Station and Ceremonial Pole, December 2008
[photo by Nick Powell, Antarctic Photo Library]


Just out today...a new draft Master Plan for South Pole Station. Lots of history, general alternatives and discussion, but no specific plans for the next (?) station. They're looking for comments within the next 30 days. Here's the link for access. I must note that that page title and the URL referring to the "Arctic Research Policy Committee Draft Arctic Research Plan" is inaccurate, but the actual referenced document is the correct one. Thanks to McM winter site manager Erin Heard for the heads-up!

Way too much bad news about USAP has come out in the past week or I'll start with something positive: a couple of great Antarctica podcasts out there. First, there's a brand new one out there, "Antarctica Did That For Me" hosted by Keri Nelson and Cassa Grant, who have a total of 9 seasons on the ice, at all 3 stations. Very upbeat...episodes released in the past month include discussions of the recent solar eclipse visible in the US, Taylor Swift, "Antarctica Sucks,"...well, you get the idea. Laurence M. Gould last departure from Palmer StationAnother one is "Everything Antarctica" hosted by Kiwis Matty Jordan and Jonny Harrison, who have a combined total of 3 winters. Unlike the "Antarctica Did That..." podcast, their episodes are not accessible from their website, but recent episodes include a glaciologist interview, "A Day in the Life," and a Q&A session. Both podcasts are available from Apple Podcasts and other podcast apps.

And now...more of the strange and bad news that has come out in the past week. NSF reminded everyone on 29 April that the Laurence M. Gould would be going off charter on 16 July 2024 due to shifting science priorities and budget constraints. At left, a 11 April photo by Rachel Cook of the last departure of the vessel from Palmer Station.

The draft RFP for the forthcoming Antarctic Support contract, promised by the end of March, still has not been issued. The contract expires on 31 March 2025, it's way too late for a new contract to be awarded and effective by then, and as said previously, the current contractor Leidos has said they will not accept an extension.

But...while checking regularly to see if the RFP is out yet...something else came to RFI looking for a provider of "Transport Aircraft in support of NSF." The ski-equipped C-130s are getting old, and NSF is increasingly frustrated by their frequent maintenance issues and delays. And it's not just the NYANG...remember that the closure of McMurdo this year was delayed over a month by a broken USAF C-17. That RFI on its face would seem to be seeking a contractor to show up and provide a fleet of ski-equipped transport aircraft (think like the McM helicopter support contract). Everyone knows better of course. But who knows...some of the older LC-130s are owned by NSF. And someone suggested ALE which of course operates the tourist camp and Pole. They bring large wheeled transports into Union Glacier (some of which have been Russian operated) but do not presently have large ski-equipped transports.

Yet another dismal report...this in an 8 May article by William Muntean II published by the Center for Strategic & International Studies. The title says it all: "U.S. Operational Retreat from Antarctica." I'll summarize it with that ancient WABC New York radio ad tagline I remember: "Money talks, nobody walks." Or flies or....does science.

Speaking of science at Pole, a major project cancellation was announced: CMB-S4--which would have put various types of telescopes/detectors at Pole and the Atacama Desert in Chile to study cosmic microwave background radiation. The project would have been international involving many institutions. Here is the project website...and the 9 May Science magazine article "NSF halts South Pole megaproject to probe infant cosmos' growth spurt" which you should be able to access.

new berthing building at McM as of April 2024

Other older news from NSF...more clarification on the results of budget cuts. No new Antarctic research projects will be funded. What WASN'T news from NSF...the draft RFP for the new support contract that was supposed to be released by the end of March...wasn't.

Otherwise at was suspended this past season for the IT&C building which is still a year away from completion...and more recently work was also suspended for the new VEOC (aka new garage/VMF) in order to concentrate on the new lack of bed space has hindered science and support work at McMurdo. At right, a 12 April photo of the new dorm from Michael Christiansen...looks like it needs a couple more seasons to finish.

Enough bad's my coverage of winterover statistics updated for 2024!

Oh...I've updated my coverage of previous Pole trekkings/skiing/ballooning/skydiving back to 1995, as well as info on who might be showing up to the tourist camp next summer here.

It's dark at Pole...there was a successful sunset dinner. Things at McMurdo have been more interesting...the "end of summer" for some folks got postponed for over a month due to the usual suspects--the weather, and a broken airplane. The C-17 that was supposed to come down in March...didn't. And got broke. And mechanics that got sent down to fix it had...their baggage not show up in Christchurch. Eventually the RNZAF got called into service...for a medevac! Its wheeled C-130 showed up at the Phoenix Airfield on Monday 15 addition to the medevaced person and medical support, 12 members of the New Zealand Defence Force and a few of the summer McM folks were flown north. The Herc made another trip later that week to bring more people north...and the C-17 finally showed up on 20 April to bring the rest of the summerovers home.

Well, I WAS going to New Zealand in mid-January, but a case of pneumonia made me cancel that. Meanwhile, yes, Pole closed on 2 March--the latest closing date ever, leaving behind 41 souls for the winter.

Other stuff still to be caught up on here...but breaking, the Coast Guard is planning to buy an icebreaker from a unit of Edison Chouest Offshore--yes, the folks who operate the Gould and the Palmer. Details!

2024 Pole markerYes...there is a new Pole marker (left), created last winter by Cal Neske and unveiled on New Years Day! Details!

Ocean Gladiator and Polar StarAt 1527 on 21 January the Polar Star was escorting the cargo vessel Ocean Gladiator toward the ice pier, as seen in the webcam photo at right.Some older shipping news...on 4 January the Polar Star was visible from McMurdo doing its crunching thing! Meanwhile, the cargo vessel Ocean Gladiator was in Port Hueneme from 14-23 December local time before heading south. It showed up briefly in Lyttelton on 12 January, scheduled to head south later that same day, it should arrive at McMurdo around the 19th. And the research vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer is scheduled to spend a few days at McMurdo at the end of February.

the last ice pier?
Oh, where will these vessels dock? Why, the brand new ice pier, of course (left, Michael Christiansen photo). This may well be the last ice season the mobile pontoon causeway is scheduled...and in 2026 we may see the first use of the new permanent barge pier. The contract to fabricate it was awarded to Gunderson Marine LLC in September for $43.5 million. They are located in NW Portland, OR along the Willamette River, and the barge is to be built in Portland. The contractor is responsible for towing it to McMurdo nominally between January and March 2026. It is intended to remain permanently in the water.

