December, including the prime minister of Norway (Antarctic Sun coverage). At left, carpenters are busy erecting the visitor center complex, which reportedly will use some of the plentiful midsummer solar energy (photo from Ethan Good). Many of the folks are underway, some are getting close...I keep updating my expedition status list here accordingly. Otherwise...some science construction...preparation for retrograde/storage of the IceCube drilling equipment...rather a strange summer without all of those drillers and other IceCubers filling up the B1 lounge. Some of the hot water drilling equipment is being sent back to McM for future use by the WISSARD (Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling) project...and the

Antarctican SocietyOne of many events held in December 2011 to mark the centenary of folks getting to Pole was...a presentation jointly sponsored by the Explorers Club Washington (DC) Group, the Antarctican Society, and the Society of Woman Geographers, on Saturday 3 December at the Cosmos Club. I had great fun going, wearing black tie and a borrowed miniature Antarctic Service Medal (hero shot), hearing a fine talk by Jerry Marty, and meeting some of the other Antarcticans. And I also got to overnight with Antarctic friends. Okay...if you're unfamiliar with the Antarctican Society (more info) you should know that this isn't the only event in which they're involved with the Explorers Club...there was a much bigger event scheduled for 2-4 May 2012 in New York City, the 75th anniversary meeting of the American Polar Society, but it was postponed until 2013. You have even more advance notice for this one.

1 December was the day set aside to mark the signing of an important document. No, NOT the contract, but the Antarctic Treaty...which was signed on 1 December 1959. So today is Antarctica Day. Polie Marie Mclane has more information and a collection of good links here.

As for the contract award, "mid November" has of 3 December the facts about the contract had still not been awarded. The most recent rumor at the moment was that it might be announced on 1 December 2011. Well, that was a good rumor, it's time for another one (my updated coverage).

The new IceCube winterover team is on includes Carlos Pobes, who, it turns out was the second Spanish person to winter (I was reminded that Francisco Navarro, the 1984 UCLA grantee, also was from Spain). Here's an October interview with Carlos from El Periódico de Aragón (in Spanish). Otherwise, Saturday dinner on 12 November was interrupted by a glycol leak in the power plant...fumes and lots of glycol to mop up, but no power outage...still a significant and successful test for the brand new 2011-12 emergency response teams.

truckin'In November 2011, Arctic Trucks received official recognition from the Guiness Book of World Records for last season's trip from Novo to Pole...1434 miles in 108 hours (photo at left). Remember, 25 years ago ANI first set up an air operation in the Arctic Trucks is rapidly becoming a significant player in ground operations. In 2011-12 they had at least a dozen of their vehicles on the ice and supported several major national and NGO ventures (their 2011-12 Antarctic venture page has disappeared). Meanwhile, the first teams traveling out of Novo are also heading south, although the Belgian long-distance kiting expedition (Dixie Dansercoer and Sam Deltourran) ran into unnavigable conditions and were being flown back to Novo to pick another route (a Reuters article and their expedition web site). Meanwhile the Norwegian Polar Institute team that has been following Amundsen's route from the Bay of Whales area is about 2 weeks behind Amundsen's pace, they may not make it to Pole in time for the centenary of his arrival (14 November Norway International Network article), or to meet up with the Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, who presumably will arrive at Pole by LC-130.

A postscript on February's tragic Berserk expedition...Norwegian captain Jarle Andhøy, who was well on his way to Pole when the boat was lost, was fined NOK 25,000 ($4500) in early November. The official offense was: not notifying the Norwegian Polar Institute, not filing an environmental assessment, and lacking search-and-rescue insurance. Andhøy accepted the fine without comment, although it was announced on 9 November that he would participate with NRK television and produce a documentary about the venture (Vestbold Blad/Norwegian language page) (my coverage of the Berserk incident).

More shipping news...on 30 September Maersk Line, Limited (MLL) officially renamed the ice-class double-hull tanker Maersk Peary. The 591-foot, 38,200 DWT (deadweight tonnes) vessel, formerly the Jutul, was built in South Korea in 2004 and flagged in the Marshall Islands. She was officially reflagged into US registry on 19 September (press release from MLL and a (Tanker Operator article). She left Norfolk on 1 October, her next voyage will be to resupply McMurdo in January (earlier coverage on the Military Sealift Command (MSC) tanker contract).

Another aircraft update...after a 12-day weather delay, the first ANI/ALE Ilyushin-76 passenger flight from PA to Union Glacier finally arrived at 0745 Saturday morning (29 October) SP time, and some of the first NGO venturers are already out there in tents on the first leg of their trip to Pole. More flights were due to follow. Only about 6 weeks before the Amundsen centenary...hope the store will be well stocked!

After icebreaker issues and the normal early season weather flight delays to the ice and Pole, there was another brief travel snafu...on Saturday Qantas decided to immediately cancel all flights and lock out its employees ( article and Sydney Morning Herald live updates). It was a complicated labor issue...and on Monday the Australian government sent everyone back to work during a cooling off period, so flights resumed Monday afternoon SP/NZ time. Remember that RPSC booked most travel from LAX to ChCh on Qantas, and there were lots of ice folks yet to head south.

fly me to the moon, er, PoleThe first Basler opening flight from McM was delayed again this past weekend...but it finally headed for Pole on Monday the 24th, and landed to drop off 16 fresh faces (right, photo from Jens Dreyer). At last, the summer season has begun! The first Basler was originally scheduled for the 17th but of course they didn't get to McM until the 17th. Here's a 22 October Antarctic Sun article about the first pass of the Baslers through Pole. Oh, the Tuesday and Wednesday Basler flights were cancelled due to McMurdo...then it looked like the pax for both of these might head to Pole on Thursday on an LC-130. Or a Basler. Not. Another weather delay. Friday...there was an afternoon Herc flight scheduled...after a wait of several hours it was cancelled due to mechanical problems. Saturday...YES. The Herc took off with 40 passengers...and they made it in time for lunch. the winter is really over.

In October, NSF was still dithering with the support contract...there were not one but TWO more amendments on 18 and 19 October...we were up to amendment 18, folks. This time...just some error clarifications on the costs for chartering the research vessels...but to give the accountants some time to recrunch, the final submittal date has been pushed back to 25 October. Would the NSF bean counters still be able to announce the award per schedule by mid-November?

ReneeOn 27 August, the winter site manager, Renée-Nicole Douceur (right), suffered an apparent stroke. After she received medical attention, a medevac was discussed but not implemented. A month later, her niece raised that issue to the world media, so it was South Pole news out there. She WAS flown out on the first Basler transiting from Rothera to McMurdo... continued on to New Zealand the same day, and had an MRI and other exams in Christchurch before heading for Baltimore and further medical tests at Johns Hopkins. Here's the rest of the story.

Something I missed when it was announced...on 29 September 2011 the NSF support contract for ARCTIC operations was awarded to CH2M HILL, the incumbent contractor (Polar Field Services in Littleton, CO). It is worth $324 million for a 4-year base period beginning on 1 February 2012, with options for two additional 2-year extensions. The contracting process proceeded without hitches or delays...there was a presolicitation notice in October 2010, the original RFP was issued on 16 February 2011, and bids were due on 15 April. There were two bidders, the unsuccessful one was URS. The contract provides research support in a number of locations--45% in Alaska (mostly at the Toolik Field Station, which is on the Dalton Highway north of the Brooks Range), 32% in Greenland (mostly at Summit), with the remainder in Canada and Russia. The GSA contract details and award notice are here. It is worth noting that this award breaks a precedent for not awarding a new contract to the incumbent. There is also a precedent still out there that the Arctic and Antarctic support contracts have always been held by different contractors...yes, CH2M HILL was one of the three finalists for the Antarctic contract awarded in December 2011. Hmmm.

The icebreaker...on 5 October the NSF sole-source justification for the Murmansk Shipping contract was published on the GSA contracting site. A history of the procurement activity is provided...the result is that contract for use of the Vladimir Ignatyuk for an estimated $5.66 million this season, with two one-year option periods. Here's the 31 August press release from Murmansk Shipping (Google translation).

Another satellite! A system to access a retired British military satellite was to be implemented during the 2011-12 summer season. Links to the Skynet 4c, now in an orbit with a slight (and slowly increasing) inclination, were tested at Pole during the 2009-10 season by a visiting team from Intelsat and SPAWAR, with assistance from 2010 comms tech Shaun Meehan. This satellite, originally launched in 1990, will provide 1.5 Mbps IP link for (initially) 2 hours and 43 minutes a day, on a consistent daily schedule similar to GOES. The project requires some electronics and a small dish, which was installed inside the large radome with the GOES dish (Skynet and GOES are in opposite directions). That part of the system was completed this season...but it seemed that the satellite orbit had been adjusted, so that it was hidden behind MAPO. So...the dish will need to be relocated, perhaps next season. Here's earlier information: the original 2009 GSA Intelsat contract award announcement and a 2010 announcement from Intelsat.

The 2011 winter season was least for McMurdo. The first two flights of the season arrived on 4 October, delayed for one day by weather. One was a C-17, the first of 63 C-17 flights scheduled for this season, with 113 passengers. Additionally, the Australian Airbus A319 also arrived from Christchurch with 59 passengers. As for Pole, it will be a few more days yet. The first of the Basler and Twin Otter transit flights from Rothera to McMurdo were expected to stop at Pole around the 13th, with the first Basler passenger flight from McM scheduled for the 17th. The LC-130's operated by the New York National Guard were to make their first appearance on 1 November. For travel to Pole at a more leisurely pace (!) there were to be TWO land traverses this year...sorry no passengers. There was excellent coverage on the end of winter in this 4 October Antarctic Sun article.

In case you missed it (well, I did), there were FOUR contract amendments posted in September 2011 on the GSA contract web site. Mostly they provided an opportunity for the number crunchers with KBR, CH2MHill, and Lockheed Martin to break out their #2 pencils and spreadsheets one more time, for another final submission due 30 September...for costs year by year all the way to March 2025. One of the data items in the amendments (they are now up to amendment #16!) was an updated list of USAP subcontracts and leases that are part of the contract. Everything from the Xerox machines and the N B lease on the RPSC building in Centennial. Which is up on 30 April 2012. No one has negotiated an extension, although when I was last in the office in March 2010 I noted that there was a lot of vacant office space in the area, which I understand is still the case. Also...the schedule on the NSF contract site was adjusted on 2 September to indicate that the evaluations/negotiations would run to 30 September and the contract award would be in November. And the RPSC "Transition" page and FAQ was updated on 4 October to reflect a mid-November award schedule.

thar she blowsIt got a bit windy again. Not just a light seems that the all-time wind speed record has been broken! According to Tim Markle in the met department, on 27 September "...the peak wind speed of 50kts/58mph broke the record for the all-time strongest wind speed at South Pole. The previous record of 48kts/55mph was set on August 24th, 1989." Ulp. There's an excellent Antarctic Sun report with more information from Tim on the weather records. Oh, at left is Robert Schwarz's photo of what MAPO looked like. Seems that a bit of digging may be in order.

The McMurdo main body opening was to happen soon...(Wednesday 28 September 2011 US time) the C-17 was at Hickam, scheduled to fly to Christchurch the next day...on schedule for the first flight to McM on the third.

Sunrise has happened...the official time of the equinox was 2105 on Friday 23 September 2011, but the weather was not doing much cooperating then. The official sunrise dinner was on Saturday the 24th, it featured an excellent gathering and big feast with meals to order. That day the weather cleared a bit and the sun was actually visible. But on Sunday the winds came up...around 0300 the wind velocity hit 45kts (52mph or 84 km/h)–a new record for the month of September which came close to the all-time wind speed record (48 kts/55 mph/88km/h) set on 24 August 1989. Earlier, on 16 September...5 days early...the sun had first been sighted....then it was calmer and cooler the temps were in the -90s (°F).

couched in drama

The first of six Winfly flights reached McM on schedule on 20 August...the day after the first sunrise of the spring (Antarctic Sun) article and a 25 August USAF press release. Weather backed up the later flights...they were supposed to run through 29 August, but they ran into the first week of September.

Media seems that HBO has teamed up with Sopranos actor James Gandolfini for a comedy drama series based on Big Dead Place...that iconic Antarctic book written by McMurdo denizen (and 2004 Pole winterover) Nicholas Johnson. Hmmmm. Here's the 1 September news article. Oh, and on the bigger screen...14 October will see the release of The Thing, which is actually described as a prequel to that 1982 John Carpenter movie. It stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Here's the official site (warning, very high bandwidth required). Yes, there are flamethrowers. And dogs (?)

mind the stepYes, there was a small airdrop at Pole on Monday 29 August 2011 (left, the loads are ready to go). Here's more information, photos and the video link. Not as big a deal as some in the past, since the C-17s are in Christchurch for the ongoing winfly flights...but still the station had a fair amount of preparation and practice...burn barrels etc. The successful result--some medical supplies that were running short, spare parts, a bit of mail, and freshies, well, only a few oranges.

Thursday, 25 August 2011 (US time)...NSF officially announced that they had engaged a Russian icebreaker for the upcoming season!'s the press release; also a letter to participants was posted on the NSF Polar Programs web site. let's go break some iceThere is a one-year letter contract (with renewal options) with the Murmansk Shipping Company (source of the copyrighted photo at right), for the use of the Russian diesel-powered Vladimir Ignatyuk. This vessel was originally constructed as the Arctic Kalvik in Victoria, BC in 1983, and was sold by Gulf Canada to Murmansk Shipping in 2003. Briefly, it's 289 feet long, with a beam of 58 feet, draft of 27 feet, displacement of 4,234 tons, and a maximum speed of 16 knots (more stats and a schematic layout). Other coverage...a 26 August Antarctic Sun article...this 29 August AAAS/Science Insider article, and a 26 August Russian press release from Ria Novosti. A similar sister vessel, the Terry Fox,, also used by Gulf Canada, is now a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker.

Well, 15 August WAS supposed to be the deadline for icebreaker announcements, but not all deadlines get met. Fortunately the talking and negotiating continued...a few days after the deadline, NSF OPP director Karl Erb was quoted that negotiations were underway with the owners of two foreign icebreakers. The 19 August issue of Science, published this news article "U.S. Icebreaking Woes Threaten McMurdo Resupply, Research Plans" (actually the title said it all, but to view more than the summary you needed to have a subscription or pay for access, sorry). He "hoped to tell the community in a couple of weeks that we have a resupply ship lined up..." according to the article. Meanwhile, here is what he said at the 28-29 July National Science Board meeting about this issue. (Below, more earlier icebreaker info and links).

Also at the meeting, Dr. Erb announced the current schedule for the Antarctic support contract award, "not later than mid November." Not much more room for schedule slippage. He also announced that tour companies had indicated that more than 300 people would be at Pole on 14 December, the centenary of Amundsen's arrival.

More shipping news...on 3 August the Military Sealift Command (MSC) awarded the contract for charter of the cargo vessel for the next few Waterman Steamship Corporation...the Alabama-based division of multinational shipping firm International Shipholding Corporation (ISC). $10 million per year (fixed price !?) for a maximum of five years of resupply trips to McMurdo and Thule. Here's the updated link to the news item, this comes from MM&P. (The contract award announcement (is listed on this page, scroll down a bit). After the award, Waterman reflagged the Cyprus-flagged ice-rated cargo vessel Federal Patroller giving it a historical name...the Green Wave(!) Here are photos of the vessel from Google Images. On a historical note, ISC got its start in the shipping business in 1947 when the then-New Orleans-based company purchased its first vessel, a surplused WW2 Liberty Ship that they renamed Green Wave...honoring Tulane University. Note that this vessel never ventured to Antarctica and is NOT the same one that we are more familiar with. In 1984, the MS Woermann Mira was purchased by the Navy for the Military Sealift Command (MSC) and renamed...Green Wave, and it made its first appearance at McMurdo at the end of January 1985. So the 2012 vessel is at least the third one by this name, and the second one to visit the ice.

Science in the's a fresh Antarctic Sun article by research associate Marco Tortonese about some of the station winter science projects. Oh, Marco continues his outdoor skiing and running during the winter, he now has more than 2000 miles under his belt. Check out his blog!

they are coming for you

On the lighter side...the Antarctic 48 Hour Film Festival took place around the last weekend of July. Entries in the "48 hour" division had to be completely filmed and produced in that period...and they also had to include specific items–a saw, a T-shirt with a chocolate bar stuck to it, the sound of a dripping faucet, the character Popeye, and the dialogue: "….which I imbibed rapaciously." The Pole entry in the 48-hour division is "Popeye the Surgeon Man"...and the Open division entry was the two-part thriller "Attack of the Killer DOMs." And of course many other Antarctic stations have some excellent entries as well. Check out the lot!

under the ring

Update on the dome (you DO remember the dome, right?) Port Hueneme, the top ring has been successfully reassembled and hung in a designated spot in the brand new Seabee Museum (photo at right)! The task was completed by Lee Mattis (second from left), Jerry Marty (fourth) and John Perry (fifth) along with some active-duty and retired Seabee assistance. During the dome erection, Lee was the tech rep from TEMCOR, the dome fabricator, and John was the Navy engineer. Yes, of course I have more photos and links here.

Shipping news update...for several months there have been ongoing negotiations and discussions underway about the icebreaker for the 2011-12 resupply. Or, more exactly, the lack of an icebreaker. On 28 July 2011 NSF formally announced the situation to the science community: "...unless we can find and engage a suitable replacement by mid-August, we will have to implement contingency plans that would curtail activities in the near term...." What would be curtailed? Well, field camps and other activities requiring significant air support, among other things...and Pole could close as early as 5 February. The full announcement is in this "Dear Colleagues" letter from Karl Erb, director of the NSF Office of Polar Programs. It seems that the Oden isn't available this year. Why? Well, it seems that there had been domestic complaints in Sweden because ships had been caught in the Baltic Sea ice during the northern winter, while the Oden was at the other end of the world. recreational boating This story was picked up in July 2011 by Popular Mechanics. As for the US Coast Guard's two 1960-era icebreakers traditionally used in the Antarctic...the Polar Star is midway through a major 2-1/2 year refit, and the Polar Sea is about to be decommissioned. The lighter 11-year-old Healy began a major 7-month Arctic science cruise at the end of May. So there were are. Several items of interest...a 7 July op-ed by retired Coast Guard RADM Jeffrey M. Garrett which outlines the current American icebreaker status vs the rest of the world...focusing primarily on the Arctic...this 27 May Coast Guard press release which outlines what the Healy is doing...and a January 2011 Coast Guard audit of the "Polar Icebreaker Maintenance, Upgrade, and Acquisition Program" (or lack thereof). Remember that in 2004-05 when the big icebergs were causing problems, contingency plans were being made to curtail the season...and the Russian icebreaker Krasin was charter to assist the Polar Star. Oh by the way, in May NSF put out a contract proposal looking for an icebreaker...there are two items of interest here. First, obviously there wasn't a relevant response...and secondly, the RFP contains a map and a detailed history of the US Antarctic program icebreaker support from the IGY to date (MS Word document). By the way, the photo at left shows the Oden (foreground) with the NBP (Nathaniel B. Palmer) in McMurdo Sound in January 2011 (photo by Peter Rejcek in the USAP photo library).

More shipping news...on 1 July 2011 a MSC contract was awarded to Maersk Line, Limited (MLL) for charter of a modern US-flag ice-strengthened tanker to deliver fuel to McMurdo (and Thule) over the next few years (Maersk press release and some information about the company). This will replace the old MSC tankers that have been used up until the 2010-11 season; the T-5 tankers have been retired, partly due to old age (earlier MSC press release) and partly due to the new international regulations banning heavy fuel oil from Antarctic waters.

North of Antarctica, the Antarctic Treaty consultative meeting, otherwise known as ATCM XXXIV, was held in Buenos Aires in June 2011. So what happened? Apparently, not much that interested the news's about the only recent article I found, from the Sydney Morning Herald. But I've been through the documents, and there are a few items which may be of interest to folks reading this. One...a report from the Norwegian Polar Institute that they'd considered (and rejected) several NGO expedition requests to use dogs as part of centenary ventures (!). There are two interesting reports about that berserk Berserk expedition, which I've covered here. Among other things, they're considering another venture to Pole and a winterover somewhere (!!). As for the centennial stuff, the US published their revised NGO guidelines and maps for the upcoming 2011-12 Pole tourist season. I've updated my map section to include all of the current guidelines and maps. And a note of historical interest, there was a submittal of a 2008 Texas A&M paper, "The historical development of McMurdo station, Antarctica, an environmental perspective." The meeting documents can be found from this ATS page; click on the link to ATCM XXXIV and then select "documents." My other treaty links are here.

Auroras? Huh? Here's a time lapse that Weeks Heist posted in late June...

sleeper seats!

A seriously ill contractor employee was successfuly medevaced from McMurdo to Christchurch. With only 18 hours notice, the Air Force C-17 arrived in ChCh from Lewis-McChord base in Washington State. Then with medical personnel aboard, the flight headed south to the Pegasus runway...and were on the ground for only about 40 minutes before heading north with the patient...who was turned over to medical care in ChCh at 2030 on 30 June. The flight had to deal with the usual winter darkness by using night vision goggles, but they also had to contend with volcanic ash from the Puyehue-Cordón Caulle volcano in southern Chile, the ash has been blowing across the Pacific Ocean since early June; the volcano is about 130km NNE of Puerto Montt. The Pegasus runway had been completely prepared for the flight in only 5 days! At right...the patient is being cared for aboard the aircraft. Here's the USAF press release with that and more photos. Folks at Pole did flight following for this mission.

Update...there are major science strategy reports forthcoming! 1997 NSF commissioned the "Augustine Report" otherwise known as the "Report of the U. S. Antarctic Program External Panel"...a principal recommendation of which was to build a new South Pole station ASAP! The new study by the National Academies of Science, sponsored by NSF, is appropriately titled "The US Antarctic Program: Future Science Opportunities in the Antarctic and Southern Ocean." The report, scheduled for release during the northern 2011 summer, is intended to assess the future science directions of the U. S. Antarctic Program for the next 20 years. And, another major policy review will build upon it. The U.S. Antarctic Blue Ribbon Panel which is also being led by Norm Augustine, will evaluate American long-term strategy for conductiong science and diplomacy in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean region. roger, overSponsored jointly by NSF and the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the panel will report its findings by early 2012 (White House press release and Antarctic Sun article).

In late June Bill Spindler attended the 2011 Antarctic Deep Freeze Association meeting/reunion in Gettysburg. It ran from 21-24 June...Wednesday the 22nd, many of us took an excellent tour of the battlefield and museum; most of the key meeting events including my lecture happened on Thursday. This organization consists primarily of the folks who were on the ice before and during the IGY, 1956-58, although there are some younger members such as I. One of the more interesting features of the event is a phone call between reunion participants and people at Pole--at left is a photo of the event...on the left is Cliff Dickey and on the right is Ken Waldron, two of the 1957 Pole winterover crew...between them is a more recent Polie, Andy Martinez. Bill Spindler happens to be the only person who has participated in these phone calls from both ends. Here are some pictures of the Pole end of the phone call in 2005.

chill out

I hope you had a happy midwinters day whenever you chose to celebrate it! The official moment of the solstice was 0516 (SP/McM time) Wednesday 22 June...McMurdo and Pole chose to celebrate the event on Saturday the 18th...noted by the greeting cards you see at left and at right...while Scott Base will hold their special dinner on the 23rd, to commemorate the fact that Scott and Amundsen had midwinter100 years later festivities on that date 100 years ago. The Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge has posted a blog based on Scott's diaries from 100 years ago; here's the page devoted to the midwinter activities. The full story...the book Scott's Last Expedition (Vol. 1, which describes the main body expedition activities) is available for free from the Gutenberg Project in a variety of electronic formats. Amundsen has a similar brief blog produced by the Fram Museum in Oslo. Amundsen's book The South Pole contains an entire chapter (60 pages) describing the events of 23 June is also available, here, from the Gutenberg Project. As for the 2011 event, Robert Schwarz has lots of pictures!.

