Winter igloo, July/August 2016

igloo in front of the station
The igloo in front of the station glows brightly from its interior illumination (RS)

For the two-day weekend at the end of July (31 July-1 August) the well-laid plan was hatched to construct a large igloo in front of the station. Led by chief architect UT Josh Neff, an intrepid crew of five set to work. The project eventually took about a week, hampered by 30 knot winds and-76F/-60C temperatures. The structure included some of the standard Inuit design features, including a cold trap inside the door, a sleeping platform, and a small ventilation hole.

As with many construction projects at Pole, things got behind schedule, and the structure was not actually completed until the following weekend. And the construction crew slept overnight in it on 8 August.

Below, a selection of photos:

early days of construction
Early days of construction...the Inuit who perfected these structures didn't have to deal with this intense cold or darkness...and they didn't have electric lighting like this either (CK).
nearly done
The construction crew in front of the nearly finished structure (CK).
the igloo as seen by the NOAA webcam
Here's a view of the station from the NOAA webcam with the brightly lit igloo plainly visible.
the five occupants of the igloo overnight on 8 August
The five folks of the igloo team bedded down for the night (8 August), each using two nested sleeping bags. From left, Darby Butts, Hamish Wright, Christian Krueger, John Rossero and Josh Neff. They're enjoying a spicy Thai curry...Darby assures me it was not the same recipe as what he prepared for the Kenn Borek Air pilots to take on their flight north after the June medevac (CK).
the igloo with auroras overhead
Another view of the igloo from a different angle, with auroras overhead (CK). Darby reported that the inside temperature overnight got above 0F/-18C. It was 13-1/2 feet in diameter and almost 10 feet tall.
signatures of the builders
Another view, showing the names (and nicknames) of the builders inscribed on a fresh drift. A white light inside gave the igloo a soft aquamarine glow (HW) Several other people would sleep in the igloo later in the week.
demolishing the igloo
Alas, the structure didn't last long. Because it was located
upwind of the station, and the late winter/early spring period
is historically the windiest time of year (the 30 knot winds
were continuing), the D6 was called upon to make it go away
so as to eliminate the drifting (HW).

There are historical precedents, mostly during the summer. Some participants of happy camper school (sometimes now presented at Pole as well as McMurdo) choose to construct an igloo for their overnight shelter...this included several folks not including me when I went through what was then called "snowcraft survival" at McMurdo in October 1976 (btw we did self-arrest training but didn't have the bucket-over-the head stuff). There have been other igloos constructed (and slept in) at Pole during summers, but as far as I know the only successful winter igloo construction occurred during the 2004 winter. In June of that winter, a 5-person team led by Kevin Dupuy set out to construct a similarly sized igloo (12 feet in diameter x 12 to 14 feet high) (a small photo of the construction) (KD). This structure never was finished, although Kevin reported he later (and alone) finished a smaller structure in which he cooked and spent one very chilly night at -62F/-52C. He also said that the remains of that igloo were still visible on photos some years later...so perhaps the demo of the 2016 igloo to minimize drifting really was a good idea.

More info and photos...this 13 September 2016 Antarctic Sun article by Michael Lucibella.

Credits etc....much of the information is from Darby Butts, who also sent along a couple of the photos. As for the photos themeselves...RS is the indubitable Robert Schwarz, CK is IceCuber Christian Krueger, KD is Kevin DuPuy, the 2004 w/o sheet metal worker, and HW is the Kiwi doc Hamish Wright, who also just put up this amazing blog post with many more igloo photos.