Meanwhile, the nongovernmental ventures continued to plug away...or quit. They had to reach Pole by about 18 January per ALE...and their season is over. Updates!.

3 January 2024...Happy New Year! Blame bluegrass shows and festivals for the lack of updates, but they're done for a bit...until I fly to Christchurch (tourist only) on the 14th. Yes, the new Pole marker, fabricated by Cal Neske, was unveiled on New Years Day, I'll get to that with photos in a day or two. Meanwhile...there have been LOTS of nongovernmental ventures...finally tracked all of them down (I think) and my update is here. Several surprises, including a sudden late entry by Colin O'Brady, who showed up at Union Glacier on the 23rd, set out only to stumble into a crevasse after only 4 miles. Polar Star ice libertyHe clambered out, started again a few days later, only to quickly call it quits. Other travelers...the first South Pole Traverse got back to McMurdo on the 29th. And...a "Heavy Science Traverse" arrived on 24 addition to science cargo for the IceCube Upgrade and other projects, it also brought almost 45,000 gallons of fuel. And a more long-distance traveler...the tanker Acadia Trader left the Long Beach area on Christmas Day and is scheduled to visit Pago Pago, American Samoa, on the 9th. Never heard of the Acadia Trader? Well, it HAS been to McM before when it was known as the Maersk Peary. Apparently the former owner MSC decided it was getting too old, so it is now being operated by Maersk. Another long-distance traveler, the Polar Star, is now breaking ice north of Ross Island. Before New Years they stopped for a bit of ice liberty (photo at right by PA3 Graves from their Facebook page.

As for the Antarctic support contract rebid...on 18 December an announcement was made, including an updated schedule and links to reading material...the draft Request for Procurement should be issued by the end of March 2024.

17's been awhile so there is lots of news! First...the shipping news. The Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star left Seattle on 15 November heading for the ice (16 November Coast Guard News release). It stopped in Honolulu for several days over Thanksgiving, departing on the 27th...crossed the Equator and the Date Line on 4 December, spent several days in Sydney on the 12th, and then headed for Hobart. As for the cargo vessel Ocean Gladiator, it was in Ensenada a week ago, next stop Port Hueneme. The NY Air National Guard got a bit of a late start, but as of 9 December there had been 9 LC-130 flights...and the first Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions (ALE) Basler carrying tourists also showed up that week.

South Pole Traverse arrivalVisitors...the first South Pole Traverse (SPoT) arrived on 13 December. As you can see in the photo at left as well as in this one (from ASC) they brought much more than fuel. And a DV group including members of the National Science Board visited on 6 December. Earlier, a team from Arctic Trucks showed up on 2 December with some of their 6x6 Toyota trucksArctic Trucks Hiluxes at Pole (photo at right by Sheryl Seagraves)--they will be supporting seismic work by a Stonybrook team led by Weisen Shen. They'll be installing broadband seismic instruments on the plateau surrounding the Pole. More info...the USAP Science Summary page and a July 2023 TBR Newsmedia article. And, Arctic Trucks is also supporting this private electric vehicle trip from Union Glacier to Pole this season. Earlier, members of the Congressional Appropriations Committee showed up for a brief visit just before Thanksgiving.

The ozone hole this year is described as "modest" in this 20 November Colorado Sun article which features an interview with scientist Stephen Montzka of the NOAA Global Monitoring Lab in Boulder, CO.

As for contracts...the helicopter contract award got announced on 1 November to Pathfinder Aviation, based at Merrill Field in Anchorage. It's a series of one-year extendable contract periods. The outgoing contractor Air Center Helicopters did NOT take all of their helicopters home yet, contrary to what I'd heard. But, still no word on bidding for the next Antarctic support contract as of 16 December.

31 October (happy Halloween!)...Pole winter is over! The first Kenn Borek mobilization flight stopped on 24 October on the way from Rothera to McMurdo...bringing freshies from Punta Arenas of course...and the first official summer flight showed up on the 28th! It brought more than a dozen new folks, and a few of the winterovers headed north. Although there's at least one C-130 in Christchurch, I hear they won't show up at Pole until mid-November.

Freshies from Punta Arenas
Freshies from Punta Arenas (photo from Zeke Mills).
the first Basler from McMurdo
The first Basler from McMurdo (sitrep photo by Luke Haberkern).

14 October...the first mobilization flight may pass through Pole around the 19th, with the official opening flight around the 26th. Speaking of aircraft, McMurdo's first main body flight happened on 7 October, but as the Airbus full of toasty winterovers rolled for take off for Christchurch, it aborted. Mechanical issues. Everyone got off and went back to town. The aircraft and the winterovers got to head north 2 days later.

The dire NSF warnings of budget cuts and subsequent science project cancellations/delays discussed below have translated into terminations for 24 Antarctic Support Contract employees on 6 October.

It's the end of September, the sun has been sighted at Pole after some stormy days, and the first main body flight to McMurdo is scheduled for 8 October. U.S. government shutdown update: With less than an hour to go, a 45-day temporary funding bill was passed and signed into law on 30 September. Several previous shutdowns have impacted the U.S. Antarctic program...most seriously in October 2013 when many researchers and employees were sent home from McMurdo and many projects were cancelled. More recently the program and the ASC contractor has put money aside to fund program activities for a time after a shutdown begins. And on 25 September NSF issued a "...Plan for Operations During a Lapse in Appropriations" which briefly addresses the Antarctic and Arctic programs...perhaps this plan will still be necessary in mid-November.

NSF's "Morale Program Initiatives" announcement (in other words, ending drink sales at McMurdo and rationing store purchases at all stations) was discussed here when it came out in early August, but at the end of September it hit the news wires. Here's an archived 27 September 2023 item from ABC News which details the issues and quotes NSF as saying the changes involving alcohol are related to morale and welfare and were not aimed at preventing sexual harassment or assault.