So is the upcoming summer the "chaos season?" Well, on 15 January 2011 this New York Times article (subscription access may be required) suggested that hundreds of people want to visit Pole in 2011-12, which is the centennial of Amundsen's and Scott's arrival. There will be skiiers from the coast, the last degree or the last 20 miles...tourists on champagne flights...competitive racers...drivers arriving overland by truck...and of course a bunch of official government distinguished visitors. Perhaps as many as 1000 people...compared to last season when there were about 300 NGO visitors. Of special interest is the fact that a number of the expeditions will be retracing some or all of Scott's and Amundsen's routes from the Ross Ice Shelf, rather than the usual routes from near Union Glacier. NSF has a special committee at work to determine what the official commemorative events will be...and Raytheon will have a special coordinator on hand to deal with the hordes, sell them stuff in the store, and keep them safe and away from the science. So who all is coming? Well, if you've been here before, you know that this web site has maintained the most comprehensive list of such ventures since 1999...and despite the sputtering economy, this year's list was rather long and kept growing.

4 June at Pole saw the seventh annual renewal of another strange Pole event...the BF5K...or a 5 km race through the halls of the station...18 laps in all. The spectacular part about it, as always, was the amazing costumes worn by the participants! Check out Robert Schwarz's page of photos!

baby, it's cold outside

Global warming? Tell that to the 14 latest members of the 300 Club! Yes...on Friday 27 May 2011 (left) the temps dipped into triple digits...let's welcome Susan MacGregor, who at age 62 is the oldest person to be initiated into that great organization! I don't think I ought to post photos of her athletic performance...but I WILL post a link to her May Antarctic Sun article in which she describes the amazing successes of the growth chamber. Yes, there are photos.

Contract news...well, although the rumors are circulating yet the best I've been able to determine they are just that. The facts...Amendment 11 to the RFP came out on 20 May...followed by, yes, Amendment 12 on 3 June! What does this mean? Nothing...except for the number crunchers and bean counters with the 3 finalists who now must recrunch and recount stuff and submit a few more trees by 14 June. We are still supposed to hear something in, maybe in November.

support the rebuilding of ChristchurchThe ice folks in Denver came up with an amazing fundraising event for the Christchurch earthquake rebuilding effort...Saturday 16 April (poster at right) at the Bug Theater. It included a silent auction as well as musical stuff...sorry I was a bit too far away to attend...but I can report that they ran the place out of beer! This and related events have generated $22,700 to be sent to the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal. Amazing ice people!

IceCube hasn't found anything yet...according to this April 2011 paper by the IceCube Collaboration (WIRED blog post with links to abstract of paper). Well...not exactly. It has detected neutrinos, but so far, the attempts to correlate them with gamma ray bursts have been unsuccessful. To quote paper coauthor Nathan Whitehorn, "In two years we'll have an answer, or a lot of scratching our heads. We'll either see neutrinos, or something will be strange with the universe." Which is, after all, why we do find out about strange things.

April Fools? Well, not really...despite the continuing budget wrangling in Congress...the contract folks finally got around to awarding the 1-year support contract to RPSC...just under the wire on 31 March. This was publicly announced at 1832 Eastern time on...1 April 2011. Well, you saw that news here first. Here's the announcement.

yeah, this was photoshopped, right?

Sunset! The big dinner was 19 March...the official sunset was not until 23 March...and the weather was clear enough for it to be watched and documented. One example is at left...actually showing a bit of that rarely seen green flash (general info page). This particular photo was taken by winterover IceCube astrophysicist Freija Descamps...who was interviewed by PRI (Public Radio International) The World on 24 March. She discussed her life and work at Pole, and presented some photos including the one you see at left. Well worth your time! Oh, and if you are looking for an excellent video of the sunset scene, check out this one by Weeks Heist!

The month after closing was the typical hectic round of station closing and winterizing summer camp...washing all of the dirty linen...rolling up the fuel hose...putting out flag lines to outlying buildings. The outside world was not forgotten...over $10,000 with matching funds was collected to support the ChCh relief efforts...and the folks in Denver are sponsoring a major event to generate additional relief funds--Ice Aid (poster at right) on 16 April at the Bug Theater in downtown Denver. News updates...I'm still working on some of the new big science projects...for example, ARA, the next big neutron telescope.

Closing time at McM...a strange end to the rest of the USAP summer. First...the 22 February massive Christchurch earthquake, which devastated the central city and disrupted the final McM redeployment...along with storms and warm weather that broke up the ice around Ross Island...waves were breaking on the McMurdo beach, and open water threatened the road to the Pegasus runway breaking news(right, a composite view and more info). Around the same time, news of a sudden February 2-man Norwegian Pole expedition...which started from the Bay of Whales and ended after the supporting yacht Berserk sank north of Ross Island, with the death of 3 crew members. According to one report, the Pole trip made it to within 200 miles of Pole before they turned around...since evacuated to Chch. (story).

Closing time at Pole...February 15th...leaves 49 winterovers for the 2011 season, although a couple of Twin Otter flights were still transiting. The absolute last plane, a Basler, departed for Rothera on the 23rd. The small crowd...35 men and 14 women. Time to rearrange the galley! Things are pretty busy on station these days with all of the closing activities, so the full statistics are still being calculated...

The beginning of February was cargo time at McM (14 February 2011 MSC press release). On the 30th the tanker Richard G. Matthiesen showed up, using the channel previously cleared by the Swedish science/icebreaker Oden, which arrived about 16 January. The Matthiesen has been to McMurdo before...most recently in January 2003...when actually it didn't get to the pier, but hoses had to be laid out from about 4 miles away. This is the last year for the Military Sealift Command (MSC) tanker Matthiesen, which is about to be laid up, following the other T-5 tankers. Why? Other than old age, a new Antarctic treaty protocol prohibits vessels (such as old MSC ships) using heavy fuel oil in Antarctic waters, effective 1 August 2011. Thus, this year's cargo ship was NOT the American Tern of previous seasons, but the chartered BBC EMS, flagged by Antigua Barbuda. It finished up and departed McM on 13 February.

Running stuff...not only was the Christmas Day Race Around the World a historic trekking event vs a the tame "3x round the Pole" event of yore...but it developed later into the first real South Pole marathon.

Around Christmas 2010, there were lots of NGA visitors...all of the various Last Degree participants, plus the "South Pole Race folks. This created a great crowd of people in the NGA camp, and since many of them had arrived in vehicles, they had lots of "stuff" with them. A great party's one description by David "Pablo" Cohn. the Race folks departed on New Years.

Elsewhere on the plateau, the Russians have finally come up with an environmentally acceptable way to sample the waters of Lake Vostok without contaminating it, and drilling is expected to be completed in January. The top of the lake is about 12,300 feet below the ice surface. When the mechanical drill gets to within 100 feet, it will be replaced with a thermal lance...when that reaches the water, some will be forced up into the drill hole where it will freeze. Next season the team will sample some of that frozen water...(Wired Science article).

Perhaps the biggest news of the month of December...IceCube...after many years of planning and 6 seasons of drilling...starting in 2004-2005 when they successfully had ONE hole running that winter...finished up drilling their final 86th hole and setting the string...appropriately numbered #80 based on the original plans for 80 strings. The string deployment was completed and tied off just before 1800 on 18 December. Here's the Decembeer 2010 report (PDF with video link) from the folks in Madison, and an Antarctic Sun article! Well done! Now let's catch and roast some neutrinos...

we're having a blast at PoleNow we know what all those explosives were for...on 1 December Old Pole was blown up! Or so the planners hoped. Several tons of explosives are being used. What for? Well, since last season's Old Pole remediation efforts were less than successful, more dramatic means were called for. More surveys were made, charges were placed, and after they went off there were several deep holes where buildings (or at least their top hats--attic structures originally built to reduce the snow load on the building roofs) used to be. Another blast was conducted on 4 December, and a third series a few days later. Hopefully now the landscape will be safe and no longer off-limits. Common drive photo at right...the rest of the story/pictures/video!.

pulling a fast one.The next batch of unusual visitors showed up on 3 December...the 10-member Moon Regan expedition with their two Ford vans and the fancy Bio-Inspired Vehicle (left, more pics/info). After a day or two at Pole they headed off down the road to McMurdo...although they decided to turn around when they reached the Ross Ice Shelf at the base of the Leverett Glacier. They returned to Pole and completed the return trip from Union Glacier on 17 December.

Thanksgiving weekend the first real tourists arrived, on Saturday four Slovakian "last degree" skiers as well as a Basler with 9 tourists--eight from Russia, one from Switzerland. After a tour, the Basler took the tourists and skiers back to Novo. A less publicized but much more significant event accompanied the arrival of the Indian science team (see below)...a massive fuel airdrop by a Russian IL-76 (21 November), about 32 miles away from the station, for use by future science and NGO ventures to Pole. My exclusive coverage.

someone finally got up early enough to see the New York Times carrier throw the paper on the porchAt least four non-USAP ventures to Pole this season featured wheeled vehicles! Three of these involve Toyota Hilux trucks modified by Iceland customizer Arctic Trucks. Actually the first of these ventures has come and gone already...the Indian scientific expedition by the Indian National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR) (the news page). This group got to the ice (Novo) on 8 November, and left for Pole on in four Hilux vehicles on the 13th, with 12 people (6 scientists and 2 mechanics from Maitri, and 4 ALCI staff (2 drivers and 2 Icelanders). Three of the vehicles reached Pole on the 21st, after having to replace an axle and a radiator en route (right, a photo from 2011 w/o Marco Tortonese (more photos and information). After a rest and some maintenance work in the heavy shop, they headed north on the 24th, after stopping at new ALCI fuel depot 14 miles north of Pole. Another scientific (I think) venture by the Kazakhstan National Geographic Society utilized the same vehicles during December. The other two wheeled trips to Pole were the Moon-Regan TransAntarctic Expedition and the 2010-11 South Pole Race.

The latest twists and turns in the contract...on 26 October a new amendment was posted, outlining a significant amount of new information that the three final bidders would have to submit prior to a new 6 December deadline. November there was a new set of data requirements, questions, answers, and on 19 November another extension of the deadline to 20 December (the latest complete file from the FedBizOpps site and my page of information on the contracting process)

IceCube was up and running, they started drilling around the Thanksgiving weekend holiday and finished the last 7 holes perhaps before the end of the year. Their weekly reports were posted on the IceCube home page, and there's a blog as well.

Dana is back in 2011More science news...the amazing South Pole Telescope is researching the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR)...dark energy...2010 winterover friend Dana Hrubes (left) was one of the two folks lookng after the SPT this past winter, here is his interview filmed by James Travis III as part of the 10/10/10 One Day on Earth project.

Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions (AL&E, owner of ANI/Adventure Networks) announced in early November that they'd set up a new blue ice runway and primary camp at Union Glacier, about 45 miles northwest of Patriot Hills. The runway has been fully certified. Here's their press release. Camp setup started in early November, but the first Ilyushin-76 passenger flight from PA was delayed for 2 weeks, it did not arrive until 25 November SP time...and the passengers found sunny above-zero°F weather. Another flight was scheduled for the following day.

Airplanes...and no airplanes! A storm later named the "death claw" blew in starting on 6 November, record-breaking high temperatures and high winds made a mess of things for the next few days and delayed the departure of some of the winterovers. A flag line was set up from summer camp to the station due to the low visibility. Here's the Antarctic Sun article, and at right is a photo of science coordinator Al Baker weathering the storm at the ceremonial Pole water bottles may freeze (Antarctic Photo Library photo by Julie Bonneau). And here is the list of broken weather records from the Wisconsin meterological center.

Airplanes at last...the first Herc landed at Pole on Tuesday evening 2 November. There have been more since, and by now most of the 2010 winterovers are in Christchurch or at least on the way. Summer has truly begun. The first of the LC-130s had shown up in McMurdo on 24 October, and original plans were for the first batch of Polies to leave on Friday the 29th, perhaps on a straight through connection to ChCh via C-17. Hah. Weather, mechanical problems, and scheduling delays due to...the tragic French helicopter crash north of Dumont d'Urville (story and photos). So on Halloween weekend the new Polies were cooling their heels in McM and the winterovers were enjoying another weekend of the "soft opening." By now (12 November) most all of the w/o's should be gone, after a 5 day delay of the Herc flight originally scheduled to show up on the 8th.

fly me north for the summer

The Baslers first appeared on Saturday 16 October on the transit from Rothera to McMurdo--left, a photo from Cody Meyer...and here is the Antarctic Sun article. It was a brief stop, and (due to delays) without freshies. The first pax flight was scheduled for Monday but was cancelled because of cold weather. But Tuesday morning 19 October it did take off, and landed around noon with 16 fresh passengers. Temperature was about -65°F. Winter was over. The second Basler flight showed up on the 23rd, and the third on Sunday 24 October, but that one got to stay overnight due to bad weather in MacTown. Only one of the 2010 w/o's left on the Basler flights.

In between the frenetic station opening activities, another unique event occurred on 9 October...the American Radio Relay League conducted an exam at Pole...testing testingthe result was EIGHT new technician licensees, who are now on the air! At right, a photo of the exam participants in the large conference room, by volunteer examiner (VE) Ernie Gray (W1MRQ). Here is the ARRL news article.

Summer plans and science news--a rather low-key season is planned, compared to previous seasons which saw pieces of the massive new station erected...and the dome removed. The biggest news involves the two largest science projects. IceCube will complete the last 7 drill holes of its 86-string neutrino telescope (and begin to retrograde some if the construction equipment). Here's an October NSF special report/video, a November 2010 Smithsonian Magazine article, and of course the IceCube blog. And the nearby South Pole Telescope will continue its sky October the team announced discovery of the largest galaxy cluster yet seen--7 billion light years away (Harvard-Smithsonian CFA press release). Other more mundane planned projects include completion of the fuel piping system between the fuel arch, station and skiway fuel pits...commissioning of "rodwell 3"...and perhaps a bit more "remediation" of the site formerly known as Old Pole.

September 2010, the sun is up, but the contract was, well, still out there. On 20 September US time a new one-year extension to the RPSC contract was give NSF more time to select from the best and final bidders. RPSC now will be running the program through 31 March 2012. Here is the announcement, and my updated contract rebid page.

A McMurdo medevac kept the Pole flight following team busy for several days. The first Royal NZ Air Force P-3 Orion flight had to turn around due to bad weather at McMurdo, but another try made it in successfully on the 14th (NZ Herald article). On the 15th the guy, with pneumonia, was discharged from Christchurch Hospital.

Yes, as of 20 August we finally have some news on the contract rebid. The three finalists are CH2MHILL, Lockheed Martin, and KBR. Which leaves out the other four bidders: TransPolar (the Raytheon/AECOM joint venture), Antarctic Research Support, the joint venture between EG&G and CSC, Fluor, and ITT Antarctic Services. Hmmm. Hmmm is all I can say at this point. Well, except that there is another Antarctic contract out there. NSF had a preliminary inquiry out for the nest Title II inspection contract. Remember, Title II at Pole was what I did in 2005.

Winfly was supposed to start on 13 August 2010...but first there was a mechanical delay, and then some Condition 1 weather in McMurdo. But the first of the 7 flights finally made it in on the evening of the 15th. Here is the Antarctic Sun story about these flights.

Important historical stuff from the other side of the continent...the former research vessel HERO has been definitely located in Bay Center, Washington, where the new owner has had it since September 2008. And I do have pictures that friend Jon Lingel took.

Bill enjoyed the Antarctic "gathering" 15-17 July 2010, at Paul Dalyrimple's place in Port Clyde, ME. I was not the youngest Polie there...remember that Paul wintered a few years ago in 1958, so his winterover number is 21. The weekend featured lobster and other great food, and many presentations including one from Bob Benson who wintered in 1957...thanks to alphabetical order his winterover number is ONE. There were lots of Antarctic folks there...remember that Paul is the resident editor of the Antarctican Society newsletter, which now has an enhanced web presence documented here.

The Fourth of July weekend was celebrated with a pork dinner...with the whole pig getting grilled on the outdoor barbecue. And it was followed up with a prolonged period of triple digit temperatures...plenty of time for more 300 club members! The temps dipped below -100°F several times during the first few days of July...and the Fourth of July was the coldest on record.

The 18 June station update in the Antarctic Sun features extensive science coverage by SSL and friend Dana Hrubes, who of course has many more great aurora pictures on his own June web page.

PoliesMidwinters Day 2010...the halfway point in the dark season, and perhaps the 2/3 point for folks who showed up at Pole at the beginning of last summer season. The big dinner was on Friday the 18th, with more celebration activities throughout the weekend. Not to mention the annual midwinter greeting (left). Another traditional winter activity, the annual Pole marker design competition, had an amazing TWELVE entries this year, and the winner is...well, it has been selected, and machinist Derek is probably already planning out how to create the hard copy, but the rest of the world will see it revealed on 1 January 2011. This marker is especially significant since it will be the official South Pole marker in December 2011, which of course marks the centennial anniversary of Roald Amundsen's visit. Unlike all of the other folks who arrived at Pole overland, Roald had to bring along his own Pole marker. And I guess I must also point out that Amundsen was the first of only two expeditions that traveled to Pole from the coast using dogs. No, I wasn't around when Amundsen showed up, but I WAS present when Will Steger's expedition showed up with dog teams in December 1989. Oh, in keeping with the season sentiments (and inhibiting attempts to take outdoor group photos) the temperatures have been dipping to the -90s this week.

IceCube was in the news again! Yes, on 1 June, the Wall Street Journal found time to cover this amazing project in between more depressing news about the BP Gulf oil spill and Euro finances. Catch the article while it is available. With photos and video of course!

It was dark. "Astronomical Twilight" (when the sun is less than 18 degrees below the horizon) ended on 12 May 2010. The auroras are out there and they've been awesome! Here's the site for the all-sky camera that displays thousands of images per day.

baby it's cold outside

Contract rebid news was no news. The "competitive range determination" and revised milestones for the new multiyear contract, originally promised by the end of March and later by 9 April, were not issued until August. Earlier, NSF and RPSC finalized the one-year contract extension on 25 March (the 5 April Raytheon press release). Here's my updated page on the contracting process.

It got cold! Surprisingly the temperature dipped into the triple digits on 13 April, as documented by the scroll image at right (thanks Dana Hrubes). The temperature actually stayed below -100°F for 22 minutes...long enough for the first officially sanctioned 300 club running since 2006 (on 2 September 2007 the temperature dipped below -100°F too briefly for anything to happen, and it did NOT get that cold in either 2008 or 2009). The only other year in station history without 3 digit temperatures was 1964. Oh, this is well documented as the second earliest 300 club in station history. (The earliest was in April 1982 as documented by Robert Williscroft.) April 2010 was the coldest recorded April on record, with an average temperature of -80.7°F. On the other hand, 2009 was the warmest year on record (Antarctic Sun article).

The sun set, well, perhaps officially around 0900 on 23 March 2010, well hidden behind murky skies. But of course it was marked by an amazing sunset dinner, extremely well documented by cook Cody Meyer.

Two polar gatherings of note in Boulder in the spring of mid May was the American Polar Society meeting, (detailed information). Earlier, the "Polar Technology Conference" was hosted by UNAVCO on 25-26 March. Here's the web site...the online list of attendees grew rather impressively in the weeks before the meeting, and the presentations are now online. I was around for both meetings, I spent about 7 weeks in Boulder this spring.

At the Polar Technology Conference I learned that a new wind turbine was erected at Pole this past summer...a 2.5 KW unit constructed by Abundant Renewable Energy (ARE) (below left). Here are more details...

give it a spin

More dome details...on 10 March NSF released this extensive press release with photo gallery!

The McMurdo summer season officially ended Friday 5 March, as the last flight, the Australian A319 Airbus, departed with the last few summer folks that had been closing thing up for winter. 197 souls remained for the winter. Flight statistics for this season--in addition to several Airbus missions, there were 59 C-17 flights, 7 RNZAF C-130 flights, and two trial flights by the RNZAF 757 aircraft. It turns out that the U. S. Air Force flight season to the ice had been completed the previous week, on 24 February (USAF press release).

Some late summer satellite news, there was an enginering test in January investigating the possible use of the Intelsat SkyNet-4c commercial satellite as a replacement for the TDRS-F1 satellite which was decommissioned last October. Who at Pole assisted with these tests...well, Shaun Meehan, the 2008 and 2010 winter comms tech of course. The Skynet satellite is slowly drifting into an orbit with increasing Pole coverage. It could be in service in 2011, here is the contract award announcement, and here is an unofficial IceCube blog presentation about the current and future satellite situation. Use of the current TDRSS satellites costs the program over $100 per minute. Speaking of satellites, NSF has recently updated their Pole satellite stuff including lots of information about the current systems as well as a new availability page which can be found here.

no mattresses on this roofGlobal warming? Or is it more appropriate to say global warning? One unarguable fact is that the debate itself is certainly continuing to heat up. Other facts...while the Antarctic Peninsula and coastal areas are warming, as evidenced by the continuing and recent iceberg activity (AAD press release, photos and data and Antarctic Sun article), the South Pole temperatures have actually been getting colder since measurements began in 1957. Winterover meteorologist Tim Markle explains this in this recent video interview posted by Earthgauge. Tim also notes that 2009 by itself was the warmest year on record. More commentary is here in this 1 March blog posting by Britsh meteorologist Andy Russell. What does this mean for this winter's potential 300 club members? Too early to tell.

the last of the dome slugs

Yes, winter 2010 started on 14 February. This date marked the end of a dramatic summer construction seasson--officially the last for the South Pole Station Modernization (SPSM project). The most obvious change of course was the removal of the dome (left, the 15 January final group photo by Forest Banks, taken just before the last few pieces were removed). But elsewhere things are looking a lot more finished thanks to the completion of the "pretty stuff" as C-note used to describe the siding panels. At right is a February 2010 aerial view of the elevated station (thanks to Ethan Good) showing the finished roof, complete with its yellow grating in the science area above B2. Other buildings around the station also received the finished siding, including cryo, RF, and the SPT wing of DSL.

Elsewhere, a bit less dramatic perhaps, the Cheese Palace was made to disappear, and the long-abandoned Hypertats were dug up and relocated, two by summer camp and two at the end of the world. The remediation of the Old Pole site, begun last March, was continued--one possible use for this area that had been considered is a relocated and expanded NGA aircraft parking/camping area. Efforts this summer included a GPR survey followed by some grooming and dragging, happened last March, soft spots opened up, this time sinking a Challenger and the D-8. The equipment was recovered safely, and plans were being reviewed for additional remediation work, which was completed in the 2010-11 summer.

not much leftMore on the dome deconstruction...after a the last big food pull the week before Thanksgiving 2009, and some other clearing and preliminary stuff, the structural work began. Skylab went first (photos), and the first top section of the dome was lifted off on 18 December. The rest of my dome photos are here. Other coverage elsewhere--on 10 November the New York Times published this excellent article on 10 November for which I was interviewed. And there is significant Antarctic Sun coverage, this feature in ExplorersWeb, and the OAEA publication Explorer's Gazette (index page). And as for more photos I must also recommend this fresh collection by Forest Banks, available here. Forest provided me other pictures including the progress photo at left.