As for the support contract rebid...something was supposed to be announced in September...but instead of a request for proposals, a Request for Information was issued on 28 seems that the program is still seeking outside input (including from small business) on the type and form of the next contract, as they have been for awhile. The RFI does include a brief draft statement of work.

Off the Antarctic coast, it's been reported that the Southern Ocean's sea ice coverage this past winter reached a record low since things have been measured, per this 25 September Washington Post article (which is not paywalled). The article is based on this 25 September report issued by the NSIDC in Boulder, Colorado.Katie and Neil

Some sad news to OAES...Neil Randall Conant, who worked Pole comms for many years, died on 18 September in West Virginia at the age of 86 (link to obituary pages). He was first hired by the program to work at Siple Station. I remember him well from my time at Pole in the late 80s. At right is a photo (from Jerry Marty) of Neil with Katie Hess during the 2005-06 season when Neil was involved in moving comms from the dome to the elevated station. And That Is All.

This 14 September Science article titled "Antarctic Meltdown" (and subtitled "U.S. cancels or curtails half of its Antarctic research projects") describes...just that. The funding cuts were hinted at during the July "Antarctic Science, Infrastructure, and Logistics Office Hours" webinar I witnessed, but this article spells out all of the sad details. The issues of course, program recovery from COVID, and the lack of McMurdo housing as the 203 dormitory has been demolished and the new housing being erected in its place.

Signs of spring, the Pole window covers were removed on 31 August, and plans are underway for the sunrise dinner scheduled for Saturday, 23 September.

In late August NSF hosted a charrette (participatory design planning process) to provide a forum for science and other Pole folks to give input for preparation of a South Pole master plan. It consisted of four 6-hour sessions in late August--I lurked on Zoom. One purpose was to introduce members of Stanley Consultants, the firm tasked with preparing the plan, to the issues and details of Pole science and operations. I'm hoping that some sort of final report on the sessions will be issued.

DSCS satellite downlink equipmentCommunications is really big news at the moment One thing that came out of the charrette discussions was the fact that some new DoD communications equipment, a Ground Multiband Terminal (GMT) (left, NSF photo) has been shipped on loan to Christchurch which will enable Pole use of a second DSCS satellite. This will give Pole 4 additional hours of DSCS internet connectivity...installation is expected to be completed by November 2023. Perhaps because of this pending upgrade, service from the Skynet satellite ended on 31 August. The SKYNET-4C satellite was the station's slowest internet connection, which provided push notices and email notifications that one couldn't open up. As a tribute, the Polies played the movie Terminator on loop all day in the galley.

And another bit of strange news...despite the fancy new earth station at McMurdo, other options are still being considered by NSF...there is a proposal out there to run a submarine cable to McM from either NZ or Australia. At present they're just doing a market study to see if there is a consultant who can work on this potential project...details here. I'm reminded that 20 years ago NSF was considering running a cable from Pole north to somewhere where they could set up a remote earth station that could see geosynchronous satellites. Wonder how long that would have stayed up...seriously, they should have run that cable to Concordia!

As for Winfly, it finally started on 26 August, more than 2 weeks late! And after the cold weather that had postponed it, more recently there's been some Condition 1 instead.

Winfly is happening...the C-17 is in Christchurch flights yet AFAIK on 22 August. A week late due to weather as usual, but this time not because of storms but because of's been below -40 (ºF/ºC)!

solar glow on the horizonThe beginning of the end of winter at Pole is "astronomical twilight" which happens when the Sun rises to 18º below the horizon (National Weather Service definitions of twilight types). This began on 2 August...and there is a faint glow on the horizon in the direction of the Sun (right, Zeke Mills photo). But...most of the relevant Antarctic news these days comes from...the Washington DC area. On 4 August NSF announced what they called "Morale Program Initiatives" for the upcoming season. Essentially...the McMurdo clubs will no longer sell alcohol but turn into "bring your own" places. The Chalet will be one such space...and one space will be designated alcohol-free. And alcohol purchases in the store will be rationed...three beer six-packs, three bottles of wine, or one bottle of hard liquor per week. Earlier on 26 July I witnessed an NSF online presentation "Antarctic Science, Infrastructure, and Logistics Office Hours" which among other things sought to explain why Antarctic science was "booked up" as had been described here. COVID was to blame for causing a backlog as well as reducing McMurdo dorm space...50 beds (essentially one McM dorm) must be kept empty to allow for isolation. And as the 203 dorms are no more and the replacement berthing building isn't done yet.... While not explicitly mentioned as an issue, funding is also involved as the presentation did present preliminary budget numbers for the upcoming fiscal year. I did not copy all of the presentation slides, but what I did save can be found here. Things that came up during the Q&A session included mention that the McMurdo helicopter contractor Air Center Helicopters Inc. (ACHI) would be leaving in December with no planned replacement. Someone must have said "oops" because there now is a request for proposals out there, bids were due on 7 August. Also...when the presenters were asked "what about the Antarctic support contract rebid," the response was simply "check Well, it turns out there IS something there under the weird title "Instrument-Type Determination Antarctic Support Contract Follow-on" which I hadn't looked at as I assumed it had something to do with procuring instruments. you can see, it simply states that "a FAR-based procurement" (meaning, a traditional bid process) will happen with further announcements before the 30 September end of the fiscal year.barge pier plan

Several other relevant items appear on the site...including procurement of additional scaffolding material for the NOAA met tower at Pole, as well as procurement of a floating pier barge to be used at McMurdo in lieu of the ice pier or pontoon causeway system. Bids on that are due on 6 September. At right is the general arrangement plan of the 328' x 100' barge; additional details are on these PDF drawings selected from the many in the bid package. Also of interest...this 1 August article which indicates that the floating pier is to be delivered in February 2026.

Speaking of things that float...on 9 August Bollinger announced that they'd cut the first steel for what will be the first of the Coast Guard's new heavy icebreakers aka Polar Security Cutters...the future USCGC Polar Sentinel (PSC-1) per this U.S. Naval Institute article...which notes that the vessel design is based on that of the yet-to-be built German icebreaker Polarstern II...thanks to Russell Rapp for this article. Meanwhile, this 31 July Maritime Executive article reports that there have been unreliable schedule and cost estimates for the new icebreakers, in part due to significant design issues. Note that the construction of this vessel was originally awarded to VT Halter, but this Pascagoula, MS shipyard was sold to Bollinger in 2021.

Pole midwinter greeting cardThe winter solstice officially happened on 22 June 2023 at 0258 (21 June at 1458 UTC). Of course this prompted the midwinters greeting exchange (left) as well as an amazing dinner which happened on Saturday the 24th...deets!

A sad note regarding...the implosion of the submersible Titan on 18 seems that one of five passengers was Hamish Harding, who'd been involved with the development of White Desert and the Wolf's Fang runway...had accompanied Buzz Aldrin on a fateful NGO visit to Pole in December 2016 (Aldrin was medevaced), and also was the chief pilot on a record-setting business jet transpolar world circumnavigation in July 2019.

On 12 June 2023 NSF announced their COVID-19 management plan for the 2023-24 season...briefly, this involves testing before deployment, masking and some isolation for 5 days before leaving McMurdo for field camps, for 5 days after arrival at Pole, or if tested positive at any of the stations. Also, NGO group tours will be permitted at all 3 stations provided that tour group members have tested negative within 72 hours, and all tour members as well as their guide must wear masks. The full details are outlined on this NSF page and detailed in the linked detailed management plan document (PDF). Also issued on 12 June, this 2023 Update on Science Support and Infrastructure in Antarctica--brief summary: the stations and research vessels are pretty well booked up.

Artemis 2 crewOn 3 April 2023, NASA and the Canadian Space Agency announced the four astronauts who will venture AROUND THE MOON on the Artemis II mission, which may happen as early as November 2024 (3 April 2023 NASA press release and source of the photo at left) . The crew includes...Christina Hammock Koch, whom I wintered with at Pole in 2005 (she also spent time at Palmer). More details...

Sunset has happened at least "officially" as the March equinox happened at 1024 on Tuesday 21 March (BTW Pole and NZ are still on daylight saving time/UTC+13 until 2 April). Needless to say there will may still be sun sightings in the next days due to atmospheric refraction. And there was a Sunset Dinner on Saturday the 25th.

Polar Star in Arthur HarborA bit further north (well, in the Washington DC area) it seems that the powers that be are considering purchase of a floating pier barge for use at McMurdo. 328 x 100 feet, ice strengthened, depth 18 feet with an 8 foot draft. one of these you want to sell? IMHO a heavy ice year would do away with it. Anyway...the details.

After the ship offload evolutions at McMurdo were completed, Polar Star transited to Palmer Station, arriving in early March. This was its first visit to Palmer since 1988! Here's the 10 March article...the photo at right from the article, Polar Star in Arthur Harbor, is by Marissa Goerke.

SPIDER recovery teamUpdates...I've added additional information and an obituary link regarding Johan Booth, who passed away in June 2022. And I have detailed coverage of the SPIDER LDB project...including recovery operations staged out of Pole (photo at left).

Ship offload update...a second cruise ship has passed briefly by McMurdo...this was the Heritage Adventurer which actually made TWO brief passes by McMurdo. The more recent visit was around 1800 18 February for a medevac. A C-17 stayed overnight at McM to pick up the patient. Link to that portion of my ship offload coverage.

Cruise ship outside of Winter Quarters BayThe station closed on 15 February when both the last flight an the last traverse, which had arrived on the 12th, departed. There are 43 souls at Pole for the winter. Meanwhile, the ship offload is continuing at McMurdo...the last cargo ship Ocean Gladiator arrived on the 17th. There have been SIX vessels (19 February update...SEVEN vessels--see above) visible in the McMurdo webcam--the 3 cargo vessels, Polar Star, the Nathaniel B. Palmer, and...the cruise ship National Geographic Endurance (right) which did not dock. My continuing coverage is here. Oh...and there is a bit of conflicting info about the ice pier...this 12 February Marine Executive article indicates that the "ice pier was damaged and unusable" or perhaps that cargo loads were too heavy for the Bailey bridge used to access the ice pier. Perhaps the latter really means that the loading of the Bailey bridge would be too heavy for the abutment on the ice pier to support it. In any case, after the shipping operations were completed, Polar Star towed the ice pier away out to sea.

Signs of the end of summer...Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions (ALE) closed up their Union Glacier camp on 31 January...after earlier shutting down the tourist camp at Pole. Who showed up at that tourist camp (other than by airplane) final coverage of the 2022-23 venture season.

the Laurence M. GouldSeems there is LOTS of vessel news out there in addition to the McMurdo ship offload that is now underway. NSF has announced that the Laurence M. Gould charter expires in June of 2024. They are considering other research options including a charter extension, per this 2 February press release. Also of note and not mentioned in this press release (but we know)...given the Gould's unusual hull configuration (aargh, those sponsons) it is difficult for the vessel to dock and unload at the new Palmer pier. At left, an undated photo by Marissa Goerke of the vessel, which looks like it was taken this season at Palmer Station.

NuniyaAnd the Australian program has had major issues as well. Their brand new supply vessel Nuyina, which made two trips to the ice in 2021-22, will be unavailable this year due to major mechanical issues, per this 31 January ABC News (Australia) article. So the program has had to charter replacement vessels. At least they say "the vessel remains under warranty..." ?? The vessel name means "southern lights" in a reconstructed Tasmanian aboriginal language. At right, an undated photo of the vessel from the article, by Peter Harmsen of the AAD.

And speaking of the Australian program, its director Kim Ellis has resigned (30 January), with little explanation...although this ABC News (Australia) article refers to a "cultural review" which revealed accusations of sexual harassment. He'd been in the position since February 2019...earlier he'd spent 24 years in the Australian Army between 1973 and 1997, during which he'd spent time in Antarctica.