Science stuff...IceCube had yet another successful summer, it is hard for me to believe this was the penultimate drilling season, especially since when I showed up for my 2005 winter they had successfully completed exactly one hole. This season they started drilling on 4 December 2009, and completed 20 holes on 20 January, 10 days ahead of schedule, for a total of 79. Current plans are for a total of 86 holes, which means only 7 to be drilled next summer. All of the holes through the firn have been completed. Here is the end of season press release...the weekly reports from this past summer are available in the archive section here. Hmmm...what will B1 lounge be like next summer? Faciliies related stuff...the IceCube lab (ICL) got a real stairway to the roof this past summer, and the computer room fire suppression system was mostly installed. Moving to DSL, the South Pole Telescope (SPT) is producing an incredible amount of data about the beginning of the universe...which of course means there have been an incredible number of papers published just in the past year. For more SPT info the best source I can think of at the moment is fellow 2005/2008 winterover Dana Hrubes. At the other end of DSL the new incarnation of BICEP, otherwise known as BICEP2, has cranked up to study other angles of the beginning of the universe. The SPASE-2 hut has been retired from the dark sector, and the cosray detectors have been relocated between the station and ARO. Back behind where the dome used to be, the antenna crew took down some of the old towers, although if you look closely at some of the dome demo pictures, there are still a couple left out there.

no bowling leagues this weekMcMurdo update...some fairly major landscape changes happened or are in progress. Probably the most sentimentally significant was the demo of Building 63, the 1950s vintage Quonset hut otherwise known as the bowling alley...which met its demise due to structural failure (yes, the manual pinsetting equipment was saved). Along with that, the T-site building was removed, along with one of the two remaining nuke plant buildings halfway up Ob Hill. And building 155 was given a distinctive coat of blue paint! I do have pictures.

The Antarctic contract...let me say first that major updates are posted on my definitive commentary page about the rebid. On 23 December 2009 the Federal Business Opportunities site posted another update, but it is already stale, since it describes a request for the bidders to reformat some of their financial information back in October. There also are some additional Q&A's indicating that there will be some "best and final" negotiations at some point. Since then, on 5 January NSF FINALLY posted a revised schedule on their contract rebid website, although there is not a lot of new detail here either. The Denver Westword news blog put out this story on 30 December with additional information on the lack of information; writer Jonathan Shikes quotes RPSC spokesperson Valerie Carroll..."they received a lot of info from all kinds of competitors and bidders, and it wasn't as easy to compare apples to apples." She explains that RPSC is negotiating for a year extension, and that the award is expected around September 2010.

New Years Day always brings the unveiling of the new Pole marker at a new location, and 2010 was no exception. Here's my page of photos and info about the marker and the event.

The last weekend in November 2009 marked the sad 30th anniversary of the tragic DC-10 crash on Mt. Erebus. The NZ program sent family representatives to the ice for memorial services, a couple of NZ articles are here (from Newshub) and here (from

women at Pole12 November was the 40th anniversary of the first time women showed up at Pole...six of them all at once. The stories from 2009 and 1969 are here, the date was marked by many of the women on station posing in the photo at left.

1977 Pole Soul sad news...and not new. We learned that Dave Pluth, one of our 1976-77 GFA's, died in May 2009 in Rwanda while on assignment with the national tourism agency (more information).

The history of early season flight delays repeated itself at the end of the 2009 winter. After too many Basler delays, the Hercs showed up, and the first one headed for Pole on Wednesday 28 October...and landed. Visibility was back down to 1 mile (NYANG press release on their deployment). They kept flying to ramp things up and put the station in summer mode quickly. By mid November all of the 2009 winterovers were gone.

The second and third Baslers were scheduled for Friday the 23rd, but the weather observations continued to be bad. Finally one took off...and landed at Pole late Friday afternoon. History repeated itself again, and the stage was set as it were for the First Flight Festival on Saturday evening...a major musical event in the gym.

The first Basler arrived on Monday 19 October 2009, bringing 16 new people and taking 3 winterovers north. The Basler along with a Twin Otter had arrived from Rothera on Tuesday 13 October for a refueling stop on the way to McMurdo. The Basler continued on...the Twin Otter crew ended up staying overnight due to mechanical difficulties--it did not continue to McM until Thursday. Since the Twin Otter was the backup rescue aircraft, the Basler couldn't head south on NSF charter until the Twin Otter was in place. So the opening flight originally headed south on Friday the 16th but boomeranged presumably due to lousy weather and visibility at Pole.

Last year the Canadians on the transit flight brought a few gifts and freshies from Chile (Pisco and oranges!) but this year they did not.

The TDRS-1 satellite was taken out of service on 21 October. From here on, in addition to GOES, the comms will use TDRS 3, 4, 5, and 6 via the SPTR-2 link completed last summer (my complete coverage of the satellite systems and issues past and present is below). TDRS-1 was launched (with difficulty) on the maiden flight of space shuttle Challenger on STS-6 in April 1983.

Bill Spindler was among a number of Polies interviewed in early October for this extensive article "Life in Antarctica is cold— but bloggers there can still get burned" in the Denver alternative weekly newspaper Westword.

hi folks

For some reason or other, a number of past, present and future Polies gathered in Denver at the end of September 2009...including the indubitable Jake Speed along with wife Kathy! At right, some of the documentation... along with an update on Jake, Kathy, and the Jake Speed Fund!

The sun came up! And even visible, thanks to a YouTube video from friend Weeks Heist. The sunrise dinner was 18 September, followed by an open mike night. Meanwhile, a New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) C-130 has made a medevac flight to McMurdo.

An environmental agreement by Antarctic Treaty nations and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) threatens to force changes to the NSF resupply shipping to McMurdo. The IMO tentatively adopted a measure banning the use of heavy bunker fuel oil by vessels in the Southern Ocean. The measure is a result of recent cruise ship disasters, and it is aimed primarily at that segment of the shipping industry, but it seems that the older US Military Sealift Command vessels used to resupply McMurdo also require heavy bunker fuel. Here's an August 2009 Science Magazine news article.

blue light special on aisle 9

A fresh look at the LO arch (left) is now brightly lit and filling up with shelving, thanks to lots of cold weather work by carpenters Todd Adams and Bill Stiner, electricians Robert Dragonfly and Monty Myrtle, project engineer Nathan Greenland, and others to help pull wire and put the erector sets together. Last winter we could not comprehend wire pulling during the winter, but they'd developed a workable system (which requires 7-8 people) to make it happen in cold temps. Soon the contents of the dome will be moved out, some of it to the new shelving units. Many more details are found in a 28 August Antarctic Sun article by correspondent/sous chef Michele Gentille which includes that LO arch photo by Nathan Greenland.

After two days of cancellations, the first winfly flight into McMurdo finally happened on Saturday 22 August 2009, bringing 120 smiling tanned new faces to the ice. Ten folks departed, but by one friend's estimate this represented a 12% increase in the Antarctic population. This was the first of five scheduled flights, including another of those "night vision" landings that they started last year (Antarctic Sun article).

Late winter fun...the Antarctic Film Festival has happened. Stations all over the continent created short films which had to include required content such as a roll of toilet paper, the sound of a can being opened, and the dialog phrase "Want to buy a dog?" A Rothera winterover shamelessly credits his station's winning video on this blog page, but he also credits one of the amazing Pole creations, a spoof on the making of a trailer for the forthcoming movie "Whiteout," which may actually get released in September. First you need to watch the real studio trailer of the movie here, then have a look at David Barud's vimeo site for the director's cut of the trailer spoof that he and Francis Shiel created, featuring many of the 2009 wo's. And there is also the film "A new FNG." Yeah, I know, this is a historical web site, but these cinema efforts are awesome :) More film links are available on this page, thanks to Anthony Powell at McMurdo.

The Jake Speed fundraising effort received great support on the ice and elsewhere. The polar community raised more than $36,000 (and the fund is now closed). An impressive sum...thanks to all who have contributed! In late spring 2009 Jake was discharged from the hospital and was getting outpatient care and therapy near his California home...learning how to use his new bionic features. He still has a long way ahead of him. Please have a look at the photo pages which include lots of photos of the Jake we know.

on the ballYes, the 1999 Pole doctor Jerri Nielsen Fitzgerald, who was medevaced from Pole at the end of that winter due to her serious breast cancer...succumbed to the disease on 23 June 2009. Here's the CNN story that broke the coverage, an obituary from the Boston Globe, a press statement from NSF director Arden Bement,, and coverage from the Antarctic Sun. Apparently the memorial service was still pending as of 6 July. Her photo at left was released by NSF in 1999. Here is my original 1999 coverage of her story, which I've updated with the missing press releases.

From 3-5 June 2009 I was at the Antarctic Deep Freeze Association reunion in Madison...a great time to get together with Antarcticans and Polies from 1956 to, well, today, yes we had a phone call with Pole, one of the featured events.

Hometown boy makes the papers...well, in this case it is Boulder native and 2009 winter site manager Logan Grover, who happened to get covered by the Boulder Daily Camera on 6 June 2009. The reporter actually asked me for info. Anyway, here's the writeup (archive).

News from McMurdo...for the second winter in a row, a significant outbuilding was lost to fire on Saturday night 23 May 2009, . This time it was the Kiwi A-Frame...a structure I remember from my happy camper course back in 1976. The fire started after Scott Base staff had replaced the diesel fuel tanks, and leaked fuel ignited when they were relighting the heater. Here's a news story from the NZ Herald with a spectacular photo.

a rose isSadly, Dr. Matt Houseal, who wintered at Pole in 1991 fresh out of residency, was murdered in Baghdad on 11 May...leaving behind a beloved wife and 7 children. we Polies and Palmerites were represented at the funeral...Al Oxton provided commentary and photos, and Dave Gallas sent flowers remembering Matt's time at Palmer Station. Here's the coverage and photos... updated 25 May 2009.

The demise of AMANDA was mistakenly reported here prematurely, but now we have the was turned off at 1511 Monday 11 May 2009, but not before she complained a bit during her final activity. At right, IceCube winterover Erik Verhagen offers a tribute. Now we'll see if we can keep MAPO and the machine shop warm and toasty for the rest of the winter. Up in the heavens, the auroras have been spectacular. I'm a few thousand miles away, but I strongly recommend you check out the amazing sky shots the winterovers are coming up with!

smileFrom Summit Camp on top of the Greenland icecap...where some Polie folks and friends go to work during the off season, comes an incredible story of how a 38-year-old equipment operator I know survived being lost outside in a storm and whiteout for 58 hours. now you may have figured it out...yes, it was the indubitable Jake Speed. Temperatures were reported as low as -44°F, with 45 knot winds. When things subsided a bit and a search party showed up in a Tucker Sno-Cat looking for signs of his body, to the great surprise of the searchers, Jake actually walked up to the vehicle and climbed in, asking if they were going back to the station anytime soon. A bit later his arrival at the Big House triggered a similar reaction. Here's the NSF press release...his discovery and rescue happened on 18 April. While his body temperature and smile (left) were normal, he was suffering from seriously spinning bladesfrostbitten hands and feet...he was initially medevaced to a hospital in Nuun, the capital of Greenland, and more recently went on to a hospital in California, with his wife. By now he's had lots of surgery, and he did lose his right hand plus both feet, but he is, after all, Jake. Here's hoping that all ends well for this guy!

Also in Madison on 16-17 April--the fifth annual Polar Technology Conference, hosted by IceCube. The meeting purpose was to discuss requirements and planning for polar research. It turned out to be a group of about 40, including yours truly. Bill Spindler was there to discuss such things as the research planning that went into the development of the three permanent stations at Pole (my presentation), and other such well as meeting some other Antarcticans that I haven't seen in awhile. Much of the focus was on power and communications--we're talking something like a few watts of power and a few seconds of connectivity to Iridium, to enable remote data collection sites to operate and stay in touch...along with appropriate computer equipment and software. Since these use alternative energy, my talk included the slightly larger (3KW) wind turbine project at Pole (right) back in 1997. Here is the conference web site archive, which includes a link to the lists of the participants for 2005-16; the presentations are posted as well.

Yet another of those diplomatic games that sometimes resembles a sporting event, the Antarctic Treaty consultative meeting, otherwise known as ATCM XXXII, took place in Baltimore between 6 and 17 April 2009, complete with a presentation by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The major result of this year's meeting was an agreement to regulate cruise ship tourism. These days these meetings happen annually; last year's meeting was in the Ukraine. America hasn't been the venue since 1984, when the meeting was held in Washington, DC. I've been through some of the reports and resolutions on the official Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) site and haven't found anything earth-shattering, but I may have missed something. The meeting was subtitled "50 years of Peace and Science." In addition to the smoke-free meeting rooms, a number of public events started the weekend before the official meeting--here's the NSF press release announcing the meeting and the events.

climb in

Remembering the old days...something not to be missed is the collection I call The 1974 Negatives...a unique glimpse of life at Pole 35 years ago this winter. mind the stepThe photo at left shows the last version of the main entrance to the original station...still decorated with some commemorative photographs and other items that can be found in the elevated station today (the black item between the two photos of Amundsen and Scott is that marble plaque that was presented to the station on the 50th anniversary of the arrival of these two gentlemen). Anyway, this gallery contains almost 100 pictures from the last winter of the original station now known as Old Pole. Somewhat approprate to mention here perhaps, since the entrance you see here that used to be on the surface has gradually gotten buried. At some point in the 1990's an extension was put on the top of this vestibule--one of those corrugated steel pipe sections with a ladder inside (which had originally been furnished to extend the Dome emergency escape hatch). The top of this ladder used to be on the surface about 10 years ago...but it has gotten pretty deeply during the week before sunset NSF decided it was time to dig up the entrance and remove that access was yanked out with the D7 (right, common drive photo).

Five years later was 1979, the fifth winter in what we called the new station otherwise known as the dome. This year was fairly well documented by one of the NOAA winterovers, John Bortniak. John supplied a number of photographs to the NOAA photo library, a few of which I have used elswhere on this web site, and he also helped me with other information about his winter. In March John presented an IPY/NOAA lecture/webcast as part of IPY entitled "Recollections on Wintering Over at the South Pole 1979" reflecting on the event of 30 years ago. Here is the link to the presentation, which includes a PDF file as well as audio/video podcasts. And here is a photo that John used in his talk--he is at the bottom of the Holy Stairs...some 30+ feet below the floor level of the vestibule in the left hand photo...down at the original snow surface level where the IGY station was constructed.

hooked up at Pole

The bids for the next Antarctic support contract were due on 23 February the real backroom bidding, arm twisting, negotiating, and "best and final" offering began...and is still underway in 2010. Not a small process, since the winning effort isn't scheduled to be announced for another 6 months or so. In the meantime, our current contractor Raytheon is cranking up to hire next year's crew...all of the jobs were uploaded to Rayjobs at the beginning of March, and some of these have already been oversubscribed. The link to the jobs page is available on this RPSC site. For whatever reason, the Denver people have decided not to have a main job fair this year, as the hiring climate continues to change. If you're new to the process or even if not, I'm NYANG, fly meI recommend you poke around on the Antarctic Memories message board to see what others have to say. Down on the ice, the last flight out of McMurdo did so on 22 February...unlike last season there is no "late flight" this year. And at Pole, in addition to all of the station closing and winterizing tasks, work continued through mid March to put the gunmetal grey cladding on the roof. At left you can see William Stiner (left) and Todd Adams working away on top of A1. This photo is only a small part of the panorama Ella Derbyshire took on 27 February (check out the big version!), she reports that it was -52°F with 9 knots, giving a wind chill in the -80s. Brr. But a nice view!

couch potatoes

Closing time...well, I have to use the title of that Semisonic tune that closed out the final concert of the winter 2008 band last November. 16 February was the day. After a final couple of flights, including the last one (right, photo by Erik Shirokoff from the USAP photo library) the station became home to 43 winterovers...which by coincidence is exactly HALF the size of the 2005 winter crew. The last week all eyes had been on the scroll as the temperature slowly crept down toward the -58°F/-50°C mark which keeps the aircraft away (Steff Richter's weather page). As of 14 February the population was already down in the 40s, with a few folks still to leave and a few folks still to arrive (!). The winter crew--lots of new faces, and only about 4 folks who have previously wintered...and no Bill Spindler this time. At left is a photo from Jude Gregan of a station gathering on the first Saturday evening of winter (21 February)...astute Polies will note that the couch in the foreground contains 3 of the 4 repeating 2008 winterovers on station this year.

all decked outsmall ballIt seems that due to some sort of mixup, there was a shortage of fresh eggs during the 2009 the beginning of May the last one was gone. Gulp. But elsewhere, the design team passed judgment on the Logistics Facility...conditional occupancy should allow the cargoids to start thinking about moving in eventually...they would do so during the 2010 winter. The back deck didn't count in that review, but it is about done as well. What a couple of months ago was the empty arch was being turned into a real back deck as seen in the mid-January view at left from Dave Smith...and there is siding on the LO facility....Snowcrete was put in for the front deck and it was completed along with rework of the bulkhead and doors. Turns out the back deck required snowcrete as well. Elsewhwere out back, the structure for the SPTR-2 satellite antenna was completed in time for antenna installation and testing, that's what that thing is in the right photo by IT manager Gary Ferentchak from 5 January (USAP photo library); I have more construction photos here. This dome and antenna look suspiciously similar to the ones at Palmer Station--hopefully they'll deal with the demise of the ancient satellites currently in use. Across the runway, IceCube completed all 19 planned strings early, with the last hole drilled on 21 January and the string deployed shortly afterward. The team cleaned up, tested and winterized before leaving things to the winterovers. Oh by the way, on the way out they yanked out a bunch of AMANDA equipment on 3 February, but contrary to what had been reported, the project would continue to run for 3 more months. Read the status updates here; the last summer report for 2009-10 was put up on 10 February.

present swords

Jerry Marty, the longtime NSF construction manager for the new elevated station, headed north for the last time shortly before Christmas 2008, and when he departed the station he was saluted not with crossed swords but with crossed measuring tapes (right). On 11 February 2009 he presented the lecture "Building for Science at the South Pole" at the University of Delaware. The presentation was visible not only live and as a webcast, but also in the virtual world Second Life (!). Oh, and it was also saved as a podcast so you can listen at any time...(full story, photos and podcast link).

Up north, the Antarctic contract bidders were going through the final number crunching before the bids were due on 23 February...they already had to submit bunches and bunches of backup data last month (contract links and historical information).

hitch a rideThe "Race to the Pole" happened, well actually all of them. In the event of that name, the Amundsen Omega 3 South Pole Race, seven 3-person teams competed over a 500-mile course, setting off on 5 January...six teams made it to Pole although only 5 finished officially. As happened 97 years ago, a Norwegian team, Team Missing Link finished first and a British team, QinetiQ, came in second. It seems that he Norwegian-American Scientific Traverse crossed paths with them in the Discovery Lakes area on 6 January (photo at left by Ole Tveiten; blog entry here). These vehicles were carrying film crews and medical support staff. Note that the tire pressure was only 2.5 psi!

NGA American solo skiier Todd Carmichael tried to set a speed record from Hercules Inlet...after 39 days of travel he made it on 22 December. The previous record was 40 days, but his record didn't last long. The 3-man team Richard Weber, Ray Zahab and Kevin Vallely got a later start and beat his record, arriving on 8 January with a record time of 33 days, 23-1/2 hours. More info on these and other ventures is elsewhere on this site. By now everyone who was going to show up had showed up, including the three Shackleton descendents that arrived from Ross Island via the Beardmore at 2200 on Sunday 18 January. The other portion of the team that was doing the "last 97 miles" was a few days behind. Another visitor was Monaco's Prince Albert and party, who joined Mike Horn's team at 88°51' S--they all left that trek campsite and flew close to Pole, where they all spent 2 days walking 22km to Pole, getting the Prince there at 0847 on the 14th. Mike, Børge Ousland and two others then flew back to the campsite to finish the longer walk to the Pole. Patriot Hills closed on the 28th. As for the real reason for the station, the Antarctic Sun recently published an excellent article "Field of Dreams" referring to the science projects that are being attracted there.

a Polie platformBack during high summer, the photo at left was a sign that one of the more visible construction projects proceeded--the scaffold that hung off the back of A4 all winter was moved to the next position as the siding installation resumed (photo by Andy Martinez/USAP photo library). The siding installation was pretty much completed on the walls; some work is scheduled for the winter to start on the roof panels. Over at DSL, the 3-year BICEP project was officially decommissioned in December...a bit of a sad time for some good people I know. SPT guy Brad Benson documented the 9 December farewell party in this blog entry. Meanwhile some 800+ miles north, another interesting and highly visible project was underway uphill from Scott Base, the "wind farm" (right, conceptual photo). There were to be be 3 330 KW machines set up near Crater Hill, and a grid intertie between them, Scott Base and McM. This estimated to reduce fuel consumption by 11%. stick em upThe foundations and site work were happening in the 2008-09 summer; work continued through the winter and the turbines themselves were erected and commissioned in 2009-10. This project was being spearheaded by the NZ program, although the USAP did some of the site work and equipment movement. Here's an Antarctic Sun article...and more information from the NZ/Australian contractor Meridian Energy, to which the above right photo is credited. Also of interest to construction folks like me was this newspaper ad from the 15 December Dominion Post newspaper (Wellington NZ) looking for people to work on the project during the 2009 winter.

Traverse updates...there have been 2 science traverses involved with the the station--one of these is of course ths "South Pole Traverse" which left McMurdo on 23 October on what was to be the first of 2 round trips. But...the "shear zone" on the Ross Ice Shelf was a bit worse than expected and during one period while blasting and filling cracks and crevasses they only made 20 miles in 9 days. They had been scheduled to reach Pole around 6 December... they actually pulled in on the 16th. They left the coast with seven tractors here's one of them in a photo by Ted Scambos of the Norwegian-American traverse. patch me inThe tractors pulling, among other things, about 60 3,000 gallon fuel bladders on plastic sleds (photo near Ross Island by Robyn Waserman from the USAP photo library). Some of this fuel is for the traverse use and some to supply Pole. The traverse was scheduled to continue on to AGAP, but that leg was cancelled. The AGAP project finally got underway in full swing in late December, but the project teams figure they are about 2 weeks behind schedule (AGAP project page with news updates). AGAP is an international project to study the snow-covered Gamburtsev Mountains from the ground and from the air--this mountain range is COMPLETELY snow covered. chute the worksThe AGAP South camp was initially established by USAP last summer, the AGAP North camp was being operated by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD). A third "camp" was operated at Pole to serve as a site for high altitude acclimatization. The AGAP South camp received C-17 fuel airdrops. As of 20 December the North camp north of Dome A was set up, the first survey flights had been made by the specially equipped BAS Twin Otter. The team figured they were 15 days behind schedule, but they still completed about 50 survey flights, with the final ones on 10 January. They spent the following week demobilizing the camp before a scheduled departure date on the 17th. The AGAP North blogs are here from the BAS and the AAD. And speaking of airdrops, the C-17 also did one at Pole on the evening of 6 December (left, photo by Hermann Kolanoski of IceCube. The Chinese team that has been building the new Kunlun Station at Dome A (CCTV news article) hauled out the trash and crushed empty fuel drums when they returned to the coast in February. By the way, the new Chinese station is rather impressive considering it was set up from scratch in such a remote station, by only one traverse team and no air support. Check out what it looks like (Peoples Daily news article with a construction photo). Winter use is planned within a few years.