McMurdo vessel update...the most important thing to note is that there is now a pier webcam at this site...updated every few seconds with archives from the past 24 hours. As of 26 January McM time, the first cargo vessel Ocean Giant had docked at the ice pier, which has been moved away from the ship offload site. Components of the pontoon causeway were offloaded and assembled...and ship offload is now well detailed coverage is here. the Nathaniel B. Palmer at McMurdo

The Nathaniel B. Palmer showed up at McMurdo briefly for 3 days on 15 January as seen in the photo at left by Peter Neff, which also shows the icebreaker Polar Star in the background. What's of interest here is...that ice pier. It's unsuitable for ship offload as it isn't thick enough and has a crack, but it was okay for light docking use such as happened here. It left on the 18th for a long science cruise, the next scheduled port is Lyttelton on 28 February.

start of the South Pole Marathon I must first note that the first nongovernmental folks have reached Pole by land, and my most recent updates are, of course, on the Nongovernmental Ventures page. Other recent news from Pole is...the South Pole Marathon that happened on Sunday 8 January. At right is a grab from George Wortley's video of the start. Mostly runners but a few skiers...there were 7 full marathon finishers, 5 in the half marathon, plus others in the 5K and 10K, the winning time was 4:51:40. Here's a bit more documentation from George...the -46.3ºF is the wind chill, the air temperature was in the -20s F.

Alas, COVID has not been fully absent from Pole...or McMurdo. To try and stop the spread, there are isolation and masking protocols in place at both stations.

front of the South Pole markerback of the South Pole markerThe traditional event on 1 January was, of course, the unveiling of the new Pole marker. My coverage of the marker is here...note that it wasn't finally finished until late January...including the late addition of a quote from Sir Edmund Hillary. One side of the marker (left) features a sundial, and the other side features the 44 constellations that are visible in the Pole night sky...oh yes, there were 44 winterovers in 2022. Earlier events...the traditional Race Around the World was held on Christmas morning after the big Christmas dinner on the 24th. The traverses: SPoT1 arrived on 8 December and left on the 17th, while SPoT2 arrived on 30 December and probably has headed north by now... and SPoT3 is headed south.

Other news...the Polar Star showed up in McMurdo on 3 January 2023. It had left Seattle on 16 November. It next spent almost 6 days at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam between 24 and 30 November where Thanksgiving was celebrated. It then continued on to a Royal Australian Navy fuel pier at Chowder Bay (near downtown Sydney) where it received fuel and supplies on 14 December (15 December Coast Guard News article). Next stop: Hobart, where it spent nearly 4 days between 17-21 December (23 December Coast Guard news release) and (27 December gCaptain article). Despite the fact that there wasn't any ice around a few months ago, there is some now. Polar Star first encountered pack ice on Christmas Day, and here is a Coast Guard/dvids video showing the icebreaker transiting through pack ice on Boxing Day. Polar Star in front of the Royal Society RangeAt right is an early photo of Polar Star's arrival Ocean Giant at Port Huenemein McMurdo Sound on 3 January by glaciologist Peter Neff, who is on the ice for the COLDEX project. And while last year there were two supply vessels--a cargo vessel and a tanker--there were 2 US cargo vessels showing up this year, bringing the usual stuff plus materials for the McMurdo construction as well as that pontoon causeway that will be needed again this year. The first of these vessels...McM veteran Ocean Giant (which is carrying the pontoon causeway) left Port Hueneme on 15 December and spent 6 hours in Lyttelton on 10 January, although 2 days later it was still moored just outside of the harbor. The second cargo vessel Ocean Gladiator was still at Port Hueneme as of 12 carried mostly materials for the McMurdo redevelopment project, per this 30 December news article from dvids. The 15 December photo at left from that dvids article shows Ocean Giant in the background just before its the foreground on those flat racks are what looks to be scaffolding material. And there were OTHER vessels as well...the Nathaniel B. Palmer stopped by briefly before the cargo vessels arrived, Happy Delta brought supplies and construction material for the Scott Base redevelopment from New Zealand, and two cruise ships showed up briefly although they did not dock (a passenger from one of these was medevaced to Christchurch. My coverage.

On 18 November NSF issued a revised Coronavirus Update...significant details: no new cases in the previous 4 days, and a total of 29 currently active cases. All cases but one have been mild. The details from NSF:

parcel of fruitIn other news, the U.S. Air Force conducted a practice C-17 airdrop on 10 November...dropping ONE 154 lb. box containing apples, oranges, and onions (right, photo by Anthony Barge)(!)

15 November...over the past weekend NSF sent out this Coronavirus Update by email...of note is that all but 1 has been mild. In other news, at least one LC-130 flight with passengers has traveled from McM to Pole, and the first South Pole Traverse (SPoT 1) left McM on about the 13th!

6 November 2022 update...COVID-19!! More than 70 cases in McMurdo. On 4 November NSF issued this "Response to Covid cases..." which is the first time as far as I know that this situation was made public. The first case was confirmed on 24 September. Some responses...all flights between McMurdo and Pole have been suspended, interaction between Scott Base and McMurdo has been stopped except for necessary work, with the New Zealanders wearing N95 masks. As I mentioned here earlier, this year the deployment process was mostly back to pre-pandemic operation (no quarantine isolation, commercial flights etc.). Here is an interesting 4 November NBC News article which includes comments from program participants. And on 5 November NSF announced a minimum 2-week suspension of all flights between Christchurch and McMurdo except for essential health and safety reasons. They also recommended(!?) KN95 masks.

Art Brown in Christchurch, January 2014

5 November...Art Brown passed away on 4 November US time at the age of 87. For ITT Antarctic Services in the 1980s he was the Continental Systems Manager (McMurdo, Pole, Siple Stations), later into this century he served as the NSF manager in the Christchurch office. Earlier, he worked for ITT and other contractors at DEW Line and BMEWS sites in Greenland and Alaska. I first met him in Thule in 1978 when he was the ITT BMEWS Site 1 manager there, and I was hired as the facility engineer. the early 60s he worked as a technician at the DEW Line site at Oliktok Point, Alaska, which is very close to the present Prudhoe Bay oilfield. Of course this was before oil was discovered there in 1967. Hopefully I'll have more obituary or memorial information available soon.

And note...hopefully unaffected by the COVID mess, a number of new nongovernmental Pole ventures have been announced or updated. My coverage is here, remember that this is the only website that has continuously provided coverage since the last century.

first passenger plane to Pole4 November...the summer season is happening! The first passenger Basler flight from McMurdo showed up on 28 October...earlier in that week the winter isolation was broken when the Basler and a Twin Otter passed through from Rothera to McMurdo. This flight brought in 14 new folks!

North Pole-South Pole phone callEarlier, on 6 October 2022, SP time...there was the third of those phone calls to Pole from...the North Pole. This time the folks on the north end were aboard the Coast Guard cutter Healy which was doing serious science!. And for the second time, there were Polie winterovers on both ends of the call! Details....

In early September, NSF released a report (report PDF) indicating that the US Antarctic Program is rife with sexual harassment and assault. This report was covered in depth in two Science magazine (AAAS) articles. The first of these, published on 2 September 2022, is titled "Sexual harassment plagues Antarctic Research", while the second, published on 14 September and titled "Sexual harassment ignored by U.S. Antarctic research program, employees say" quotes some people you might know. And on 3 October the National Science Board (NSB) issued this Statement on Sexual Harassment and Misconduct in U.S. Antarctic Program which includes additional information links.

The New York Air National Guard (NYANG) started sending the first of five ski Hercs south from Schenectady on 19 October 2022...the folks in Denver are still looking to fill a bunch of summer and winterover positions...check out my updated Antarctic jobs info page.... And it looks like there will be a huge crowd of nongovernmental travelers to Pole this summer--have a look at my updated list!

And I must this year the deployment process is mostly back to pre-pandemic operation (commercial flights etc.)...there still are COVID tests required here and there, and folks have tested positive in McMurdo...oops.


Some older items of interest (other old news is in the archive):

WIRED magazine has a feature article on Jerry Marty, Carlton Walker, and the station construction in the July 2002 issue. Read about the settlement problems...why the place wasn't considered fit for occupancy for the 2002 winter.

no way southPole land cargo traverses in the October 2002 NSF flew a specially equipped D8 from Christchurch to McMurdo aboard a C17...this equipment was be used to prepare a road south towards the Leverett Glacier, eventually hopefully to Pole. This is to augment the LC-130 flights for station construction cargo as well as for ICE CUBE and forthcoming science projects. More information...

Another new science 2002 a 10-meter submillimeter telescope (up from 8 meters!) that will search for new galaxy clusters and study dark energy. Plans were to attach it to the DSL (dark sector lab) University of Chicago press release. It was originally scheduled to have a ground shield that is larger than the Dome (built by Temcor, the same company that built the dome...). The telescope was completed in 2006-07, and the huge ground shield was eventually cancelled.

On 8/13/02 NSF had a meeting with potential contractors and suppliers for a possible fiber optic cable to Dome C. Yes, you read that right (news article). Since Pole is way below the horizon for the commercial geosynchronous satellites, one option is to run a cable about 1050 miles to the newly constructed French/Italian Concordia Station at Dome C. (This station is scheduled for full-time occupancy next winter.) The project calls for several years of studies and trials, with the actual stuff involving traverses to get the cable to Pole and Dome C as well as along the route.

Back in mid March 2002 two other iceberg events happened. First, there was another piece of the Thwaites Ice Tongue (75°S-108°W) about 2100 square miles (Guardian article and archived NOAA press release) which got designated B22. And then there was the collapse of another hunk of the Larsen ice shelf east of the Antarctic Peninsula. The Larsen Ice Shelf B disintegrated within the past couple of months, as evidenced by archived photos and animations from the NSIDC in Boulder, which also has links to other coverage. The BBC has an excellent article about both events.

The venerable New South Polar Times mailing list moved to a home on Yahoo, thanks to 2001 w/o science tech Andrea Grant. There have been no posts in the past few years, but the archived posts are here.

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) had a major feature on the Pole construction in their December 2000 magazine, including articles by Frank Brier and Jerry Marty. That section is no longer online, although I did archive the original article by Dennis Berry and Forrest Braun (BBFM Engineers, Anchorage) which features the details of foundation design and the jacking systems.

Here is the link to my 1999 Doc Jerri medevac coverage. The spectacular April 2001 medevac flight to Pole is covered here. And my archive of other news, links to press releases, and older media coverage is here.

Other Antarctic news sites...

Explorersweb and its newer offshoot Pythom have been covering exploration news ever since the early 2000's. The sites were originally created by Tom and Tina Sjogren, the "Wearable" expedition folks that trekked to Pole in 2001-02. During the past year the sites have been present (July 2018) it appears that the site is covering primarily space and science news, while Explorers Web continues to cover climbing, water, and polar expeditions, although one needs to use the search bar to locate specific coverage. The Sjogrens are still involved with the site.

Brendon Grunewald's old 70 South news site later evolved into the Polar Conservation Organisation , but that site also seems to have disappeared.

The Antarctic Sun is extremely prolific of late. The editor through July 2015 was friend Peter Rejcek, a 2004 Polie winterover.. He's currently a traveling freelancer; some of his work can be found on singularityhub. The current editor, also a friend, is Michael Lucibella. Sun archives run back to 1996-97, the final year when the McMurdo newspaper was a Navy publication, the Antarctic Sun Times. Before then in the old days it went by other is that story.

 NZ Antarctic Philately pages by Steven McLachlan . The news page features many current events through 2006, including many pictures from the various private expeditions at Pole. He also has information on the 99-00 cruises of the Polar Duke south of NZ in support of German and Italian science projects, 98-99 construction of the new base at Dome C...

The Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) published biweekly newsletters on NGA (private) expeditions, cruises and tourist events. Unfortunately this was discontinued in May 2003, and the archives are no longer available. But they do feature a separate news page for the official Australian program.

The NSF Polar Programs (PLR) page contains links and a search engine. Most recent press releases are also here, scroll to the bottom.

The rest of the story... can now be read online or offline in the newsletter of the Antarctican Society. Highly recommended. Here is the latest contact info as well as the historical background about the group.

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Weather information...  has been moved to a separate page.

About the satellites...has also been moved to a separate page.