And then there is the second half of the Norwegian-American Scientific Traverse which staged out of Pole to go rebuild and repair their tractors that had been left at "Camp Winter" after 2 of the 4 tractors broke down. Some of the crew made it to the camp site, studied the snow and fixed/serviced the equipment, but their start was also delayed due to weather and poor landing conditions for the Basler at the camp. They packed up the camp and headed for Pole, arriving on 11 December. I met some of these folks at Pole before I left. Now the final traverse team of 12 assembled at Pole, prepared the equipment and supplies for the drive north to Troll, and headed out on the 22nd. As of mid February they were at their last research stop.

Yes, the bidders DID make it to the ice for their job walk, although their travel got delayed a day. They flew to the ice on Tuesday, 18 November and had a few hours at Pole the next day. I spoke with a couple of them in Christchurch. Here's my page of historical information and links relating to the contract bidding process...

What went on this summer at Pole? In addition to landscaping and other usual stuff, the logistics facility (LO) should be completed this summer, including the rest of the work on the building, exterior ductwork, permanent power and heating supply, and the "front deck" between the downwind end of the building and the door/bulkhead. The bulkhead is being removed to allow for equipment access and to rework the door so it will swing inward over the rollers and ball conveyor system. Outside, the SPTR-2 project (photo below left) will continue to expand and complete the platform as well as to install the antenna, radome, and electronics shelter. The fuel storage pumphouse will get expanded by moving out two walls, and the aircraft fueling module (AFM) will be assembled. Siding work will continue on the back side of the station, IceCube will get a new CO2 fire system in the server room, and on the science side, IceCube originally planned to do 16 holes/strings, with a "stretch goal" of 19.

Elsewhere in science, the 3-year BICEP telescope project in DSL wound down in November; the instrumentation was removed and shipped north. Coming next, perhaps in a year, is "BICEP 2" in the same location, along with "SPUD" on the former QUAD/DASI mount at MAPO. Here's an recent abstract which briefly describes these 2 projects. SPUD, also known as the Keck Array, recently was awarded a large grant from the Keck Foundation (press release). And on the other side of MAPO, a the old VIPER control room was to be fitted out to control the reactivated VLF antenna located west of the dark sector buildings.

no skiing this time

Air transport news...a Bombardier Global Express business jet operated by TAG Aviation left Farnborough Airport in England at 2305 Pole time on Friday 21 November 2008 in a quest for a new 50-hour round-the-world over-the-poles record. After crossing the North Pole, it refueled at Whitehorse (Yukon, Canada), Majuro in the Marshall Islands, and Christchurch (0036 Sunday, Channel 3 news story), and passed over Pole later that day in the 11-hour flight to the next refueling stop in PA. The last stop was at Sal, Cape Verde. They ultimately completed the the effort by returning to Farnborough in 52 hours and 32 minutes. There were 8 on board, including 5 pilots, flight engineer, in-flight coordinator, and an observer from Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) which ratified the world record on 23 March 2009. The previous over-the-poles record of 54:07 had been set by a Pan Am 747SP aircraft back on 28-31 October 1977. Oh, also, the specially modified 109th ANG completed the installation of new 8-bladed propellers on the first LC-130--Skier 92 to be exact. The first operational flight was on 16 September 2008...the new props reduce noise and vibration and may reduce fuel consumption by at least 5 percent. The aircraft was spotted in ChCh on 16 November and was expected at Pole the following week. Here's a copy of a Hamilton Sundstrand press release; the photo at right is courtesy of TSgt Derrick Irish; also here is an earlier Antarctic Sun article.

shooting the Pole

And back in October a few days before the first flight landed, we had an overflight by an FAA Challenger 601 inspection aircraft--basically a business jet--to certify the navigational aids of the skiway, which at the time was in the process was being relocated. The result is the photo at's more information and links to a couple of other news stories.

The accident at Australia's Davis Station (on the coast directly south of Perth) was in the news, as a NYANG LC-130 medevac mission headed there from McM the evening of 4 November, arriving about 0200 SP time on the 5th after a 4-1/2 hour flight. The aircraft, with a medical team on board stayed on deck overnight and then successfully flew the patient the 1500 miles to Hobart, arriving early on the 6th SP time (NSF press release and AAD press release). The story--the Davis w/o cook, 31-year-old Dwayne Rooke of Tasmania, fell off a quad bike on a field trip 15 miles from the base, breaking his pelvis and both ankles. He was in serious but stable condition as he waited for...the icebreaker Aurora Australis, which was diverted from its course to Casey and headed for Davis. A second doctor and other assistants were flown to Davis by helo from the ship on 1 November when the ship got in range and the weather improved Here's an earlier 1 November AAD news release. At that time the plans were to fly him back to the icebreaker when weather improved again. (my coverage with photos).

Well, by 6 November 2008 we were supposed to have had about 7 Basler flights bring in folks to raise the population to about 170 people...but no...bad weather has kept them all away until that day, when a Basler along with two LC-130s finally arrived, to bring new people and take a third of the winterovers away. What bad weather, we said as we walked outside and look at the crisp new skiway under light winds and surprisingly warm temperatures? Well, all I can say is that the pilots needed better visibility for the first landings than they do later in the season. Oh, and at least a couple of the cancellations were based on bad weather at McM, or at least fear of it (!). So the SP population has finally moved into 3 digits after being stuck at 91 for over a week.

where's marker 7?

At least some of the postulating and posturing over who comes in and who goes out on what flight is based on on the plan for one final winter band concert, the "red headed stepchild of Polestock" to be scheduled some time after some new people get here and before any of the band members leave. Hmmm. Yours truly wasn't scheduled to leave until the 13th.

Aircraft may not have been showing up at Pole the fourth week of October, but they were landing elsewhere on the continent. The first NGA ground travelers to Pole landed at the Russian NOVO blue ice runway south of Cape Town, and the first passenger flights to PH were scheduled the first week in November.

The 2008 winter ended slowly. The first "soft opening" Basler flight landed on Sunday 26 October (left) bringing 17 new people, more freshies, flu vaccine for us winterovers, absentee ballots, and similar high priority stuff. This aircraft can't carry all that much cargo, so all of the early arrivals have to live out of their handcarry until the 130's can bring in the rest of their baggage. We did have the station suitably cleaned up and decked out for the new arrivals (!). Another flight showed up a day later with another 17 people, and several more were to arrive later in the week...but did not. There were 3 outgoing passengers on the first flight, but no, this was not a "flight of shame" as some of you might be wondering--one grantee got approval for an early departure, one RPSC employee has an urgent dental appointment in McM and will finish his contract there...and a third guy has to hurry home and see family and do all the other stuff before returning to the ice for a winter contract at the beginning of January. Yes...a good winter.

fly me

More airplanes...the C-17 flights to McM that were backed up for a week at the end of September have gotten pretty much back to normal. As for our "real" first flights, the Basler, along with a Twin Otter, were scheduled to cross the Drake from PA to Rothera on Monday the 20th...pass through Pole on the 21st, and then start bringing summer folks in on the 23rd. They finally made it Friday SP time (right, my hero shot by Kevin Torphy)...the Basler quickly headed for McM after trading some fuel for a box of freshies (YUM!) while the Twin Otter crew stayed overnight. Saturday the first Basler passenger flight from McM was cancelled due to bad weather at McM. Here at Pole the skiway was ready, or at least half of preparations for moving it south, the marker flags at the north end have been removed, rearranged, and moved yet again...the first flights brought in some surveyors who know where they really are supposed to go, and lay out the rest of the skiway.

a new platform for?

Further up in the air (where the communications satellites live) we got word that one of the three communications satellites used here, MARISAT-F2, which until the last week of our 2008 winter was the oldest commercial communications satellite still in service, got a bit shaky in its orbit, and the owner (INTELSAT) needed to decommission and de-orbit after 29 November--something we didn't think would affect us winterovers (Antarctic Sun news story). That cut our ~11 hour satellite window by 2 hours...and is only a preview to what may come next when the other 2 aging satellites suffer a similar fate. At left is the first phase of the next big thing--part one of the "SPTR-2" antenna platform which was put up in February out near RF. It is to be completed this summer--complete with a dish, antenna shelter and an 8-meter radome. In theory this will allow access to a number of different TDRSS satellites for short windows as they briefly pop over the horizon...assuming a healthy set of jackscrews to keep the dish moving in our cool temperatures.

A couple of other serious disasters hampered national programs in other parts of the continent in October 2008... There was the serious fire on 5 October that burned down the main 2-story berthing building at Russia's Progress Station, leaving 2 seriously injured and one dead. The station is on the coast, about 70 miles west of Australia's Davis Station on the east side of the continent, and only a mile from a Chinese base where medical help was obtained. Other station buildings including the power plant and galley were not affected. Here's an news story, and an excellent Antarctic Sun article. And elsewhere, The medevac of 49-year-old mechanic Sigurd Sande from Norway's Troll Station was successful--15 days after he broke his leg on 3 October while near the top of a 2000m peak. The other folks at the base--72°S-2.5°E and 150 miles from the coast, prepared things for a medevac flight to Cape Town, but the first attempt on the 10th was aborted due to bad weather. The flight in a Gulfstream GIIB business jet took about six hours, 2700 miles each way. His original rescue from the mountain to the station is a fairly dramatic story as well. Here's good coverage from fellow 2008 winterover Steffen Richter, and a good blog entry.

Pole popupSunrise was celebrated the weekend of 20-21 September...although the actual sun itself played rather scarce. There was been a fair amount of blowing and drifting that obscured the horizon and the low sun. Still, folks spent some time in the galley watching it through the windows Sunday evening the 21st, when I caught the first glimpse of it out of my room window (left). The weekend featured a family style turkey (and lots of other stuff) dinner around one big table in the well as a blowout "Mother of Polestock" concert Saturday evening (right). the big oneMeanwhile, the optimistic early season flight schedule for folks arriving on the first flights (starting with seven Basler flights beginning 23 October) was posted, although of course that never happened. As for the skiway, the markers on the upwind half were removed in preparation for the shift of the skiway about 5000 feet south, towards the tailless remains of the buried 917 aircraft.

A bit of McMurdo news floated around the wires...the beginning of September saw the conclusion to "Operation Spring Fly" or what goes for winfly this season. It consisted of 4 C-17 flights into the Pegasus runway--three southbound flights with passengers and one with cargo only, and while the last scheduled flight on the 10th was designated a "medevac" (Air Force news article), it really involved an ambulatory patient who just needed a bit more evaluation than was available on the ice. A related news story...after the end of the scheduled missions they did a fifth "training" flight that landed in the dark just before midnight on the 11th. This was credited with being the first Antarctic landing by a pilot using night vision goggles ( article) but we all know it wasn't the first night landing...for example there was the Byrd Station medevac in 1961 and the Pole medevac in 2001...coincidentally we watched videos of that event Friday night.

About the time it gets light enough outside to uncover the windows, it also becomes time for the NOAA team to uncover what might happen to the ozone hole. The World Meteorological Organization has predicted a "normal ozone hole" this year, whatever that is. The results of the ozonesonde measurements are posted on the wall of the galley, but if you're not at Pole you can follow them here .

At the beginning of September 2008 we celebrated Labor Day weekend--two whole days off, and events which included an art show, open mike night, farmer's market (ie pick your own dinner out of the growth chamber), miniature golf, and, well, lots of sleep. Another day we noted was 28 September...that is the latest day in history that the weather reached -300° here. We didn't make it...only the second year in recorded history, the other year was 1964.

One other bit of seems that our power plant supervisor wasn't the only person with crutches...yours truly had his knee start complaining from 30 years of running--it basically swelled up and let me know it didn't want to be walked upon. Anyway, after some treatment and several weeks of crutches and canes it seems to be improving and I've been walking without assistance...still a bit slowly, but hopefully a move in the right direction.

Back in July 2008 we had a recurring winter problem with the GOES/MARISAT antenna...some of the drive system quit working. After some intrepid disassembly, diagnosis and rework by the garage folks, UT's, and satcom enginner, the elevation worm drive was put back together and should function to give us our full 11+ hours of daily internet connectivity for the rest of the winter. The Antarctic Sun has an excellent feature article here. Recent efforts have gone into upgrading the insulation and heating to keep the drives warm and toasty, as it were. I'll spare you the gory gearbox pictures!

son of PolestockMuch of the other July/August USAP news came from Denver and other points north--it seems that the price of fuel among other things has prompted some fairly serious budget cuts. What is their impact on the program? Well, science cruises on the Peninsula side have been cut back or cancelled; the "annual ice runway" will not exist this year; "Winfly" has been shortened and moved back into early September 2008, and as of now there will not be ANY winfly next season. NSF recently posted this 18 August open letter to researchers on the OPP web site--it further addresses and lists the budget impacts, which include delays in construction and dome demolition among other things. There have been changes in travel arrangements, cutbacks in projects, and shrinking of populations. One rumor (still not confirmed, since one never knows the real answer until after the last flight) is that the Pole population will be in the low 40s next winter. Stay tuned...meanwhile some of the flight details have been officially announced, subject to change, of course as Mother Antarctica and the weather gods always have the final say. Anyway, it seems that Pole is scheduled for another of those "soft openings" with 7 Basler flights bringing folks in (but not out) starting on 23 October. The first LC-130 flight is scheduled for 5 November. And in another interesting flight schedule twist, the late-season flight schedule to/from ChCh will include 4 Airbus 319 passenger flights. Certainly not the first civilian airliner flights into MacTown, but the first in awhile. deck the archesThese are a subcharter from the Australian program, and the charter airline Skytraders, which did a couple of test landings in McM last season.

Other news around this quiet part of the continent--one of the power plant folks--James, my neighbor just down the hall, broke his foot in August 2008 in what must have been a fairly serious indoor soccer game in the gym--I was warned in advance and stayed away. And work went on in and around the "LO" that new cargo building that is taking shape in the old garage arch (above right, more current photos).

The 31st Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting was held in Kyiv (Kiev), Ukraine, between 2 and 13 June 2008. All of the stuff discussed is now online here on the official site, although the lists of meetings and agenda items are difficult to navigate. The 2007 meeting passed a measure "protecting" Pole as a Specially Managed Area. Here is a link to that adopted measure and maps if you drill down to XXXI ATCM and "meeting documents."

One of the more interesting Antarctic events happens every 10 years, and it started in late 2007, far from Pole in the environs of Washington DC. No, not another census or Polar Year, but...the 2-year process of rebidding the Antarctic support contract. The potential bidders started to posture and postulate over a year ago, but only in the (northern) spring of 2008 did the formal requests and announcements start to come out. Here is my look at this great decennial sporting event from a historical perspective (well, did you expect anything else from me?) Oh, just looks like the next contract period may be 13 years rather than 10. And I do have links to the official contract information site, includings the list of registered potential bidders and detailed schedule. Oh, the bids are due on 23 February 2009.

Our Midwinters day weekend happened...demarking the time when the sun starts to move back towards our horizon...the time for a big dinner and the "Son of Polestock" musical blowout (above left, the main promo poster). Yes, a great weekend was had by all... the last 2-day weekend was in recognition of the Memorial Day holiday...although many folks here have job responsibilities over these weekend breaks. One such guy here is power plant tech Will Brubaker...but he did have time to post the details of our celebration. I didn't throw horseshoes or anything else, but I did enjoy the food and the nitrogen martinis. Thanks Will!

Warning, do NOT try this at Pole!As for Pole...things were actually going rether quietly...the logistics facility construction went well, in May 2008 we had our "Mass Casualty Drill" for the winter, where the scenario involved a fire and injuries in the garage, and thus with no vehicles available, yours truly got to help drag one of the "injured" parties up the hill to the station on a sled. Woof woof, as a friend might say. And we had an "egg oiling"--what's that you might say? Our fresh eggs come from New Zealand in boxes of 15 dozen...and they come coated in vegetable oil to preserve their freshness. But once or twice during the winter we need to dip them again to keep them fresh, and this activity is a great social event in the galley (left). My headgear was great fun and attracted several photographers...well, we have a sanitation rule that one must wear a hat when working in the kitchen...and since I came late, this was about the only one left. The photo and caption as it were are thanks to Steffen Richter!

street flyer That great musical event of April, Polestock (right) was an incredible success. A couple of my pictures are here along with the promo posters. But there's also a fresh Antarctic Sun article by our local correspondent Jeff King, as well as coverage from Heidi, Tim, and Dana.

17 April brought an unusual ice event north of here--the end of the "extended season" at MacTown. A C-17 visited them bringing freshies, several thousand pounds of mail and a few late winterovers, and headed north with about 100 passengers, leaving 125 folks behind. Some of the northbound folks were late science projects, some had showed up in February to work on a new fuel tank up where TESL, er, F-Stop used to be. The McM winterovers will be isolated until Winfly...whenever that is or whatever that is called. Instead of some flights in the third week of August, that event will be smaller and occur during the first week of September. For those of you curious about the ongoing winter life at McMurdo, admin guy Tom Hamann's blog is definitely recommended. And also this year the Antarctic Sun is maintaining a winter presence. Meanwhile, our opening flights at Pole will likely be the Basler variety staring in mid-October.

Friday 21 March was our big dinner celebration, although we still saw the sun for a few more days on and off and on. Maybe. For the sunset party weekend we have had overcast skies and poor surface definition. Thursday morning 20 March I made the call that we had a "Stonehenge moment"--well, not really, but it seems that at 6 AM the sun shone directly in the window at the sun deck (directly above Destination Alpha (DA), the main station entrance) and a couple hundred feet straight down the main hall, so you could see your shadow in the doors at the other end. Hmmm, at right below is a photo I took of the sun from the same spot in the hallway, looking back towards DA. And here is a hero shot in the B3 hallway...remember I was playing hooky light o day from my morning treadmill run...

Not long after station close, there was a women-only sleepover at ARO. Well, I wasn't there, but thanks to Heidi Lim and Leah Webster's camera I do have documentation (below left) that we have a well-rounded population. At left below can be seen 11 out of 12 of the female population--From left: Katie, Deb, Calee, Heidi, Jane, Robin, Mandi, Amy, Leah, Terry, and Katie. Sue was absent--she had to go launch a weather balloon. Do check out Heidi's blog, she has been out and about on the station environs, with camera. Yes, we do have plenty of toilet paper for the winter, a highly qualified facilities engineer, and a well-trained trauma team...:)night away from home

The station was scheduled to close Friday 15 February 2008, but it happened a day earlier on the 14th, leaving 60 of us here, down from nearly 200 only a few days before that. Things are going well--Bill Spindler passed his "winter dental review" and finally moved back into the same room he'd lived in for the 2005 winter. With some familiar friendly next-door neighbors! In the first week after closing we had some warm (-20s F) temperatures, but now in the first week of March it is flirting with the -60s...

I must add a sad note here...former coworker and friend Mike Pavlak passed away at home on 23 January. Mike worked in the program for several years in the late 70s with H&N, and continued with it and its successor companies. He showed up at Pole to take over from me as the 1978 station manager. This page (at bottom left) includes a classic picture which includes both of us, taken while I was on R&R at McMurdo in January 1977, and here is a brief obituary (MS Word document) from the DMJMHN intranet site.

Well, the icebergs that plagued McMurdo Sound a couple years ago have gone bye bye (watch the icebergs)...but this year we had a new problem--heavy pack ice 500 miles north of McM, much worse than in recent years. The only icebreaker to show up this summer was the Swedish vessel Oden, which got to work after a science cruise from PA. Here's more info on the 2007-08 program, and a link to a PolarTrec blog on the venture. The science cruise departed from PA in late November, the beakers were sent to McM via helo on 7 January before the icebreaking duties began in earnest. Oden first made it to McM on 11 January, after finding much better ice conditions than in the past few years. Meanwhile, the cargo ship American Tern arrived at Lyttleton from PH on the on Friday the 25th as scheduled, and left a couple days later for the ice. But...the tanker was hung up at the pack ice edge, the Oden went up to help, putting the tanker Gianella arrival off until around Tuesday the 29th Offloading finished up and she left late on the 31st. The Tern showed at McM on 6 February and left around the 13th.

More on the heavy traverse season. ...the Norwegian-American scientific traverse--from Troll via Plateau Station (where they found the 1960-era USARP station intact--news article. and the Pole of Inaccessibility (where they found that bust of Lenin)--was supposed to roll into Pole around 19 January, marking the end of the first phase of their 2-year project--a return trip from Troll. But...they ended up stranded after first one and then two of their four vehicles broke down, putting them 220 miles from Pole. First they requested USAP assistance, and accordingly the SP heavy traverse (which was heading back to McM) turned around and arrived back on station on 14 January. As things evolved, the project decided to winterize their equipment at their site, and a Basler was chartered from AL&E to fly the team and some of their equipment to Pole. The first 6 made it on the 20th, and the rest of them along with ice cores and other stuff made it on Monday the 21st. The group flew north to McM on Wednesday the 23rd.

The new station dedication happened on Saturday 12 January...the guest list was rather exclusive, and the on-station ceremonies were extensive. I do have lots of pictures, but since I'm rather busy doing other things at the moment :) for the moment I must recommend the NSF press release and the excellent Antarctic Sun coverage. An earlier story on this event came from the Aussie media. Meanwhile, the station has also been visited by the annual Congressional delegation.

The South Pole Traverse--yeah, that one, the one from McM--doing "trail maintenance"... rolled into the station on 8 January, after advance scout Bill McCormick wandered into the B3 lounge the night before and announced their presence. He was welcomed to Pole, and since he wasn't driving, he was handed a cold beer. The ITASE traverse--this year's venture from Byrd Glacier to Pole--showed up on the morning of Christmas Eve. Teacher Elke Bergholz has an excellent blog entry here. And a bit later there was a Chilean scientific traverse, which appeared to include some paying tourist members. Not unlike recent ISS (International Space Station) ventures. Hmmm.

if this is Friday it must be...many pax were asleep

This season has been an interesting one as far as aviation is concerned--starting with the "soft opening" using the Basler--something that was to be repeated at station close. Then on the morning of 7 December, TWO Twin Otters with 17 pax showed up from PH (left, photo from Thorsten Stezelberger). What did they do? Well, take pictures and visit the store, of course. And then there was that "mystery aircraft" that was flew over on 8 December without saying hello. But not without this picture (right) by Jill Fox, who was part of a campout and happened to have a camera at the right time. Well, it turned out to be that new Airbus A380...the full story is here thanks to help from the ExplorersWeb team. Oh, here's the complete Airbus press release and an ExplorersWeb followup.

And then the USAP-chartered Basler crashed on 20 December 2007 near Mt. Patterson, a West Antarctic field site 550 miles west of McMurdo, during a takeoff attempt after picking up the field party from the POLENET (Polar Earth Observing Network) project, that had just installed GPS units and seismic instruments at the site. Ten aboard-six team members and four crew, and no injuries (NSF press release), and Mitchell's blog with the full story and pics. This has put a crimp in the AGAP project as well as that oft-threatened "soft close". A team was sent in to repair the crashed plane; it was flown out via Rothera before the end of the season.

aw, chuteAnd then there was the C17 airdrop on 19 December. Unlike last year's event, this one, also one of those "proof of concept" things, made 4 passes, dropping about 20 pieces of cargo, in smaller pieces. Actually a great spectator event on a warm (-15°F with no wind) day (more pictures and info).

Oh, as for those NGA folks...the first group of "last degree" skiiers arrived on 15 December and got a tour of the place, including IceCube.

IceCube started its first hole of the season (#63) on Wednesday 5 December and completed it a couple days later. By mid-January they'd completed 16 holes, and they finished string deployment on the "stretch goal" 18th hole on 25 January, on schedule. They then moved and winterized the drill camp...the last of the summer folks went home on 13 February. Their goal for next season is 20 holes... And they completed all 28 of the planned IceTop tanks and associated cabling (it will still take a while for the water in the tanks to freeze). You can read their summer weekly reports here.

grammatically correct at last?Okay, while the domed station has been emptied of buildings over the past few years, a major exterior modification has begun...the station sign has been removed (right, photo from Lawrence-Berkeley IceCube driller Thorsten Stezelberger). This is the first phase of the removal of the Dome entrance, jacking of the former power plant (right) arch to match the elevation of the rest of the previously jacked arches, connecting them all together, and starting structural erection of the logistics facility in the old garage arch. Stay tuned...and follow along with my construction photos.

By now of course the station is fully open for business, but a bit earlier this month things were a bit dicey. The Today Show team from NBC made it to the ice, and while Ann Curry originally planned to go to Pole for a long visit, Mother Antarctica's weather didn't cooperate, so the team barely made it in for a brief triple-shuttle visit early on Friday 9 November. Those flights made it in late Thursday/early Friday giving most w/o's an opportunity to go north after a week's delay. Anyway, for the Ann Curry fans, here is a show website.

Hey, in October 2007, the all-new Antarctic Sun had coverage of what Andy Martinez has been doing with all of the old winterover pictures. Not to be missed!

The scheduled "official station opening" (first LC-130 flight) on Monday 29 October was cancelled--not for temps (it was a warm -45°F/-43°C) but for visibility. This plane was to bring a big summer crowd (plus more mail and baggage left behind by the Basler pax...) But, a second flight later in the day did show up. Along with more later in the week. At the end of that week things turned bad, on Saturday 3 November all 3 flights aborted...the one that actually made it to Pole (only to boomerang for low viz) ended up returning to Terra Nova!

Speaking of the weather, w/o Steffen Richter has created a great automagic weather page...bookmark this for up-to-date met info!

striped propellerOkay, the October 2007 "soft opening" went down, with 5 of the 6 planned Basler flights. The first of these with new folks occurred on Thursday 18 October. In addition to 15 new faces and freshies, the aircraft also brought...flu shots (Heidi Lim). The Basler twin turbo had first landed at Pole Sunday 14 October (left, photo from Heidi) along with a Twin Otter. The Basler continued to McM and was to return to Pole Monday with the first 18 summer folks. And fly north with some w/o's. And repeat a few times. But bad weather in McM delayed the personnel changeout. It finally started on the 18th when 15 new people showed up and 2 left. The second Basler flight came the next day. The third didn't happen until 24 November. [Until now the earliest first flight was the 16 October 1999 LC-130 that came in to pick up Jerri Nielsen. But they didn't call that the "opening flight" either.]

What is a Basler? Basically a completely modified/rebuilt DC-3 (read, jack up the nameplate of a WWII DC-3 (or C-47, or R4-D or whatever) and rebuild and modify it). They've been to Pole before, here is more info on the previous visit and the aircraft. In any case, the plan is to get the population jacked up to 260 people by 5 November.

What will happen?? Well, the siding and "chamfer" project will continue, in an effort to save a few more BTUs and KWs as well as make the place look decent for THE DEDICATION OF THE NEW ELEVATED STATION scheduled for 12 January. With of course bunches of DVs scheduled in for a couple of double shuttles...not unlike the first station dedication was held at Pole in January 1975. Oh, yes, that means I must mention this bit of trivia: the actual first station dedication was held in early 1957 in MCMURDO, and the Polies didn't even find out about it until much later. Meanwhile, other construction activity will see erection of the base structure of the SPT ground shield, jacking of the last section of the arch (the old power plant section), removing the old Dome entrance and filling it in with arch connecting the old power plant and biomed arches, and beginning on the foundation work for the logistics facilities to be built inside this arch.

Update....the Norwegian-US Scientific Traverse is one of the more noteworthy International Polar Year (IPY) events. This is a 2-season international multidisciplinary return traverse, exploring the East Antarctic ice sheet, from the Norwegian Troll Station (where the team is now) to Pole. The first half happened in 2007-08, and it included a stop at the site of Plateau Station. Plateau was occupied for the 1966-1968 winters and featured a 30-meter met tower, similar to the one at Pole, although a late 80s event failed to find it. One of the participants is Colorado State researcher Glen Liston...who happens to be a 1983 winterover. Back then he was the maintenance mechanic. Their plans were to be at Plateau for 5-6 days drilling a 90m ice core. Well, it turns out they broke down a few miles away, but they still discovered the station only buried up to the roof...and the met tower. By the way, these folks have a great historic page about Plateau, with photos including one of that met tower. This traverse will also investigate some of those subglacial lakes which have become a big thing of late.

Would there there be a 300 Club in the 2007 winter? Well, no. Earlier this spring temps dropped briefly below -100°F a couple of times, but not long enough for anyone to gear up. Global warming?? Here's Heidi Lim's view of the scroll the first time the magic number popped up. So far in the 50+ years that folks have been at Pole, the only other winter that it didn't make it into 3 digits was 1964. And here were the dwindling odds that it might have happened (graph courtesy of the NOAA guys).

dome?moon over, uh, somewhereBefore the sun came up, in early September the cardboard came off the windows (left, photo from Laura Rip), and the visible astronomical displays are gone. But not before the 28 August lunar eclipse got watched by me in Nevada and documented by Robert Schwarz (right) at Pole (scroll down to August). Otherwise things have been rather quiet of late, in part because satellite antenna problems have cut back on internet visibility. You may have noticed (if you noticed the site of the midwinter picture) that the old garage/gym/bar whatever along with the power plant are no more. Winfly has happened, and MacTown is swarming with early summer folks, including one Nicholas Johnson, so surely McM is not a big dead place. As reported there, the Tax Court has ruled yet again that American USAP folks have to pay taxes. Lots more folks got caught, you can read their unsuccessful strategies here (search this page with your browser for "Antarctica"). The moral is, don't try it.

Yes, happy Midwinters Day, whenever and wherever you are and may celebrate it. Nowadays this celebration is a huge event (well, based on the size of the winterover crew vs the old days) and you now can check out the extensive documentation of things on some of the winterover web sites. 30 years ago things were more modest, here is how we celebrated in 1977.

The third annual BF5K was held at the end of April, here's a link to Jason Stauch's blog entry on this ingenious event. Yes, I participated in the first version, and based on my lousy finishing time I should have worn a costume. Other serious runners and exercisers are somewhere on the way to MacTown (virtually) as the Race to McMurdo was underway again, hot and heavy, this documentation by Heidi Lim. I must confess that I made it to Mactown and almost back to Pole (Papa) 3 in the 2005 version. On the temporary facilities side, note that the smokers have found a temporary warm place to indulge, "the 2.0 Lounge" which has been parked outside of Destination Alpha for the winter. Those of you who were around back then (2000-01) will recognize this structure as the former "SPARCLE Palace" which is described and depicted here, then and now. Butt...all is not good news for smokers. It has recently been announced that as of 2010 there will no longer be any indoor smoking facilities at any USAP stations....

Tony Meunier, one of the 1974 USGS winterovers, recently revealed to me that his publication U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Activities in the Exploration of Antarctica: 1946-2006... is now available online here. This 15mb PDF document (which actually has a much longer title) documents all USGS events, visitors, winterers, cachets, etc., between Highjump and the present.

Northern hemisphere events of note...this boreal spring and summer...first was the American Polar Society symposium at the OSU Byrd Center in Columbus, OH, 25-27...the eclectic program features speakers from the IGY era (including Dick Bowers, builder of the IGY Pole Station) and folks addressing IPY and current concerns. I was there and it was great to get together with old Polie and other friends. Two weeks later in Corpus Christi, TX, the Antarctic Deep Freeze Association (ADFA) met on 8-11 May. This group is composed primarily of the folks who WERE THERE during IGY, unfortunately I didn't make that one, which featured a videoconference with Pole. And last but perhaps not least, we of the 1977 Pole Souls had our second reunion in Boulder, CO, 16-17 June. Unlike the first one in 2000, a few folks didn't make this guy who won't is Alex Zaitsev, whose presence is a victim of the current poor USA-Russia relations, meaning he didn't get a visa in time, although he did visit some of us in August.

So what's with all this stuff about folks driving to Pole? No recent or hard detail on the team website, although this International Herald Tribune article is pretty good. The team has applied for the appropriate permits...the only thing is that they have to get their vehicles and alternative fuels to McMurdo in December, which is before the shipping season begins. Hmmm. This may incorporate the previously announced trip by Steve Wozniak, and they may be using Hummers...well, we will see. USAP did three round trips to Pole in the 2006-07 summer, according to some of the news articles.

The thirtieth Antarctic Treaty meeting in New Delhi happened 30 April through 11 May. Not a lot of newsmaking issues this time, but new management plans for both Pole and Palmer were addressed.

not a bright day

Sadly, yet another unfortunate news event--the tragic shooting of 32 people at Virginia Tech--prompted the lowering of the Dome flag to half mast on 19 March 2007. At right is a picture of this are a couple more photos with additional information and credits.

going going

Yes, the dome demo crew has been back at work. After spending a bit of time gutting the old garage, they attacked the science building in earnest. At left, upper berthing is history, stacked up to ship back up north (Brien Barnett photo). By now (late April) they've finished with the old UB/science building structure, gone back out to the garage arch to wipe out the old garage/carp shop/gym except for the floor, and gone back into the dome to remove the old UB/science floor. Cold temps have hampered equipment operations...but the plan is next to remove the old garage floor next, followed by the old comms floor. After the food gets moved. Again.

it works!

Happy sunset...20 March is the official equinox date in most of the world, but as usual the sun was visible for a few more days. The station bid the daylight farewell with the sunset dinner on 24 March. Another one of those great's a picture of the 11 women on station this winter. Preceding this was the official 1 March inauguration of the International Polar Year...a 24-month modern version of the IGY that spawned the reason for the original Pole Station and the first of what is now 51 winterover crews (NSF press release on IPY, which includes a link to the IPY launch webcast).

Yup...after a day's delay, the station closed with the final 3 flights on Sunday 18 February 2007, leaving 54 souls....All about the last day of flights was not uneventful. The last week of summer included lots of last-minute work by the "soft close" SPT team. While they didn't get to stay quite as long as they'd planned, their efforts resulted in a successful first light on Jupiter on 16 February (Eurekalert and SPT group press releases, as well as the NSF press release with videos). The photo at right by Jeff McMahon shows ironworker Brian Hardin celebrating the successful installation. polie trash on deckMeanwhile, the IceCube data acquisition team also frantically worked to get those new detectors up and running. The final tally on flight operations: there were 359 flights vs the planned 372...but since the aircraft cargo loads were higher than expected, more cargo and fuel was moved than had been planned. The last C-17 out of Mactown happened on Saturday 24 February, leaving behind only 119 w/o's there, the smallest crowd in years. And there is discussion that the program downsizing may continue next season...along with the continued stretching out of the completion of the MacTown power plant those ancient 399's that were supposed to go away by now are still chugging away.

On the waterfront...the shipping season is over. At left, the cargo ship American Tern is seen departing on 10 February; this unique view is from the wharf control tower. Here is what the Tern looked like full of cargo instead of garbage, when it showed up on 4 February (the Tern photos are all by McM w/o Tom Hamman). At right, the tanker Paul Buck, arrived on 31 January with help from the Polar Sea (Antarctic Sun photo by Peter Rejcek). In the background is the NSF research icebreaker N. B. Palmer which had docked earlier to swap out scientists and cargo...and then headed east to PA on a long science cruise. The Buck wasn't around long...after discharging nearly 7 million gallons of fuel, it departed to make way for the cargo ship.

recreational boating?

And at Pole, IceCube finished the season with 13 strings completed on 29 January, and firn hole #14 completed with the new firn drill. This year the drill camp (Seasonal Equipment Site/SES) was staged for the winter at the next drilling location rather than being towed back to the berms. And the permanent IceCube lab had its official dedication. And the SP Telescope is now assembled (at least the big pieces) in all its glory big dish (left, USAP photo library shot by Scot Jackson). Some of the SPT crew were to hang around past the official 17 February closing date for a "soft close" as late as the 23rd, but that didn't happen, they left on the 18th like everyone else. Late summer official Pole visitors included the design team, on site to sign off on new cryo and look at the SPT building...and on Friday 19 January, Helen Clark, PM of NZ showed up for a tour of the place.

view from the shuttle terminalIt was helicopter week! FOUR arrived on Sunday 7 January (photo at right by Cynthia Chiang). The two military-looking ones are Russian MI-8 helicopters on an official expedition led by Artur Chilingarov--yes, the guy who was involved in the Antonov-3T adventures earlier in this decade. Here's an Adventure Network International article as well as a Volga-Dnepr news release. One of the pax gave Russian President Vladimir Putin a phone call from comms. Meanwhile, that Polar First helicopter team had been at Fowler (71°S-71°W) but since they had good weather then they headed on 1200 miles south via PH and showed up as well in two red Bell helos--the team has been accompanied by a backup 407 piloted by two Bell Helicopter employees. It is not that often that four aircraft park at Pole...the only other time I know of was on 16 November 1976...but those were fixed-wing aircraft.

breaking newsIn the past couple of years, the big icebergs threatened to disrupt the annual sea resupply. Not so this year. The Coast Guard's aging but still powerful Polar Sea is almost to McMurdo as of 4 January. And NSF arranged for more help. At left, the Swedish breaker Oden (photo by summer Polie NOAA researcher Andrew Seaman) is seen breaking ice. This vessel first did a science cruise (a Swedish/Chilean/NSF joint venture) departing PA on 12 December for the Ross Sea. Then somewhere west of Cape Evans, the science team was flown to Mactown by helo, and Oden began its icebreaking effort. Here is more info on this unique science cruise from PolarTREC, a new teachers-in-Antarctica program.

Christmas holidays brought the usual events--the Race Around the World...fancy dinner...HF radio caroling, and other stuff that can be only done during a 2 day weekend. Here's a good page of holiday photos and video from veteran IceCube guy Darryn Schneider. But the day after Christmas saw a strange power failure caused by some DDC problems which precipitated a glycol leak in the power plant...all is well now. Outside...the British RAF team called off their trip on Christmas Eve due to medical problems 101 miles from Pole, they were evacuated to PA by ALE. Meanwhile, 2 members of the 6-person "last-97-miles" trek (starting from Shackleton's furthest south) led by veterans Mike and Fiona Thornwill--including Mike--had food poisoning before leaving PA...Mike continued but the other group member had to cancel out. Meanwile, the 4-man Royal Navy team arrived on the 27th, and Hannah McKeand completed the fastest trek ever, 40 days, on the 29th.

oops, I dropped somethingOnce upon a time before the ski-equipped LC-130 Hercules, all of the construction material for the original IGY station was airdropped by a large Air Force transport aircraft known as a C-124 Globemaster. Well, in a twist of history, NSF had the Air Force try it again on 20 December 2006--a proof-of-concept airdrop using a C-17 Globemaster III (right) was a complete success...delivering around 70,000 lbs of, er, flour and similar dry food. Here's the full story with pictures (and video).

give a liftThe second week in December was a good one for IceCube...first, the visiting design team inspected the new permanent lab several times and finally granted conditional occupancy on 8 December. At left is a view of the place just before the last major construction task--installing the cable tray bridge from the east tower to the second floor of the lab (these photos from IceCube which published weekly reports with photos throuth the summer). The team immediately frantically started moving in equipment and pulling cables. Meanhile, the drillers completed the first hole of the season on 14 December, eventually there would be 13.

raise a legMeanwhile nearby at DSL, the South Pole Telescope (SPT) was put together by teams of scientists, ironworkers, electricians, and, well, lots of people. The RPSC folks erected the structure and did the heavy lifts (right), while the science team from Chicago assembled the telescope components. The mirror supports were put together inside a large but unheated tent. The summer team were rather prolific bloggers as well, here is the main team blog with links to others. With photos of course. The two SPT pics here were taken by Jerry Marty and Bill Johnson on 8 December (USAP photo library)

A bit of history renewed...since the days of the original IGY station (which we may know as Old Pole) ham radio has played an important part in communications with folks and family back home. Perhaps a bit less important now that Polies have IP phones in their rooms, but it is still around. And to mark the transition from the dome to the new elevated station we have a transition from the old dome QSL card to this fresh new one.

Conrad ShinnAfter over a week of delays, the first Hercs landed at Pole on 31 October 2006...the first flight was designated as the commemorative flight for the first landing at Pole 50 years earlier to the day, in 1956, by Navy VX-6 pilot Gus Shinn. The anniversary was marked in Gus's home town of Pensacola with a special meeting of the Gulf Coast members of the Old Antarctic Explorers event which was favorably covered by the Pensacola News-Journal. NSF rep Dave Bresnahan attended and presented Gus with a commemorative plaque (left, News-Journal photo).

fly me homeAs is a tradition in recent years, Kenn Borek Air transits the continent from Rothera to McMurdo via Pole a few days before official station opening...using Twin Otters and similar light aircraft chartered to support NSF and Italian field operations. This year one of these aircraft was a Basler Turbo 67...a massively converted and upgraded DC-3, the same aircraft model as the Navy R4D "Que Sera Sera" that first landed at Pole 50 years ago (almost), on 31 October 1957. The flight landed at 1050 on 20 October and spent an hour refueling (right, photo by Ethan Dicks) before heading on to MacTown...taking two winterovers along for the ride.


no movie tonightThe dome demo moved forward, at left is a view of the second floor of comms turning into history (thanks Neal Sheibe). By now the first floor is gone as well, except for the deck which will remain for now to support shelving.

Palmer Team 77 had a successful reunion at the end of September 2006, in Newport, Oregon...with 100% attendance from the surviving winterovers, as well as a few hangers-on like me! Hmmm, must be something about 1977, a very good year on the ice. Stay tuned for photos.

The current and future power demands have been the subject of continuing discussion and study over the last few months...years...most recently the science community, NSF, RPSC, and RSA Engineering put heads together during the 2006 Pole winter to see if there is enough power available to put the SPT online and still keep the lights on in the gym (studies and findings). Hmmm. Well, do YOU have any suggestions? There will be both astronomy and basketball this winter, but there were also two fuel bladders (remember those?) installed in and atop the biomed arch to ensure enough fuel is on hand for everything. Postponed to 2007-08 along with the dedication--the new logistics facility, perhaps the end of the dome building demolition, the rest of the siding, and perhaps (if it doesn't slip yet another year) the demo of the dome itself. This structure is still planned to be shipped back to Port Hueneme where it may yet grace the Oxnard skyline.

Winfly ended successfully; the last of the four C-17 flights to McMurdo was completed over the weekend of 26 August, despite some dicey weather. This time of year also means that the sky over Pole is brightening fast...late August was time for the last nighttime Hash House Harriers "run" of the season. The construction crew is headed back into the dome to continue demo work on what used to be comms. And as the news media once again tries to figure out what is happening to the ozone hole, so is the Polie NOAA team (the NOAA Pole ozone page with current data, animations, and background info).

penguinReunion updates...the Old Antarctic Explorers Association had a gathering in Warwick, RI (the site of Davisville and Quonset Point, the departure point for my first trip to the ice in 1972) on 17-19 August 2006. I was there, it was great time seeing folks from the old and not so old days. Meanwhile, we 1977 Pole Souls were making preliminary plans for our second reunion which happened in Boulder in June 2007, and Palmer Team 77 was planning to get together in September 2006 aboard the Hero in Newport, Oregon.

The Antarctic treaty meeting happened in June 2006, here is the report on the Hallett Station cleanup).

Dome demo update...the crew has returned from work in the dark sector and cryo, the next targets are the gutting of comms and upper berthing. Meanwhile up north in NZ, folks are concerned that the US Coast Guard icebreakers may not be up to the task of getting the cargo ships into Winter Quarters Bay (TV NZ article), especially since the Polar Star has now been placed in caretaker status (Seattle P-I article).

gym dandyOkay...midwinters week is now history, and the hijinks were in full swing. One of the main features was the WHIFF (winterover halfway film festival). The videos cropped up on Google video, or there are links in other places including Patrick McClure's pages. Meanwhile, some folks worked hard on that infamous Polie calendar (thanks to Jeff De Rosa) while others were preparing for some more serious hamming on the 24-25 June...KC4AAA was on the air for the event, but propagation was no help (update with photo).

no rest for the wearyAs the first major bit of winter dome demo...the annex is history (left). The rest of the dome buildings are now cold...(well, as usual with dark construction photos, I've cranked up the lighting a bit on this one so things can be seen. Here is the original version, with thanks to John Neame. The rest of the demo pics will soon be up in the construction photo section).

NSF has been studying the alternatives for icebreaking and cargo handling for awhile...most recently on 4 May they posted an information request for a "package deal," looking for an organization that could both break ice and deliver cargo (6.5 million gallons of JP-5 and AN-8, 250,000 gallons of mogas, 600 TEU of container cargo (a TEU is equivalent to a 20-foot milvan) and 1.5 million pounds of breakbulk). Not to mention retro. Got any spare ice-strengthened vessels in your back yard?

About 1150 statute miles north of Pole, veteran marine tech Joshua Spillane was presumed dead on Wednesday 19 April, 2 days after he had last been seen on the Laurence M Gould (LMG) as the ship made its way north from Palmsr Station to PA. Joshua had been employed for more than 10 years and 40 cruises. He was last seen on deck around 0500 Monday morning, and was noticed missing 6 hours later. After an onboard search, the LMG turned around and conducted a grid search. Argentina and Chile also assisted in the search effort. Conditions were harsh--20-40 knot winds, 20-foot seas with rain and snow, and 43°F water temperature. Here's a link to a couple of news articles.NSF Polar Programs director Karl Erb released a press statement of condolences on 21 April; an earlier press release was issued on 18 April before the death was confirmed. Several other folks have died aboard Antarctic research vessels, but it seems that Joshua's tragedy is the first that did not occur while the vessel was securely berthed in a South American port.

When it was nearly dark outside (6 April) it went dark inside for awhile, in one of the more serious power outage situations in station history. It lasted for several hours (no, not one continuous outage) and was exacerbated by the failure of the power feed to the fuel arch, which, of course, fills up the fuel daytanks in the power plant and boiler mechanical rooms to keep everything running. It took a couple days to get things back to the meantime serious power conservation was conducted and stuff was moved to the B1 emergency pod just in case.

Fall featured continued dark sector construction on the SPT building, IceCube and elsewhere. In the new station, the gym was finished out except for the final floor and some of the stuff at the south end. And the dome demo began again...the annex was one of the first structures to bite the dust.