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The 2019 Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM XLII) was held in Prague, Czech Republic, between 1-11 July. Once again I saw absolutely NO American media coverage...but that was not the case in Australia. This is because the Chinese delegation proposed a "code of conduct" for their Kunlun Station at Dome the midst of Australia's claim. It was rejected, as was a 2014 effort to create an ASMA there. Here's the ABC News (Australia) article) about this, the discussion report about the Chinese request, China's proposed code of conduct text, and a map of the proposed area, which interestingly resembled the Pole ASMA in both size and nomenclature. Of course, Kunlun (unlike Pole) doesn't get any NGO visitors--skiers, trekkers, tourists, pilots, etc. I always look for a Russian report about the Lake Vostok drilling project, but there have been no reports in recent years, although Russia did propose the construction of new winterover station facilities. The 2020 meeting was to be held 25 May-4 June in Helsinki, Finland, but the COVID-19 pandemic caused it to be canceled. The 2021 meeting is still scheduled to be held in Paris on 14-24 June 2021, pandemic permitting. Here is the official Treaty home page. From there you can navigate to the final reports, or you can search the various meeting papers by selecting the "Meeting From/To" and/or the submitting nations/delegations.

Nowadays there are a number of commercial marathon/ultramarathon ventures in the Antarctic...most commonly sought out by people who want to complete a marathon on all seven continents. I've updated these listings in July 2022.

  • The oldest such event--the Antarctica Marathon--(archived page) is actually held on King George Island, just off the Antarctic Peninsula, and participants get there by ship from Buenos Aires. For 2023 this was actually a 2-week package event between 16 and 28 March, including several days in Buenos Aires and an Antarctic Peninsula cruise after the race, which happens on 22 March. The first such event was on 28 January 1995; the 2018 event happened on 16 and 17 March. There were 112 marathon finishers for two separate races depending on vessel arrival; the winner was Todd Lubas with a time of 3:07. The fastest woman was Wendi Campbell with a time of 3:58 (all results). There were also 83 half marathon participants including 2 DNFs. In 2019 it was scheduled for 17 and 18 March...there were actually two separate vessels bringing contestants from Ushuaia to KGI for two separate races on those dates. It is sold out for 2023 and 2024 although there is a waitlist. Each trip includes 3 days in Buenos Aires before the race as well other exploration of the eastern Antarctic Peninsula after the race. The course starts and ends at Bellingshausen Station (the Russian base) and passes several other bases. It is organized by Marathon Tours & Travel in Boston; event registration includes a cruise ship voyage from Ushuaia--the event is sold out for 2019 and 2020, although they are accepting waiting list entries. The entry fee is only $250, but the rest of the trip costs between $7990 and $10,490 per person double occupancy (ex Buenos Aires) (there are no single occupancy cabins).

  • At Union Glacier (UG), the eighteenth Antarctic Ice Marathon, will held on 13 December (UG time/UTC-3) 2022. In 2021 There were a total of 56 competitors in the various events, including the marathon, half marathon and 10k. The men's marathon winner was Grzegorz Boguna from Latvia with a time of 3:53:02, and the woman winner, Evua Reine from the Czech Republic, finished in 4:06:11. Richard Donovan, the race director, was the winner of the first such event, the only NGO marathon held at Pole, in January 2002). The 2022 marathon or half could be booked for a mere $19,500 ex PA. This event has been held annually at PH/UG annually beginning in January 2006...but there actually have been seventeen such events staged and/or supported by ANI/ALE--(skipping the 2020 pandemic year)--the first one was staged to finish at Pole on 21 January 2002...there were five finishers in that event, and no small amount of controversy (my coverage). The controversy resulted in a hiatus in what had been planned to be an annual event. In 2011, organizer Richard Donovan participated, with a 100 mile run in 24:35:02, and he completed the 100k in 2017 with a time of 21:05:34.

  • Another event, also on King George Island, is the ninth White Continent Marathon (with a half-marathon and 50k), which has happened in January between 2013 and 2020, with a pandemic hiatus. Sponsored by Minneapolis-based Marathon Adventures, it includes return flights between PA and KGI and a day of camping on KGI either before or after the race. For 2023, participants are to gather in PA by 28 January, with the KGI race tentatively scheduled for between 1 and 4 February, flight weather dependent. The event also includes participation in a Punta Arenas marathon. The price starts at $10,950 double occupancy ex PA, including 8 PA hotel nights, camping and meals in Antarctica, some meals in PA, and a Torres Del Paine tour. The 2020 events happened on 29 January--the marathon winners were Aleksandra Rzeszutko, age 41 (F) from Warsaw, Poland, with a time of 5:43:31; and Brendan Watkins, age 44 (M) from Redwood City, CA, with a time of 3:56:43. There were 44 marathon participants as well as 4 participants in the 50k and 9 in the half marathon (two of which were from Frei Base). For the inaugural of this event in 2013, the PA marathon turned out to be the day before the flight to KGI, and things got interesting on the ice--the race was on 27 February, or at least most of it. Because of deteriorating weather on KGI, the marathon was cut short after only 17 runners had finished because "the pilot wanted to leave" (archived blog post by participant and SERIOUS runner Joseph Coureur). After runners were given an opportunity to complete their remaining distance immediately after arriving back in PA, there were a total of 44 marathon finishers, including 9-year-old Nikolas Toocheck of Pennsylvania Runners World coverage). The winner was 31-year-old Steve Schaefer of Philadelphia (there were also 21 half-marathon finishers).