Antarctica has been a big deal in the news media in the last few weeks...with two major research reports in Science on that old familiar subject of global warming. The first, published 24 March, addressed the fact that both the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets appear to be melting much faster than expected. See this NSF press release for more information. The second article appeared in the 31 March issue and discussed an observed 0.5°C warming per decade of the troposphere (pressure altitude of 500 hPa, 500 mb or 14.7" of mercury) based on recently compiled radiosonde data from nine stations including Pole. More information is available in this BAS press release and this BBC report.

squeeze playIn late March, C-16 headed north away from Ross Island towards the Drygalski Ice Tongue, which it hit on 29 March, breaking off a small bit of the tongue which was later named C-25. At right is a 14 April image from UW showing both bergs well north of the ice tongue.Watch the icebergs....Earlier, cargo and fueling operations did finish successfully, despite the iceberg action. There was enough open water west of the iceberg for the cargo ship and tanker to head north safely. The Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star showed up on 14 February (press release), took on fuel, and did some channel grooming (in hopes of improving conditions for next season) before heading back north on the 16th. Here's a 10 February NSF press release with additional information and photos. The 9 February satellite photo (right, annotated by MODIS to show the movement) shows it squeezed between Ross and Beaufort Island The original shipping channel was just west of the Cape Bird coast, cut through ice which has now moved out. For reference, here's a 7 February bathymetric plot of the area from IGNS; here's January's chart of the shipping channel; and here's a NOAA sat photo of the area from 9 January 2006.

Pole closed on 21 February 2006 as the day's flights suddenly became the last ones. It was an incredibly successful season for airplanes, as there were a total of 377 flights, and unofficially just short of 10 million pounds of cargo, 16% more than planned, and a record, as stuff for next year's construction of the cargo building was shipped in, among other things. So...there are 64 folks left, I'm homesick, if anyone else is you must watch the summer video slide show that Patrick McClure has put up. Other recent stuff...while daylight lasted, construction in the dark sector continued on the SPT addition to DSL, as well as the counting house. And under the dome, the last upper berthing room party went off , while the erstwhile arch gym/exercise room has gained its last lease on life as the smoking bar. Dodgy Bastard...

pier hereThe tanker Lawrence H. Gianella replaced the American Tern at the pier, and fuel offload happened between 9 and 11 February. The tanker left with assistance from both Krasin and Polar Star. The cargo ship (left) had reached the pier on 2 February with the help of Krasin. Seems that the Tern bumped the ice pier a bit harder than expected but no harm no foul. Meanwhile, the other Russian icebreaker Kapitan Khlebnikov which was supposed to stay around and help, bailed and headed north on 1 February. Earlier, Krasin helped the NB Palmer make it to the pier for a brief port call on 28 January...Polies here note that Henry Malmgren disembarked and promptly flew south to consult on a Pole server he'd built.

This was to be the first year since Deep Freeze started that no US Coast Guard (or Navy) icebreaker would tend to the McMurdo sea lane. NSF arranged for the Russian icebreaker Krasin to do primary duty without help from a US vessel. it seems that Krasin lost one of the blades from the starboard screw. She worked with her other two shafts at 110% power, but more work needed doing and the tanker Gianella was hanging back. And on 19 January NSF decided to get more help. Polar Star headed south from Seattle on 20 January...she is expected to reach the area about 20 February (USCG departure press release and return press release with photo link). McM divers had a look at Krasin but the prop was beyond repair with available material. Hopefully by mid February everybody will be out of McMurdo. Meanwhile, the third annual South Pole International Film Festival (SPIFF) was held on the weekend of 21 February...a great success.

Up north, the income tax case that many Polies have been watching has been resolved...the answer is, pay your taxes (!) Here's the 25 January decision and an accountant's commentary.

heavywall pipe, fancy weldshole in the roof?Across the skiway...the two new telescopes have been taking shape. At left (28 December, Carlton Walker) is the foundation for the massive 10-meter telescope, otherwise known as the South Pole Telescope (SPT; more information)...this massive structure will have a shield larger than the dome if it were inverted. It will be connected to DSL (seen behind it) with a walkway and lab space. At right atop DSL is the shield for BICEP (16 December photo by Yuki Takahashi)...on the ground to the right is the insulating boot that will support the telescope inside the shield. If you've been here awhile you'll notice that the DSL penthouse has been removed to make way for this new project, scheduled to go on line this season (more BICEP info here and here). The crane mount (yellow post) has been relocated from the roof to the second level, and the stairways and platforms are also scheduled for an upgrade. Meanwhile, the massive IceCube operation continued of 29 January it finished the drilling season with EIGHT new holes, for a total of 9. This year the IceCube folks have been publishing excellent weekly reports on their progress, although the older reports are no longer available.

3 on 3that is allAt left (Peter Rejcek, 22 December) is the north end of the new B4 gym (first floor) and exercise room/weight room (balcony)...almost done here. The design team wa on site in late Janurary 2006 to inspect and grant conditional occupancy to the last 3 wings of the new elevated station. And at 0100 26 December the transition to the new comms room, well, called the Station Operations Center (SOC) for now at least was completed (right, Peter Rejcek, 23 December). The room on the northwest corner of B3 overlooks the dark sector and the skiway...there is supposedly room for a couch but this place is a bit more business oriented, unlike the old room in the Dome which Neil Conant shut down and saw go quiet and empty. The dart board is just outside the door.

where's the bar?trailer parkOutside...the first "South Pole Traverse" to make it all the way pulled into Pole on 23 December after 45 days on the trail. The train of equipment included a new dozer and snow haul dump trailer, visible at left in this photo (Peter Rejcek; this and the previous 4 photos are from the USAP Antarctic Photo Library). The team stayed around for 5 days before heading back to McMurdo, arriving on 14 January. The cargo included a "snow trailer" (tracked belly dump trailer) visible in the photo at left, as well as the D-8 "Mary Lou" (right; here's a shot of Mary Lou in action a couple days later). This 1 January 2006 Antarctic Sun article and this this 7 February 2006 NSF press release have more information.

Construction has continued at a fast pace on the elevated station and the first half of the summer saw the cargo office moved closer to the skiway...all the remaining science projects (and musical instruments) were moved out of Skylab so the place could be shut down...the old Biomed arch and front entrance were excavated in preparation for raising the arch for the new storage facility...BICEP telescope installation is proceeding on the second floor of DSL...the 10-meter telescope foundation is being assembled in a hole behind it, the beginning of the siding installation on the elevated station (see photo at left)...and in mid December the place suffered from a heat wave. where's the pub?The temperature soared to +7°F/-13.9°C, less than a degree shy of the all-time record. And the British "Numis Polar Challenge" showed up on 14 January after a 200-mile trek in authentic Scott-era polar garb and equipment (photo from

The first of the summer NGA visitors included that tricked 6x6 Ford Van, which showed up from PH on 13 December (photo at right, here's more info and photos), as well as veteran polar trekkers Borge Ousland and Rune Gjeldnes.

Yes folks, I finally left Pole on 21 November, four weeks after station opening, one of the last 2 winterovers to leave...Before I left, the VIPER telescope, (this year running the ACBAR project) was shut down for the last time. A bit earlier, the 10-year AST/RO project also came to an end...

da planeIt was over...the first LC-130 touched down at 1743 Friday 21 October 2005... bringing fresh folks as well as big money to Clayton Cornia who won the "skis down" pool (left, the aircraft approaches the waiting winterovers whose shadows can be seen here). Soon the second flight landed, and after a few folks left, the population was already up to 157. The third flight didn't land, as the temperatures had drifted below the theoretical -58°F limit. 1-1/2 CanadiansThe day before we'd been visited by three Twin Otters transiting from Rothera to McMurdo (right, the first aircraft turns off the skiway, while the second is in the distance about to land).

The folks in Denver unleashed the new Antarctic portal web site...some new looks for old stuff, and new features as well. Have a look.... Most of the Raytheon-related content including employment information is on a separate RPSC site, while the Antarctic Sun is here. The change to also affected all of our computers on the ice...more fun for the IT folks.

The September 2005 issue of Popular Mechanics has an excellent article on the new station by the Jeff Rubin, the Antarctic editor of the Polar Times. Oh, Jeff is also the author of the new edition of the Lonely Planet guide to Antarctica. I've seen it, and you can too.

The icebergs that pestered McMurdo during the 2004-05 summer season seem to have moved out of the way, but not before B15A brushed a 3x3 square mile chunk off the Drygalski Ice Tongue (watch them!) Still, NSF made provisions for the Russian icebreaker Krasin to show up again in January 2006, this time in a primary role, with the Coast Guard as backup. Related news--in August 2005 a NSF committee released a significant report on Antarctic logistics--in addition to a discussion on icebreaker support, other recommendations include continuing development of the "road to Pole" traverse (which reached Pole this summer), development of a runway for heavy wheeled aircraft at Pole (something that's been studied and tried since the 1950s), and consideration of lighter-than-air craft for cargo delivery. Have a read for yourself (revised version). floored walls

cool!As of mid September the construction continued to move along at a great pace--the gym and adjacent rooms were being framed out and sheetrocked, while elsewhere the final wall covering was being put up in the berthing rooms and corridors (left, more of those colored wall tiles in the main B3 hallway just outside the new communications and office area). Outside the approaching sunrise drowned out the stars and brightened up our rooms--as of 7 September we could remove the covering from our windows since the light-sensitive astronomy experiments had been shut down.

We were blessed (?) with a chilly morning on 2 August--it happened to make it down to -110.7°F when I arose and decided to grab this picture (right). Opportunity for a few more folks to join the 300 club. Meanwhile, a Scott tent has been pitched near the Pole for those who desire the ultimate winter camping experience. No thanks...I stuck to looking at photos and guidebooks of New Zealand and Australia like many others are doing.

Late June brought the traditional Midwinters Day celebrations and greetings--here's our w/o photo greeting and celebration announcement...and here's how we partied!

party line

The first week in May 2005 brought the Antarctic Deep Freeze Association (ADFA) reunion in Biloxi, MS. This group consists of folks who came down during IGY, and this reunion marks the 50th anniversary of the original Operation Deep Freeze in 1955. One highlight of these gatherings is a telephone call to South Pole...this was the third such phone call I've been involved with, but this time I was at the Pole end of the line. Above left is a photo of winter manager Bill Henriksen talking to the group on the Iridium phone...and here's more info and pictures.

Oh, the weekend also brought the belated Cinco de Mayo celebration, complete with the first annual "BF5K"--an indoor running event complete with sponsors and appropriate libations for all...and Saturday evening marked the debut of "Al Dente" (concert poster) in the B-1 Lounge.

dinner is overthe hard truth at lastOkay...was Bill Spindler having too much fun at Pole to keep this page updated? Well...not exactly, but since my job involved taking pictures and writing about them every day, sometimes I, well.... There were other things going on, like slushies, Robert Schwarz's astronomy lectures, the Hash House Harriers (the southernmost drinking club with a running problem), and lots of special dinners for any occasion or none...meanwhile the construction crew made short work of the galley demolition (left), and biomed is gone as well (right).

"Astronomy on Ice" is the reason many researchers visit Pole nowadays, but Martin Pomerantz's new book with that title is the chronicle of his efforts, beginning in McMurdo in 1959 and at Pole in 1964, to establish the place as one of the world's finest astronomy sites. And a cosmic ray observatory. And a CMBR observing post. And a locus for long-term balloon flights.... Here's a 1 March press release about the book, which you can obtain from your favorite bookstore unless you happen to be wintering :( And here are a few more pages of information about Marty...

Okay, speaking of Pole history books, one with a more recent outlook has just been published by 2004 w/o Nick Johnson--with excellent reviews from the likes of the New York Times. Is Antarctica really a big dead place? Make up your own mind...

get on boardfly me to CalgaryAfter some poor weather caused a number of cancelled and boomeranged flights, the final LC-130's showed up on 15 February (left, passengers board the closing passenger flight). Some added fuel flights came later in the day. But the flying season didn't end until Friday 18 February when 4 Twin Otter finally were able to set out for Rothera and the next leg of their trip back to Canada (right, the second of the four aircraft is airborne, while the third is in the fuel pits). Left behind are 86 winterovers in the largest station ever (or at least for now, until the winter demolition of some of the domed station buildings begins). The winter crew includes 24 women and a large construction crew working to finish out the interior of B3 (the admin/comms/control portion of the station, the end closest to the skiway), and berthing wing A4 (behind the computer room).

The 2006 annual Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting ended on 23 June in Edinburgh, Scotland...and the detailed discussion stuff as now been made public in the "Final Report" section on the meeting home page. Unlike last year there is no dramatic Pole content. Some folks were unhappy that stronger action wasn't taken to limit tourism. But there was discussion about global warming (!) and complaints about the "road to Pole" traverse (Cape Argus news article). Another item discussed was the Hallett Station cleanup...the bulk fuel tank was demo'd, cleaned up and mostly removed in January 2006 (my copy of the report, which includes a map and some Hallett history).

After Adventure Networks' (ANI) sudden departure from the NGA travel business in 2003-04, operations returned to normal in 2004-05. For 2006-07 ANI again offered their full program including those $33,500 flights to Pole, trips to Mt. Vinson, and a variety of other stuff. Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions (ALE) is the arm of the organization operating in PA and on the ice. Meanwhile, Cerpolex/PolarCircle hasn't announced anything new; in fact their old web site that discussed Snow Buggy trips among other things, seems to have faded away.

Meanwhile, the second Ice Marathon and 100k were held on 13-16 December 2006 at PH with sixteen competitors. Weather conditions for the marathon were clear at first with later low cloud cover, light winds and 14°F/-10°C. The marathon winning time was 5:08:17; the 100k--12:55:06. The latter race was won by Richard Donovan. The first of these events was held in January 2006...a successor to the original South Pole Marathon that actually ended up at Pole in January 2002, with controversy. Entry fee for this year's event was $25,000 including transportation to the starting line. There will be another next year.

The Ice Marathon was held at Patriot Hills on 7 January 2006...there were nine marathon participants, with times ranging from 5:09 to 7:10, and race director Richard Donovan did a 100k in 15:43, the first such documented ultra event. Sounds like this turned out much better than the controversial South Pole Marathon of January 2002 (Sports Illustrated coverage and Brent Weigner's diary of the earlier event, which covered the last 26.2 miles to Pole). The 2006-07 event trip is scheduled for 10-18 December (ANI site) so it is not too early to start training.

Another interesting 2005-06 tour option--Travelquest again successfully completed their tour in conjunction with Sky and Telescope magazine. It featured a visit to the Patuxent Range meteorite collection area as well as an overnight stay at Pole.

The 2005 Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (28 ATCM, 6-17 June 2005) in Stockholm included further extensive discussions on tourism activity in Antarctica, including possible restrictions on the construction of permanent infrastructure to support land-based tourism, and preparation of site guidelines for visitors to popular spots. Here's the treaty secretariat home page, the final report page, and document page from which you can select various meetings or search for documents. Specific documents from this meeting that may be of interest to folks here include recognition of Amundsen's buried tent at Pole as a protected Antarctic historic site; the draft environmental evaluation for the new BAS station at Halley, Halley VI; a graphical report on tourism activities prepared by the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Commission (ASOC); liability for environmental emergencies; the management plan for Scott's Discovery Hut at McMurdo (the plan, Map A, and Map B); the 2004-05 Chinese Dome A expedition (and medevac to Pole); the Russian recovery of the Antonov-3T aircraft from Pole, and the proposal for Pole to be a "Specially Managed Area" (maps 1, 2, 3 and 4).

The big summer construction milestone on 30 January 2005 was the granting of conditional occupancy of wings B1 and B2 just in time for the winterovers to move into B1, and the met office to become the first occupant of the new science lab B2.

The first IceCube drill hole was successfully completed on 25 January, after the first attempt had to be abandoned after reaching 949m. Additional delays resulted from an unfortunate injury to veteran Swedish driller Sven Lidström, requiring his urgent medevac. The successful hole was moved 8m away from the first attempt. Later in the week, further drilling was suspended for the season, so as to insure enough time for drill camp winterization.

all doneAt left, a milestone. On 19 January the last steel was erected on the new elevated station (caption/credits and more photos). And a couple weeks later the design team granted conditional occupancy to B1 and B2 wings...the mattresses and pillows are now in the new berthing rooms, and now that winter has begun, the w/o's are living in them too.

Meanwhile, the iceberg demolition derby continued. Ice around B-15A was breaking up rapidly. As for the ships...on Friday 21 January 2005, Krasin met up with the Polar Star at the ice edge . On the 23rd she was escorting the tanker Paul Buck. On the 23rd there were 4 ships visible from Arrival Heights--these two plus the Polar Star and the Nathaniel B Palmer. The icebreakers enlarged the channel, the NBP was at the pier on the 25th, and the tanker tied up the next day and offloaded, departing Saturday 29 January...only to have engine problems on the way north. The American Tern reached McMurdo on 2 February and began offload the next morning.

at rest Krasin (left, seen parked off McM early on 29 January 2005, I took this photo while waiting for transportation for my flight to Pole) is 442 feet long with a full load displacement of 20,190 (long) tons, slightly larger than the Coast Guard's Healy. It is electrically powered using 9 diesel engines, total rated at 36,000 shp, with 3 screws, a maximum open-water speed of 19.5 knots, and an icebreaking capability of 6 feet. (By comparison, the Polar Star stats: 399 feet long, 13,190 tons, 3 screws, 75,000 shp with gas turbines (18,000 shp with diesel electric power), 18 knots, 21' ice; and the Healy: 420 feet long, 16,000 tons, 30,000 shp, twin screws, 17 knots, 8' ice.) More information and stats on the Krasin are available on the FESCO shipping company web site (Polar Star stats) (Healy stats).

rocks and shoalsMeanwhile, the Polar Star blasted through about 82 nautical miles of ice to reach Hut Point on 30 December 2004. That work so far was in the old channel--7-8 foot first and second year ice. Mother Nature recently helped with warm temps and a lot of volcanic dust to help absorb solar radiation; more recently the fast ice west of B15A seems to be breaking up, helped by the B-15A's bumping and grinding. A lot of 20+ foot multi-year stuff had to be cleared to provide the full channel for the cargo ships. At left is the track into McMurdo, north of Cape Bird, threading between C-16 and B-15K. And at right is a clip from the 19 January NASA MODIS image (more)--the most extensive site I've found--that clearly shows the ice conditions. The Polar Star was sidelined at the ice wharf in early January with hydraulic oil leaks on the port and starboard shaft hubs. Divers worked to retorque the bolts on all 3 hubs, they finished on the 20th, and the breaker went back at work (at reduced power due to turbine problems). She may yet see some yard time for some more repairs on the screw hubs. By the way, the tourist icebreaker Khlebnikov was sighted hanging around near Cape Royds the first week in January. That's no slouch of an icebreaker either (Khlebnikov stats), touchdown! but unfortunately the tourists on that trip couldn't make it in to visit McMurdo or Scott Base. She came down again the last week in January and landing conditions were more successful. NSF is taking a look at utilizing her in future years.

fly meCoincidentally with the Krasin arrangement, a second Russian team went to Pole to recover the Antonov-3T aircraft that was stranded in 2001-02. This is considered by NSF to be an official Russian Antarctic Program activity. An Ilyushin-76 aircraft arrived in Christchurch 21 December 2004 from Darwin with 35 on board, including mechanics, engineers, a film crew, and a replacement engine. The aircraft left for McMurdo at 1000 Monday 27 December, arriving at the Pegasus runway about 1530 (above left). claim checked bags at the gateThe engineering team continued to Pole on an LC-130. Their ambitious schedule called for a test flight on 4 January, return to McM for disassembly on 5 January, and departure to ChCh with the AN-3T inside the Ilyushin on 6 January. They were ahead of schedule--the replacement engine was been installed, run-up, and given multiple successful test flights beginning on 3 January. But the flight to McMurdo was delayed until 11 January, held up by bad weather there. Finally the AN-3T left Pole around noon on the 11th, arriving at McMurdo at 1910 (left). Meanwhile, the Ilyushin had arrived from Christchurch earlier in the day. The AN-3T was disassembled and put aboard the Ilyushin, which arrived back in Christchurch at 2030 on Wednesday the 12th. Here is complete coverage with photos. Above right is one of Seth White's photos of the AN-3 taken in January 2004 (more photos). The Russians were fortunate...not too long after these photos were taken, the fog rolled in...

And the icebergs, them for yourself...if you can figure out what they're going to do, you have your Wisconsin PhD all sewed up. Here are the links: NASA MODIS;   UW SSEC;   RPSC;   and NOAA National Ice Center. NASA thought B-15A would crunch the Drygalski Ice Tongue by 15 January, but the big crunch didn't happen until April, and that was more of a nuzzle. In late December B-15A suddenly moved much closer to the Drygalski Ice Tongue, 10 miles away. After almost stopping, it moved again to less than 4 miles away, where it stopped again. Here is a 19 January NASA news feature with crystal-clear images and an animated time lapse sequence of the midsummer lurches. Crunch time. Was there any danger to folks? No, according to this 16 December 2004 NSF press release. But it was worried that the ice conditions might wipe out much of the penguin breeding activity on Ross Island.

big bergy bitThe berg (left) is 80 miles long by 20 wide--much smaller than it started out when it broke off the Ross Ice Shelf in March 2000, but still quite big enough to keep things interesting. Since this web site tries to keep things in a historical perspective, have a look at what happened in December 1965 when iceberg met icebreaker...

At the end of November 2004 the north end of B-15A (or B-15, or, well, the big one) was firmly grounded. Still there was concern expressed by researcher Doug MacAyeal in a detailed interview in the 28 November Antarctic Sun. At that time Doug felt the real problem would not arise until 2005. But that was then. In January B-15A started to move north quickly toward the ice tongue and rotate a bit counterclockwise. Doug's iceberg page includes daily visible and infrared photos with commentary...also Denver posts satellite images daily.

late to the ball

As the weather warmed up, outside work started up in earnest--one of the first projects was a large new radome to cover the SP MARISAT-GOES antenna (right, more photos). Meanwhile, 12 December saw the new Counting House successfully towed from its El Dorm location to the new site amidst the IceCube array. And later in the month the steel for A4 went up.

da planeThe last weekend in November 2004 brought two tragically linked anniversaries...the first being the 75th year after Byrd's historic flight over Pole on 28-29 November 1929; the second being the tragic crash of the New Zealand DC-10 into Mt. Erebus on 28 November 1979 (timeline link to photos/information). The latter event was commemorated with a 28 November visit to the crash site by NZ dignitaries, and a 29 November 2004 ceremony at Scott base which included Sir Edmund Hillary. Ed also spoke to a crowd of over 250 folks in Building 155. Earlier that week, Hillary had spoken out against the "road to Pole" traverse calling it "terrible" (BBC news article). The Air Force made the official Byrd commemorative flight to Pole a couple weeks early on the 17th (photo at left from Darryn Schneider); this event was featured in a major NSF news release and special report.

Speaking of the traverse, after negotiating some soft snow and crevasse fields at the south end of the Ross Ice Shelf, they quickly made it to the top of the Leverett Glacier the first week in January. At last report they'd gotten about 200 miles from Pole before turning around and heading back to McMurdo....(map and archived story).

iced fog?The first two LC-130 flights came in as planned on Friday, 22 October 2004 (at right, the opening flight, photo from Dana Hrubes). This was a day ahead of the original schedule, in -68°F weather. A third flight on Saturday brought the population up to 176! By 3 November 32 flights had been completed--probably a record. Unfortunately the cold weather had restricted cargo to single-pallet loads, which left out all of those IceCube drill camp modules. A total of 326 flights had been planned for the 2004-05 season, and things remained on schedule until early January when bad weather put things way behind. By the way, many of the early summer folks--old w/o's and new arrivals--suffered with severe flu-like illnesses for a bit...

Winter construction finished up ahead of schedule, with B1 (science) and B2 (berthing/emergency facilities) were virtually complete except for some flooring, furniture, and punch list items. The additional berthing (38 rooms in B1) is important as el dorm was gutted and moved for IceCube, and other Dome berthing in the annex and biomed is unavailable this winter. Summer activity also included the first phase of a new cryogenic facility to improve the winter storage of helium, as well as the massive crew and camp for the first phase of IceCube.

Remember all those Florida hurricanes? Pensacola was hard hit, and one of the casualties was Que Sera Sera, that VX-6 aircraft that was the first to land at Pole on 31 October 1956. The R4D, which was parked in back of the Naval Aviation Museum, lost a wing in the storm...Joe Hawkins has the damage documented with NOAA photos. As of July 2006 no repairs had been made. Here's some photos of Que Sera Sera in better days...

In addition to the webcam, the NOAA CMDL group has made significant upgrades to the main web site, including improved science links and some excellent photo galleries from the last few years, including those Jon Berry postcards. And elsewhere, the Canadian online comic strip "userfriendly" ventured to Pole featuring 2004 w/o's Sara Kaye, Henry Malmgren and Ethan's Sara's collection with links to all the strips.

In other national program news, Chile's 12-member Army/Navy/Air Force scientific traverse from PH to Pole (and back) arrived at Pole 1 December. They had been scheduled to depart for the return trip on the weekend. The project has support from 2 Chilean Air Force C-130's as well as ANI; the military set up a temporary support base at PH. Projects include deep ice coring and other climate/global warming studies. Support equipment includes a crane-equipped Swedish Berco TL-6 "snow cat" as well as a Twin Otter (MercoPress news article).

The Chinese national program successfully completed a traverse from their Zhongshan Station on the coast (69°S-76°E, about 60 miles southwest of Davis) to Argus Dome (81°S-77°E, also known as Dome A), which at an altitude of 13,250 feet (4,039m) (altitude according to the Chinese who made the first ascent) is the highest point on the icecap. The team arrived on 18 January (Explorersweb news article and a report by the Chinese delegation at the June 2005 Antarctic Treaty meeting (ATCM); but the trip was not without difficulty. Engineer Gai Junxian suffered chest pains from the extreme altitude (11 January Peoples Daily article), and was medevaced to Pole on 8 January by Twin Otter. Pole physician Christian Otto made the trip to Argus Dome along with South Dakota researcher Jihong Cole-Dai who acted as translator (NSF press release with photos and Chinese report from the ATCM); the patient had to stay a few days at Pole due to bad weather before he could be flown north to McM and Christchurch. The Chinese are considering a permanent station on the site by 2010 (China Daily news article); accordingly a delegation from the Chinese national program visited Pole on 2 February to have a look at the new elevated station. Meanwhile, the traverse returned to Zhongshan Station, arriving on 7 February (Peoples Daily article).

The Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM, 23 May-4 June 2004) in Cape Town resulted in plans for stricter rules on private travel, to include insurance and emergency contingency plans; some of the regulations were imposed for the 2004-05. Here's the treaty secretariat home page, and the meeting/final report page from which you can select the final reports for various meetings. This page includes links to the various meeting papers for all years. Also note this news story from South Africa.

After Adventure Networks' (ANI) sudden departure from the NGA travel business in 2003, things settled back in under the new ownership structure, and for 2004-05 ANI was again offering their full program including those $33,000 flights to Pole, trips to Mt. Vinson, and a variety of other stuff. Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions (ALE) is the arm of the organization operating in PA and on the ice. Meanwhile, Cerpolex/PolarCircle didn't announce anything new about the previously proposed recovery of the Antonov-3 aircraft (which they were not involved with), but they did announce a slate of offered ventures that didn't happen, including a 3-day drive to Pole in some updated 8x8 Snow Buggies.

One interesting specialty tour for 2004-05 was being offered by Travelquest featuring a visit to the Patuxent Range meteorite collection area as well as Pole. Didn't see them either...

The Norwegians are upgrading Troll Station for year-round operations, with a winter crew of 7, beginning in 2005 after a February dedication visit by Queen Sonja. There are future plans for a 10,000-foot blue ice runway.

touchdown2004-05 was the last season that C-141 aircraft were used for ChC-McM flights (USAF press release). Meanwhile, winfly (C-17 flights) happened successfully beginning on 20 August 2004--here are some pictures. Meanwhile, the late August 2004 weekends at Pole brought the art show, another band performance, twilight, lousy weather (but no records), some clowning   around, and running out of helium...

Tim Coffey, age 45, died on 28 July 2004 after a 70' fall from a radar tower he was working on near Nain, Labrador (on the north coast). Tim was the 1996 site manager; more recently he returned for work on the SPRESSO project. He's also been to Summit. Here's his obituary from the Concord, NH Monitor newspaper.

The cyberterrorism redux continues. A bit more commentary published on the Register on 19 August 2004...seems that the DASI servers got broken into two months before the much publicized May 2003 Romanian exploit. And the folks at Slashdot had fun with it. This all started with politics...the U. S. Justice Department issued a report revealing new details, outlined in a 14 July Newsweek online article. Hmmm. This web site will stay out of the political debate, but I wonder how much money those Romanians could have gotten for all that AMANDA data. Oh yes, the original FBI report and the news article by are still around.

 watch me!July 2004 was the coldest one on record--the average was -88.4°F/-66.9°C, beating the old record by more than half a degree F. This was the second coldest month ever, dipping below -100°F nine times (and the barometric pressure almost set a new record low as well). The coldest was -107.9°F/-77.7°C on the 21st (right). This provided ample opportunity for the 300 club, which had about 35 partakers (thanks to Kris and Dana for the data).

Jerry Marty was interviewed by Jeff Rubin for an article appearing in the June 2004 Polar Times. Jerry reaffirmed that the construction project remained on schedule and successful, including a head start on the last 2 wings. And additional funding and design tweaking means that the completed station will have not 110, not 150, but 154 beds! 2004-05 will see erection completion and enclosure of A4 and B4, and 2005 will probably be the last winter that people live in the dome. What of the dome? Representatives of the dome vendor and the Seabees will visit next season to evaluate the return of at least part of the dome for the Seabee museum. By the way, in addition to being the Antarctic editor of the Polar Times, Jeff Rubin is also the author of that Lonely Planet guidebook to Antarctica...

 drop in for dinnerMidwinters Day 2004 brought the traditional greeting and a group photo in the old station. Old station? Well, plans are still being discussed to bring a piece of the dome back, with perhaps even an ATCO building or two that we can use for reunion photos. Hmmm. Glen K has collected this page of invitations and greetings from around the continent. And the Antarctic Sun published its first midwinter edition which just so happens to feature our holiday message from 1977...

NSF has significantly enhanced and updated its home page and web site...for example, they've made a good collection of multimedia available on one page (but some of the items that were here earlier can no longer be found). The list includes content from all divisions of NSF; one item still here is this video on Antarctic logistics which includes mid-90s seismo vault footage and a balloon launch from the old BIT...

Things remained quiet and smooth before midwinters was smoothly on schedule, the temperature dipped below that magic -73.3°C for the first time...and Ronald Reagan's death in California brings a commemoration. Meanwhile, the food growth chamber (greenhouse) is starting to be green. Here's hoping, since it is one of the more visible bits of station construction, close to the store.

half mast? Thanks Kris Perry!On 16 May 2004, McMurdo was hit with the worst storm in perhaps 30 years. One example of the damage at the Chalet is seen at right. Since folks keep sending pictures and information I haven't seen elsewhere, I've added 2 pages of pictures and coverage.

Scientists from a Hamilton College-led team announced the discovery of a new undersea volcano just east of the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. Here's more information and links.

In early April 2004 there was a fast McMurdo medevac with multiple medical cases. This time the aircraft of choice was a USAF C-141 out of March Air Reserve Base. It arrived in Christchurch Friday 10 April in the morning (local time) and made the round trip to the Pegasus ice runway on Saturday. Weather conditions there were clear with a temperature of -13°F. The aircraft returned to ChCh at 1930 with 3 medical cases on board. The RNZAF had a C-130 on standby for backup. The three patients were given oxygen and IV's during the flight, and are now being treated in Christchurch hospitals, while the aircraft has returned to California. The most serious ailment involves stomach problems. Not many more details which is the norm of late, but it is interesting to note that two replacement w/o's went south on the aircraft. Here is the 8 April NSF press release. A 10 April 2004 article from the Age (Melbourne) has additional detail.

Why the medevac subject was brought up here...the Navy (which contracts for aviation technical services) has been soliciting proposals for new runway lights for such an eventuality at Pole. They must be quickly deployable and provide standard VFR conditions for a Twin Otter at -100°F. Hmmm, whatever happened to all those Coleman lanterns? And back in Greeley, Colorado, the British balloonist David Hempleman-Adams (who has previously walked to Pole) bagged the open balloon high altitude record at 42,000 feet on 23 March. Afterwards, after dealing with the FAA--seems he may not have had a proper US pilot license or flight plan, he said he was considering a flight over Antarctica (David then went out for beer, and the FAA later declined to press charges or penalties).

sastrugi riderPole is turning into a cultural center! The 2003 winter brought a major art show and Oktoberfest (check out Robert Schwarz's photo gallery!) and the 2003-04 summer saw the first annual film festival, with some serious works. Turns out that Tyler Regan's short "Surf's Up" got shown at the Arts Centre in ChCh. What's next, the opera? Tyler and Brad Halter, thanks for the poster!

The station closed on 15 February 2004 as planned. There had been 332 flights scheduled...and after the last flight departed there had been a record 329--essentially a successful flight season for a change, and a record (3 more flights than the previous record). Unlike 2003, the ship offload was timely, so fresh supplies (and beer) got delivered. The summer population averaged around 240. Now there are 75 w/o's...yet another record.

The bigdeadplace site has a detailed interview, by an unnamed Polie, with Jon Johanson, the Australian pilot who overflew Pole in December. Here are my details and pictures of his venture.

Ruth Siple, wife of the late Paul Siple (veteran of two Byrd expeditions and the first Pole SSL) died on 23 January in Virginia. Ruth was the long-time writer and editor of the Antarctican Society newsletters (more information and photo).

And Virginia Fiennes, wife of Ranulph who led the 1981 Transglobe Expedition visit to Pole, died in England. Virginia wintered with the team close to the coast near Sanae; she ran comms for the 3-man team that crossed the continent. In November 2003 Ranulph ran 7 marathons in 7 days on, er, 6+ continents (the scheduled Antarctic run was relocated to the Falklands due to bad weather). She was diagnosed with cancer the day after Ran returned from the marathon venture.

The strange aviation events didn't end for a few days after closing. Gus McLeod flew south again, landing at Marambio Sunday 15 February SP time. He then took off for Pole but turned around and landed after weight and icing problems. After waiting a few more days, he returned north on 19 February. Gus's web site now has the details and info on his flights north. On his first trip south he left Ushuaia on 7 February SP time for a round trip overflight of Pole. After some strong winds and icing problems he landed at Rothera...and then went back north. After trying unsuccessfully to go back to his original plan--a crossing of the continent with refueling stops at Marambio and McMurdo, he tried to do the round trip overflight of Pole, with a possible refueling stop at Marambio and return to Ushuaia. He had deleted formerly planned stops at Diego Garcia and Thule, which, like McMurdo, I can attest are hard to get landing permission for. Here's a CNN article about his start. Polly Vacher stated she wouldn't sell him fuel unless he had official landing rights at McMurdo. Gus first headed south from College Park, MD in December 2003. After engine repairs in Florida and more problems in Latin America, he continued south to Ushuaia. He, like Jon Johanson, has a kit-built aircraft, a modified Velocity with a canard wing design and a single push-prop.

Pole construction continued hot and heavy and on schedule to the end of the season. Wing B1, one of the back wings on the second pod, was topped out on 20 January (photo at left). This will house more berthing and the emergency power plant. And wing B3, the last wing in the main east-west "leading edge" was topped out in December. closing in on PoleThis will house admin, comms, and some science, as well as the main entrance since it is close to the taxiway. B1, B2, and B3 are scheduled for completion next summer. A design team was on site at the end of January to inspect A3, the new medical and computer facility, (which was officially open for occupancy on 29 January) as well as A1 and A2 which were occupied last March. Also this summer the freshie shack and weight room in the dome were demo' summer the old biomed building in the arch will go away. Here's the schedule map and lots of construction photos. Science-related work included the relocation of the AASTO module and telescope mount from the dark sector to the clean air sector near ARO for a new project to search for extrasolar planet. Oh yes, the webcam got moved too and is back online. Planning and cargo shipments for ICECUBE, the "super-AMANDA" happened. And another neat science project was Tumbleweed, that set loose a 2m "beach ball" with prototype instrumentation inside; it was propelled by the wind for 40 miles (project web site and NSF press release). And someone stole the 2003 Pole marker...

The "Polar First" helicopter that visited Pole on Wednesday 12/17/03 (Pole photos and more info here) crashed 120 miles north of PH at 1400 Pole time (0100Z) Saturday 20 December. Both crew members were injured, they were flown back to PH by ALE and were flown on to Punta Arenas later the same day, where they are now recuperating. Here's their current web site. June 2004 update...Jennifer and Colin flew to the RAF base in Kinloss, Scotland to meet the rescue coordinators Antarctic Connection story).

Other Antarctic transportation news from December: One Korean was killed when Zodiacs capsized in bad weather on Sunday 7 December 2003. The first boat with three men capsized while returning to base (King Sejong station near the south east end of King George Island) after seeing colleagues off at the Marsh runway. The three made it to a nearby island in their own vessel and were rescued by a Chilean helicopter. But a second boatload of 5 rescuers also overturned, and one of them died. The other four swam to shore and made it to a temporary shelter hut, where they were rescued by a Russian patrol. Here's a Korean English language news article. At Rothera, Polly Vacher, departed for Marambio on the 19th and flew on to Ushuaia the next day. She had to turn her Piper Dakota around earlier this month due to excessive headwinds on the way to McMurdo. She cancelled her transpolar flight and continued to NZ via the US. She arrived in Auckland around 30 January 2004. She let Jon Johanson use some of her fuel cached at Scott Base.

The LC-130 that collapsed a nose ski on 5 December 2003 while taking off from a Ford Range (77°14'S. 142°24'W) field site was repaired and flown back to town on 12/14. They had just left a fuel cache for a climatology field party. The aircraft in Christchurch from which repair parts have been borrowed has also been repaired. And a helo suffered a "hard landing" near the Beardmore. NSF press release.

The 2003 USAP traverses: the science traverse that left Pole Thanksgiving weekend made it to AGO4 and Taylor Valley as planned. This was a continuation of the multiyear ITASE traverse which started at Byrd in November 1999.

Meanwhile, the Pole "proof of concept" venture ran into heavy soft snow and very slow going. They turned around on 16 January, 430 miles from the starting point, short of the planned destination at the Leverett Glacier. They made it back to McMurdo on 24 January.

The trekkers...first Ilyushin flight to PH took some of them in on 11/30...the first tourist flight showed up at Pole dropping off some trekkers heading north. Adventure Networks (ANI)'s Antarctic operations have been sold to the new PH operator. What did this mean for the tourists, trekkers, and charity events that showed up at Pole? Actually, things worked well.

October 2003 opening flights were almost on schedule...the first two LC-130's showed up on the afternoon of Saturday 10/25, after a day's weather delay. Meanwhile, 4 Twin Otters had arrived the previous day on their way to McMurdo for summer support of field camps. This year a total of seven Twin Otters transited Pole on their way to support USAP field projects as well as Italian/French operations at Concordia (Dome C). And there were 332 LC-130 flights scheduled for Pole--329 actually made it!

The big iceberg B-15 north of Ross Island has broken in two...but as of midwinter the pieces just seem to be sitting there. Have a look for yourself from the best source--the Raytheon directory of iceberg satellite images which is updated at least once a week. Other news and details are available from the NOAA ice center press release. Also see this 2003-2004 Powerpoint presentation by Shelley Knuth, Douglas MacAyeal et al from the AMRC site at U. Wisconsin.

The medevac was successful...after leaving Pole Sunday 9/21, 51-year-old Barry McCue, came forward to tell his story after successful gall bladder surgery 9/25. The full story is here, with pictures.

The first 2003 McMurdo winfly flight for 2003-04 was delayed for one day by bad weather at McMurdo but finally took place on Thursday 8/21 when the C17 Globemaster piloted by Lieutenant Paul Groven of the 62nd Airlift Wing transported 137 passengers and 33,000 lbs of cargo to McMurdo and safely returned. Two C-17's and four C-141's participated. Main body flights followed on 9/30.

The 2003 ozone hole was one of the biggest ever (9/12 Reuters article). Here are links to more historical and current data that you ever might want, thanks to folks like Andy Clarke and Loreen Lock.

The winter was a quiet one--perhaps too quiet, as a series of hack attacks silenced internet communications for a bit. As a result the official Pole web site may remain unavailable. Meanwhile, the residents of the elevated station continued to deal with new-home quirks and glitches such as freezer problems (the wine in the freshie shack froze and the food in the new galley freezer won't).

Midwinters Day 2003 was a success as it must be. Fortunately this one fell over a weekend, allowing for the max in festivities. These included mini-soccer, a luau, radio darts with other stations, and a Hash House Harriers run in, around, and under the station. Of course there were midwinters greetings shared around the continent, here is the one from Pole, with thanks to Joy Culbertson and Karina Leppik!

Ulp...2002 was another year of significant medical news. At least this time it wasn't life threatening...but on 7/5/02 Dr. Tim Pollard performed surgery to repair meteorologist Dar Gibson's knee tendon. The event featured the latest version of "telemedicine" or assistance from up north via radio, phone and satellite. Here is NSF's press release with Jon Berry's photos, and here is the geek version from IT guy Henry Malmgren as seen on Slashdot!

The station closed on schedule on 15 February 1427 local time the last flight left, leaving behind 58 folks to face the winter in an utterly new environment. There were 293 flights out of an originally scheduled 350 (later revised to a planned 323). The construction efforts focused on the punchlist for the first phase of the elevated station. The summer plan was to achieve conditional occupancy of A1 and A2, but fire system problems uncovered just before station closing caused a "slight" delay (including lots of hard work, plus the callback of the fire system reps who were awaiting a McM-ChC flight). Fortunately, the problem was resolved, and the next event occurred on 4 March as official occupancy was declared. The first night in the new station rooms, scheduled to be occupied by about 40 of the wo's, was 5 March. About the same time, the galley equipment and supplies were moved/unpacked/cleaned and readied for the first meal upstairs. where's the juice machine?? Cookie Jon presided over the "Last Supper" in the galley in the dome on 6 March... After breakfast and lunch the in the old galley the next day, the first meal (sandwiches) happened in the new galley (right). Work continued, the "official" first meal in the new galley, beef Wellington, was served up on 15 March. What of the old galley? For the short term, the dome bar is still open...and some of the gym equipment from summer camp has been moved into the old galley. Sooner or later the structure will be demo'd, that is part of the tight construction and shipping schedule. Meanwhile the structural for the first level of B3, last in linethe next pod, has been erected. The plans were to complete erection and enclosure, but some of the steel was damaged and has to be replaced. So it will be enclosed until next season, meanwhile foundation work on B1 was done instead (left, these 2 photos from Jerry Marty). The last issue of the Antarctic Sun for the season contained a major feature article on the new station.

From McMurdo...despite the presence of 2 icebreakers, the tanker MV Richard G Matthiesen wasn't able to reach the wharf; instead offloaded via hoses strung across the ice (NSF press release)...something that has been required more than once in the past. This evolution delayed the closing flights from McMurdo (originally scheduled for 2/22) until 10 March, when the last 50 folks left McMurdo via a RNZAF C-130 aircraft. Meanwhile, the American Tern cargo ship arrived with difficulty about midnight 2/9, and departed with much more difficulty with help from the crippled Polar Sea on 2/17. NSF called in a second icebreaker (the Healy, which arrived 2/7) (NSF press release) after the Polar Sea broke one of its three screws in late January. And near Lake Fryxell in the Dry Valleys, one of the PHI Bell 212 helos crashed (NSF press release) with the two occupants injured. They were medevaced to ChCh in stable condition.

The Russians are coming!! Somewhere, but not Pole. Despite this December 2002 Pravda article, the expeditioners from Russia (the International Mountaineering Club) planned multiple climbs in Dronning Maud Land. They brought two "snow bugs" (those 6-wheel vehicles that came to Pole a couple years ago) but apparently no balloons or parachutes. While the climbers did do their thing, both of the snow bugs broke down requiring an air evacuation by the Russians at Novolazarevskaya. Meanwhile, that Russian Antonov-3 that showed up last year will not be recovered for now....

The ITASE traverse arrived and completed all of their objectives, despite having to return to Byrd for wider tracks on one of their tractors and a better fuel sled borrowed from the Kiwis. They even did a mini-traverse towards the Pole of Inaccessability before parking their equipment on the berm for a future continuation in 2 years.

Earlier in the summer the jacking operations were completed. going upThe new station got a lift, as it were. Last year it became quite obvious that there was major and unplanned differential settlement between the elevated structure and the beer can (and other buried parts of the station). The station design includes provisions for jacking up the columns to level the structure as well as to raise it above drifts--it just hadn't been planned for this early in the life of the place. on the bottom. At left you see the columns exposed to facilitate the jacking operations (caption/credit). About half of the columns were jacked, and future plans and budgets have been adjusted to provide for some leveling every year. More details are in this 8 December 2002 Antarctic Sun article. Meanwhile, borings were taken and extensive measurements the future additional spread footings will be installed under the columns starting with new pod B3. At right is a view of the A3 foundation installed last season (credit and larger view).

an ear to the skyScience construction included more work on the SPRESSO seismo vault which was started last season; this is 5 miles south of the dome near the old Pomerantz Land site. It is now taking data. And a new 5-mile antenna for the Stanford VLF project has been erected.

The MARISAT antenna platform got a major upgrade to support comms through the GOES satellite. It may get get a radome next season to reduce ice buildup (left) (January 2002 NSF photo by Nicolas Powell), seems that icing has degraded its performance. Other science projects included a new VLF antenna for Stanford to transmit towards Palmer, and the start of a new solar observatory.

Flying kites!!! Teacher Eric Muhs spent early December at Pole working with the AMANDA and SPASE projects. This is part of the Rice "Teachers Experiencing Antarctica" project. He updated a diary daily on their site, as well as posting lots of panoramas and multimedia stuff around the station. He flew kites with w/o's Robert Swartz and Steffen Richter around the station, and sent live presentations back to his classrooms. Check it all out starting with his TEA (Rice University/Armada) page.

1977 and frequent Polie Brad Halter spent the first part of the summer at Pole, and finished the season at Dome C (Concordia, the joint French and Italian station in Antarctica) making validation measurements for the NASA Atmospheric Infrared Sounder on the Aqua satellite. Dome C is a happening place, this past year major construction continued on the future year-round station, and the Australians got their AASTINO research module up and running (this is the diary archive of the AASTINO setup).