  • Another one out there is the "Last Desert" ship-based ultra; this is one of the 4 Deserts 250 km events. Their first event was the first "Gobi March" in 2003; the first "Last Desert" (Antarctica) event was in 2006 when 15 runners completed the first ever 100-mile (160 km) race on King George Island, Deception Island, and at Esperanza, the Argentine base located on Hope Bay at the north end of the Antarctic Peninsula. Since then the event has a total of 250 km at six different sites around the Peninsula, selected based on weather conditions. The Antarctic event happened again in 2007, 2008, and every other year since then except for 2020. In November 2016 the event had 61 participants. That year there were six planned stages in different locations--each is a loop of varying length that runners had to complete as many times as they could under the time limit (or until the stage was ended due to weather). Oh, all competitors have to carry all of their food, camping gear, etc. (except water) for the entire race. In past races, the winning rank was determined on how early one completes 250 km on the various stages. In 2018 The first stage was a 14km loop with 2 7km sections on King George Island on 26 November; stage 2 the next day was a 3 km circuit on Danco Island; Stage 3 the following day was a 1.5km loop at Paradise Bay on the continent; stage 4 was a 2.4 km course at Damoy Point at the Port Lockroy harbor on 29 November. The 5th stage which turnd out to be the last one was a 3.1 km loop at Mikkelsen Harbor on Trinity Island. In the last race in 2018, there were 51 participants and 49 finishers; the winner was Ho Chung Wong, age 31 from Hong Kong. More links--the official 2018 news before things started, and the blogs of some of the participants. Oh, one other thing...potential participants must have first completed two of the three other 4 Deserts events (the Atacama Crossing (Chile), the Gobi March (China/Mongolia), and the Sahara Race (Namibia) before being permitted/invited to participate in the Antarctic events. In the last race in 2018, there were 51 participants and 49 finishers; the winner was Ho Chung Wong, age 31 from Hong Kong who was the only one to achieve more than 250km. Ex Ushuaia cost for 2022 is $12,900.

  • A new promotion in 2015 was the Antarctic portion of the Triple 7 Quest--which actually promised seven marathons on seven continents in seven days (!). Needless to say, Mother Antarctica intervened...their flight to the KGI marathon site on 14 February boomeranged 20 minutes before landing, and the participants didn't make it there until the 16th...the race was the next day. I haven't seen any results, but one of the participants, Kim Pursley of northern Maryland, was featured in this Baltimore Sun article. In 2017 the package was a trip to seven marathons on seven continents in January and February. In 2018 they expanded it to "8 marathons/8 continents/8 days" by adding Zealandia (aka New Zealand and its mostly submerged "continent") to the mix. The 2019 series started in Auckland on 8 January and ends up on KGI...that race was actually also the White Continent Marathon (and half marathon) on 15 January mentioned above. The other races are also all separate races (marathon and half-marathon options) organized by/in the various host cities. Registration is $15,995 which includes hotels and Antarctic flights but no other airfare. This was on hiatus for the pandemic but after the 2020 event it is back for January 2023, beginning in Auckland on 24 January and proceeding to Perth, Singapore, Cairo, Amsterdam, New York, Punta Arenas, and King George Island. All of the races are locally organized open events--the KGI race is also the 10th Annual White Continent Marathon (and half marathon) mentioned above. Unfortunately, the web site doesn't include any information on previous participants or winners. Price for all 8 events is $15,995; 7 events is $14, 995--this includes race fees, accommodations, ground transportation, some food, but no flights except for to and from Antarctica.

  • After seeing this 19 January 2017 Washington Post article, I've learned that there's yet another "7 marathons in 7 days" package venture out there--the World Marathon Challenge. It is back post-COVID in 2022...the races happen at Novo, Cape Town, Perth, Dubai, Madrid, Fortaleza (Brazil) and Miami between 25 and 31 October 2022. Participants need to be in Cape Town by the 22nd. The cost of €39,900 includes all flights except to Cape Town and from Miami, and some food and accommodations. It first happened in January 2015, with 12 full and half marathon participants. By 2018 there were 50 full, half, and wheelchair marathon participants. The 2018 male winner was Irishman Gary Thornton with a total time of 22:26:16, and the female winner was an American, Becca Pizzi, with a total time of 28:32:35. The 2019 event started with the Antarctic marathon at Novo on 30 January...with races at Cape Town, Perth, Dubai, Lisbon, Cartagena, and Miami on the next six days. The 2019 price was €36,000.

  • The apparently defunct Maraton Antartica (archived site), organized by a Chilean company, was to be its second year in 2014. That event was to have been on 28 February, but apparently it didn't happen, nor, apparently, did the one scheduled for 1 March 2015, which still appears on the website. It was also to be on KGI, including full and half marathons and a 10k--the next one is on 1 March 2015. The announced price was US$3,400 ex PA, including the flight to KGI, the same-day race, and a same-day return to PA. They were planning on a maximum of 60 registrants; as of late November there were only 5. In 2013 there were about 20 participants in the 3 events, most of whom were from Chile (there were 2 Australians, no North Americans). That race was on 28 February, the day after the aborted White Continent Marathon...and it was also cut short by weather, with no marathon finisher.

As for nongovernmental visitors to Pole, the 2011-12 season was the biggest ever for Pole, as it had been the centennial year of Amundsen's and Scott's arrival at what has been called an "awful place." But folks continue to show up. There are two principal tourist operators--flights from Punta Arenas to Union Glacier and beyond are operated by Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions (ALE) (which has now fully assimilated Adventure Network International/ANI). ALE continues to be actively booking tourists. The other operation is based out of the airstrip at Novo (Novolazarevskaya), a Russian base which is served by flights from Cape Town. It has been operated by Antarctic Logistics Centre International (ALCI), which did not in itself offer tour services, but rather worked with other tour agencies such as White Desert, which has established a tourist destination "Whichaway Camp" near Novo (no, nowhere near the Whichaway Nunataks) with penguin colonies and mountains nearby. TAC also operates its "Oasis" guesthouse--the only hard-roofed commercial base on the Antarctic continent, about 10 miles from Novo at Schirmacher Oasis. TAC does not do bookings option for a stay at the Oasis Guesthouse is offered by Icetrek...€30,000 ex Cape Town. Novo is a 3000m blue ice runway originally built by ANI near the Russian Novolazarevskaya base, in the past it was known as Blue One, and on some maps you may see it designated as "White Desert." Perhaps the most serious travel agent booking Pole trips is the Chicago-based company Polar Explorers...they are booking trips to Pole via PA/Union Glacier starting at around US$51,250 ex PA.

My updated records of the nongovernmental expeditions (skiers/hikers/kiters/drivers/sledders etc...) back to 2000 is here. Remember, this website is the only one that has been continuously covering them since 1999 so I have all the archived links.

For now, go here for the 1999-2000 ventures. Note that the 1999-2000 Russian "Millennium Expedition" (skydiving/ballooning) is covered on a separate page.