Originally the first 3 flights of the 2002-03 season were scheduled for 10/23, but after several false starts due to weather, and an emergency landing, the first two flights didn't arrive until Saturday 10/26. There were three medevacs on the opening flights. One of them was RPSC science tech Deborah (DJ) Williams, who twisted her knee on some loose ice back in March. The injury has gotten worse, recently she's been having traction treatments as well as consultations (via all the state-of-the-art medical/teleconferencing equipment now on station) with doctors at Duke University.

Climate change on the Peninsula...the first week in April 2002 saw a major NSF-sponsored conference on this topic at Hamilton College in upstate New York. The meeting was planned many months before the recent iceberg incidents including the recent collapse of the Larsen B on the east side of the Peninsula. Here is the NSF press release. The workshop web site features abstracts from the presentations as well as streaming audio archives of the keynote speeches. The expedition web site used to include journal entries from their 2001-02 expedition, but they have been removed.

The last flights of the 2001-02 season happened on 15 and 16 February...taking the remaining summer folks out and bringing in...steel beams for next summer (while leaving the mail and beer behind). The station summer season wound down after successful "topping out" and exterior closure of the next two sections of the new elevated station, A3 and B2, which will house science and medical facilities. Flight and cargo delays, as well as differential settlement problems, prevented the planned completion and winter occupancy of the new berthing and galley facilities which were first enclosed a year ago, so the winter population is 51, with some folks living in the suburbs of summer camp. What's happening right now?? The NOAA CMDL webcam gives excellent views of the new station, but [in 2002] you couldn't see much after dark. Here is the AASTO webcam [which was decommissioned in December 2005]. And for someplace a bit more brightly lit, NASA set up the first McMurdo webcam on a site...long since replaced by the USAP McMurdo webcam.

The South Pole Marathon (archived page), sponsored by ANI, finally happened on 21 January after weather and scheduling delays, with 5 runners completing half, full, or ultramarathon courses. It was won by Richard Donovan from Ireland, but second place finisher Dean Karnazes of San Francisco is complaining. He gave up his snowshoes and did the race in running shoes. Now the FBI and the State Department are involved. Richard hasn't gotten the promised prize money, and Dean is threatening a lawsuit. The details are here from Sports Illustrated. The 70South News has Richard's personal account of the race and the aftermath. This was only the beginning...on 5 April Richard ran a marathon at the North Pole...all alone, in two segments, in atrocious conditions...-76°F wind chill and 40 mph winds. A new one for the record books, 2 first Polar marathons in 3 months. More details on Richard's efforts to do ultramarathons on all continents this year are on his (archived) web site. But Richard was NOT the first person to finish a marathon at Pole. Station doctor Chuck Huss did the 26.2 miles on Boston Marathon day, 20 April 1981...more info and training photo here.

On 8 January a small Russian AN-3 single-engined biplane arrived crammed with 14 folks including the vice-president of the Russian Duma (state parliament). Because he and other DV's were aboard, NSF granted them official status...and fuel...and later, bed space in the library and gym after their aircraft refused to start. Eventually after 2 days the DVs were flown out to McM/NZ on an LC-130, while the tourists with lesser status were picked up and taken to Patriot Hills by ANI. The aircraft was towed away to be parked for the winter, perhaps to be repaired next season. Scott Smith has photos and the story on Steven McLachlan's site.

Meanwhile the construction work paused briefly during the week of 6 January to allow the installation of the official Time Capsule in one of the foundation beams. I have the exclusive story and photos from Katy Jensen. The event was witnessed by a DV group of congressional staffers, who also got to stay overnight because of bad weather (fortunately some new and comfy library couches had just been received). However, it seems that some of the time capsule contents were delayed in the mail...the capsule was quietly opened a week later to add some stuff sent from Washington, then the grade beam was welded up on 11 January. Meanwhile there was a fire, hoped by all to be the only "real" one of the season. A welder's sparks ignited some wood in the carpenter shop, resulting in 8' flames, fortunately put out with a dry chemical extinguisher. A good test of the fire teams. Oh yes, the temperature actually got up to +5°F, only 1 degree short of the 1978 record.

Antarctic guide Doug Stoup returned to Pole in December, where he discussed last season's discovery of a 1937 Hershey "Ration Bar" with Katy Jensen. Did he really find it at Pole as was so widely reported by the media? Exclusive story here!

I was interviewed by Kristan Hutchison of the Antarctic Sun for a special feature which appeared in the 25 November 2001 issue, on the past and future of the Dome. Therefore I've further updated the pages on building the dome. It's been known for awhile that the Dome will not be part of the new station. It must be removed from the continent in accordance with the Madrid Protocol. The exact method of removal was announced in December 2000--Chain Saws! Past efforts to save it and rebuild it in the US did not elicit the funding required for a more delicate demolition. Anyway, here is that excellent web site by 2001 w/o Jeff Kietzmann...a whimsical look at the past and future of this landmark structure. More recently, here is a commentary from the Antarctican news site.

The station opened on 24 October 2001 with 348 scheduled flights, but the schedule slipped as it does every year. Lots of flights need to be used to bring in fuel, as the place can go through 6000 gallons per week nowadays. Movement of cargo to Pole improved because the Pegasus runway was readied for all-season use by wheeled C-130's, and an additional Air Force squadron from Little Rock, Arkansas was brought in to move cargo from ChCh to McM. During the early summer the new and old power plants were the subject of a massive gremlin hunt after a number of outages. The new plant was down for a fair percentage of the time early in the summer before a successful repair/redesign effort.

"Frozen Under:" National Geographic has major coverage on the Antarctic in the December 2001 issue. In addition to this feature on life in Antarctica (this site includes a few more of those 360° panoramas from Pole and elswhere) there is a second article covering the visit to the Ross Sea icebergs in 2000-01. For the full story and pictures you'll need to consult the hard copy, if it never made it to your mailbox, check it out in at the library, well worth it!

NSF's construction plans for the 2001-02 season included construction of the new seismic facility (SPRESSO) 5 miles from the dome...the next stage in quiet seismo vaults....close to the old Pomerantz Land site. Here's the NSF press release on the 2001-02 science, and the USA Today version.

From Washington...a Congressional conference report suggests that $15 million will be appropriated for preliminary costs of the Ice Cube project, the 1 cubic km next version of the AMANDA neutron detector. This is a $250 million, 8-year project. And NSF's overall budget for 202 was increased by Congress by 8.4% to $4,789 million. This includes $300 million for "polar research and operations support," of which the "U.S. Antarctic Logistical Support" budget was increased 9.3% to $68.1 million.

Science special...the 2001 w/o's completed a research project to reconfirm that the Earth does indeed rotate on its axis. A Foucault pendulum was installed in the future elevator shaft of the beer can. Yes, it did indeed change its plane of swing as the Earth rotated. The 33m stair tower offered a much better place to do this than the 16m dome where we tried the same thing in 1977. Here are details from physicist R. Allan Baker...

On 28 September 2001 a major fire destroyed the biolab at Rothera, the large British Antarctic station at the southern end of Adelaide Island off the Antarctic Peninsula. The Bonner Laboratory was a new building completed in 1996-97...fortunately the alarms sounded early and there were no injuries to the 21 w/o's. However, weather conditions prevented fighting the fire. Details and photos from this BBC News article. The lab has since been rebuilt.

On 12 September 2001 the w/o's learned of the tragedy unfolding in New York and Washington...and Jeff Kietzmann and Dave McDonald went up on the dome to put the flag at half staff. Here is the picture and story from manager Jerry Macala, and here is how USA Today covered it. (The flag was returned to full staff on Sunday, 26 September.)

Palmer w/o painter Thomas Leipart died on 5 September from head injuries after a 1 September fall down the stairs aboard the R/V Lawrence Gould. He hod just arrived in PA after a crossing from Palmer. Thomas' wife Cindy from Arizona flew down to be with him before his death. He had planned to w/o next year at McMurdo.

The NOAA folks at Pole have updated their CMDL home page with live links to ozone data, as well as tours of ARO and the station, historical information, and photos. Well worth a look.

Pole MEDEVAC...Dr. Ron Shemenski, after suffering from a bout of pancreatitis, was successfully medevaced in a twin otter aircraft which arrived from Rothera at noon 25 April 2001 (Pole time) with OAE replacement doctor Betty Carlisle on board. Ron headed north the next day. The full story with photos and links is featured HERE. Oh yes, the aircraft was also carrying about 100 lbs of table seems that this vital commodity had already run short.

The McMurdo medevac (NSF press release) also happened successfully in April 2001, carrying out a total of 11 Raytheon employees. Two folks had serious medical problems which prompted the medevac--a heart condition and a possible concussion; two other less-serious medical cases also were given the advantage of the flight; seven other folks also left McM for other reasons, perhaps relating to family problems at home. Or perhaps, er, other reasons, as discussed in this 28 April NZ Herald news story. The C-130 from the RNZAF headed south Tuesday at 0525 Tuesday 24 April +12/NZ and McM time (1325 Monday EDT) after a 24-hour weather delay. It landed at Pegasus, spent about an hour on deck, and returned to ChCh at 2030. Here is a press statement from Karl Erb, NSF Polar Programs director.

Enough cargo made it to Pole during the 2000-01 summer season to support the interior buildout of the first phase of the new elevated station, which was successfully enclosed and heated. And the lights stayed on all winter. Read about the other milestones--the startup of the new power plant and the successful testing of the new earth station...(plus links to more background stuff) in the 24 January NSF press release. 2000-01 summer construction pictures of the elevated station are here thanks to Steven McLachlan and the folks at Pole.

The new MARISAT/GOES 9-meter antenna, which promised to double the broadband access time, was successfully tested on 18 January 2001, but there were major "feed" and cold weather problems which required troubleshooting through much of the 2001 winter.

Antarctica continues to break up! The iceberg C-19 is splitting up, per this May 2003 UW SSEC article and photo. The icebergs continued to cause shipping problems into McMurdo Sound in January 2003, although a sudden shift (along with the presence of 2 Coast Guard icebreakers) allowed some of the late summer cruise ships to approach Ross Island. The best continually updated file of Ross Ice Shelf photos, well annotated, is in this directory on the Raytheon server in Denver, where you can see the bergs nuzzling against the east side of Ross Island. They ultimately required a second icebreaker to help with the 2002-03 shipping season (Antarctican news article). In 2002 a hunk of the Lazarev Ice Shelf (69.4°S 15.9°E) broke off into the southeastern Weddell Sea and became D-17 (6 x 20 miles). Also in May 2002, 2 more chunks of the Ross Ice Shelf broke noted in these NOAA/NATICE press releases on C-18 (41 x 4 nautical miles) photographed on 6 May, and C-19 (108 x 17 nautical miles, a bit bigger than Delaware) photographed on 11 May. In the C-18 photo you can see the beginning of the C-19 crack. Here is an NSF press release on the Ross Sea icebergs...Charles Stearns, the AWS guy from the University of Wisconsin (UWis), notes that the recent bergs take the Ross Ice Shelf back to the approximate size it was in 1911. Other photos and animations are found at the AMRC site from UWis, the automated weather station folks...YES, there are AWS's on the icebergs! During late 2001 at McMurdo, NSF thought that the two large Ross Sea icebergs may soon break each other up due to repeated collisions. Here's the press release. NSF used a second icebreaker to get the channel to McMurdo clear for the cargo and fuel shipments, but the clearing operation was successful. The icebergs B15A and C16 are north of Ross Island; this plus the weather conditions have produced much heavier sea ice than usual and they are blocking the flow of winds and currents that would normally help the ice go away. Here is additional late November 2001 news coverage from USA Today and the Antarctic Sun.

Ventures to the new icebergs...In late January 2001, scientists from the U. of Chicago and U. of Wisconsin traveled via the US Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Sea to visit iceberg B-15A, a 90 x 20 mile piece of the icebergs. Here is the remnant of a slide show by Antarctic Sun senior editor Josh Landis, who got to go. The Ice Island expedition went to study B-15 and its neighbors "above, below, and within." The venture was partially sponsored by National Geographic; it had two missions--research and filmmaking. Steven Mclachlan has a page of photos of the expedition vessel "Braveheart" before they left Lyttleton on 17 January. Unfortunately heavy pack ice kept them from getting close to any of the large bergs. Here are some early November 2000 NSF photos by Josh Landis, who got to fly over them on one of the LC-130 exploratory missions. The icebergs might actually endanger the shipping lanes to McMurdo, Charles Stearns advised at the American Polar Society meeting in Boulder. The natural movement for the Ross Sea icebergs is towards the west; if present trends continue they could block the shipping channel along the west side of Ross Island.

Stearns' Antarctic met data center (AMRC) at the University of Wisconsin continues to track and monitor the various bergs in the Ross Sea and elswhere. The newest, B-20 (renamed C-16), 30 x 11 miles, broke loose from the Ross Ice Shelf in late September 2000 and is north of Ross Island. The largest in the Ross Sea, named B-15 (170 x 25 miles) broke in half, 200 miles east of McMurdo in mid-March 2000. There are others, including one 80 x 12 miles just east of B-15, which has broken into several pieces, one of which has already made it to Cape Adare. Meanwhile there are icebergs which calved off the Ronne Ice Shelf (east of the Antarctic Peninsula) in early May 2000. The AMRC iceberg page is frequently updated with new pictures, video and information. The NOAA National Ice Center also covers these bergs. Events such as these have been the plot basis for more than one fiction thriller over the years. These were first noticed on 17 March 2000 in McM where Andy Archer, Matt Thompson and the other met folks studied these photos as well as the Terascan images, many of which appeared on the AMRC web site.

00-01 station construction pictures are here thanks to Steven McLachlan and the folks at Pole. The weather was rough on the flight schedule to deliver construction materials, but the full complement of winter construction folks were on hand to work on the interior of the first phase of the elevated structure.

More stories about 2000-01 construction plans...a Christian Science Monitor article, and several NSF press releases...the summer construction (with photos), as well as the overall plans for the 2000-01 season and the science around the rest of the continent. And here are my details about the construction project.

Radio days...National Public Radio reporter Richard Harris spent a day at Pole in 2000-01, and his report on T-shirt weather there aired on 11 December 2000. Check out the audio archive and listen along here, new stories continued to air through April.

Rodney Marks left Pole on one of the first flights, his body was returned to Australia for autopsy and burial. Here is a page of information, memorial links and tributes...

Rodney was the astronomer operating the AST/RO telescope, and he died from unknown natural causes on 12 May, after experiencing breathing difficulties while walking back to the dome from the dark sector. This was the third USAP death at South Pole Station, and the first during the winter. During the winter the w/o's decided to have their own funeral ceremony for him. They constructed an elaborate oak casket, and on 3 July the group gathered to load it onto a Nansen sled and transport it to a grave site. Rodney was laid to rest for the remainder of the winter, under the stars in the Australian sector about 15 feet from the Pole.

The first main body flight arrived at McMurdo on 3 October 2000. This picture from Chuck Kimball documents what it looked like from a window in Building 159.

Ozone...Pole NOAA data is online here. The surface Dobson ozone measurements have been collected since 1961; since these observations can't be taken in darkness, ozonesonde balloons have been launched weekly since 1986. Here is another "view" of the ozone hole from NASA with links to satellite data. The ozone hole was originally discovered in 1985 by Joe Farman of BAS; here is the BAS ozone page with links to additional data.

Polar Symposium in Boulder: The American Polar Society held this biennial event on 4-6 October 2000...themes included data collection, communications, and the environment. Speakers included the weather guru Charles Stearns, senior NOAA scientist Susan Solomon, IGY veteran John Behrendt, and former East Base resident Jackie Ronne. Of course, the meeting was also a BIG Antarctican reunion party. Here is the web site for the society. This organization was founded during the time of Byrd's second expedition, and has been disseminating news and information about the Antarctic and Arctic ever since.

Pole Souls Boulder 2000 reunion... Yes, we're proud to say that ALL of our 1977 winterover team gathered in Boulder, CO, the weekend before Midwinters Day. We shared stories, jokes, music, photos, videos, beer, good food, fun, and...some quiet time together. Yes, here is the photo documentation!

Raytheon Polar Services Company... (RPSC) assumed the US Antarctic Program support contract as of 1 April. Their websites (now long gone of course) were and Here is my archive list of news about the contract award and the ongoing legal challenge to the Raytheon award. On 29 February ASA filed an appeal...

After a highly successful science and construction season, Pole "closed" on 14 February 2000 with an all-time high winter population of 50 (about the average summer population back in 76-77). Cargo flights continued until the last flight at about 2300 on the 16th.

Bicycling at Pole... this CARA-sponsored project (archive) spent the last week in January 2000 testing out fat-tire bicycles...

McMurdo fatality...John Biesiada, a Canadian contractor employee for SPAWAR (the Navy satcom/air traffic control folks) died early Saturday 8 January. Cause unknown pending an autopsy. After a Sunday memorial service in the chapel, the body was flown to ChCh the next day, and the autopsy results are here (Antarctic Sun article).

Fox News covered a private geology expedition "Antarctica 2000" which included former astronauts Jim Lovell and Owen Garriott. During January they traveled via Patriot Hills to the Thiel Mountains, Pole and back. They found meteorites, and they got to sleep...on the floor of the gym. Their archive stuff and photos are gone, but Steven McLachlan had this archived page with lots of photos of the team, their aircraft, and the station.

Sir Vivian Fuchs, leader of the 1956-58 Commonwealth Transantarctic Expedition (yes, he showed up at Pole to meet Sir Edmund Hillary in January 1958) died in Cambridge, UK on 11 November 1999 at the age of 91. Here's an obituary from SPRI.

Coverage of the various 99-00 NGA visits to Pole...
The skydivers/Russian "MIL" expedition
are covered on this separate page...
M&G ISA Challenge (Women's South Pole 2000)
5 British women led by Caroline Hamilton, some of whom went to the North Pole in 1997 They left Hercules Inlet on 23 November and arrived at Pole at 1900 24 January.
Mike and Fiona Thornwill
along with Katharine Hartley from the UK, arrived from Hercules Inlet on 5 January. (Here's Fiona's newer site.)
Antarctica 2000
was a large Singapore venture that included a Vinson climbing team as well as a ski traverse to Pole from Union Glacier. The four-man Pole team was led by Swee Chiow Khoo and co-leader Robert Goh, along with Yau-Choon Ang and David Lim. They started on 4 November and arrived on New Years Eve (31 December). They were resupplied by ANI's Basler 67 aircraft, which was in use for the first time in Antarctica.
Peter Treseder and Tim Jarvis
"Operation Chillout," two Australians tried to cross from Berkner Island (78°S 45°W) to McM. They started on 31 October and reached Pole on 16 December, and cancelled the second half of the trip due to leaky fuel containers (their web site is gone; this link is from AAD).
Laurence de la Ferriere (8 December story from the AAD)
left Pole on 23 November heading southwest to Dumont d'Urville via Dome Charlie, er, Concordia alone on skis. She arrived at that French station on 30 December and continued north with help from the French, arriving at Dumont d'Urville on 6 February. The full story is on the AAD site. She finally arrived at Dumont d'Urville on 6 February. Before she left Pole she was interviewed by Dr. Robert Thompson (letter #3). Earlier, she was the first French woman to ski to Pole alone, arriving in January 1997.

PBS Millennium coverage...the New Year's feature listing and a picture of Brad Halter with the Pole survey marker...both were featured in the live coverage.

Raytheon support contract award information
  • On 2/29 ASA "docketed" (filed) an appeal to the Claims court decision in the with the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Not much was made public, and this dragged on for awhile...but with little or no significant impact on the US Antarctic Program.
  • The contract award was upheld on 1/28 in a sealed ruling by the Federal Claims court, and the phase-in proceeded. The ruling might have eventually been released if all of the parties involved agreed how to redact (censor) it, but I never found it.
  • 30 January Sun article announcing the resolution of the court case
  • 21 November brief Antarctic Sun article by ASA discussing the restraining order
  • 29 October Raytheon contract award press release
  • 30 October Denver Post article
  • 31 October Antarctic Sun article
  • 28 October summary of NSF contract award announcement heard in Denver
  • 1 November CBD announcement, the official way the Government did it

The first of the three "real" opening flights arrived at Pole at about 1215 South Pole time (+13) Monday 25 October 1999 (1815 CDT Sunday). The weather was -48°C/-55°F, winds about 10 knots.

Dr. Jerri Nielsen

For better or worse, the October 1999 events focused more media attention on Pole than the place has seen for many years--perhaps since 1929 when Admiral Byrd was wearing his sweater 1500' above where it is today.

Later July 2001 ABC News reported that Jerri Nielsen would return to Antarctica with her family during the 01-02 summer as a physician on a cruise ship. Here's the story, with more details of her experience as a Polie. More recently there was news of a lawsuit by her former husband. Her book "Ice Bound: A Doctor's Incredible Battle for Survival at the South Pole" came out in hardcover, CD and tape versions on 18 January 2001 and hit the best-seller list. She was featured with fellow w/o's on an ABC Primetime, which first aired on 25 January 2001.

Now that Dan Rather and Jerry Bowen have turned the CBS eye away from the dome, I've moved the stuff here. I'm not sure how long the current stories and videos will still be available.

For some reason CBS considered this story "National News," ABC considered it "World News," CNN called it "Asia/Pacific," and the USA Today stuff is "Weather." Go figure.

In February 2000 came the annnouncement about her book deal

Selected NSF individual official press releases and statements

[sorry, as of September 2005 NSF started rearranging them, as of June 2009 many still are unavailable]

15 October Mission successful, Jerri's in McMurdo (Rita Colwell)

13 October Planes arrive in McMurdo

9 October Planes in ChCh

7 October official photo of Dr. Jerri at the ceremonial pole earlier in the winter

5 October Time to send in the Hercs (Karl Erb)

13 July Statement on Behalf of Patient

13 July Update on South Pole Medical Air Drop

13 July Briefing on South Pole Emergency by NSF director Rita Colwell

11 July airdrop is successful.

17 June Press Statement by Dr. Karl Erb on the medical status of South Pole personnel

Background news with photos, links to other news releases and and information on the 11 July airdrop

CBS News...
10 October
Aircraft in ChCh, waiting to head to McMurdo
6 October
LC-130s leave New York State for the ice
11 July
Airdrop is successful
The main CBS national news site
...unfortunately most of the Jerry Bowen stories are gone...

USA Today
Antarctic index with good links to more current news
Summary coverage from Jack Williams...although most of the old news links are broken

11 October with links to earlier coverage

Other Pole media coverage from previous seasons...

USA Today
Jack Williams spent 3 days at Pole in January 1999, here's the index to his Antarctic diary, some of the links still work. Here is their main South Pole page, unfortunately the photos in the photo gallery are no longer visible.
Outside Magazine
spent time in September 1997 at a Colorado retreat with members of the '98 w/o crew, including Dave Pernic, Gumby Carlson and his wife Mary. Okay, where is that bloody axe when we need it?

1998-99 ventures:
Eric Phillips
with Jon Muir and Peter Hillary, planned a return trip from Scott Base/McMurdo to Pole pioneering a route up the Shackleton Glacier. They departed on 4 November with 419 lb pulks (seen here being weighed at Scott Base) and reached Pole on 27 January (seen here at the dome entrance). Eric has called this "the slowest ever South Pole expedition" and due to the late arrival they aborted the return trip (photos from Eric Philips). Their experience is well documented in Eric's book Icetrek, the Bitter Journey to the South Pole.

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