South Pole News Archive

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

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 before...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 list23.com, 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).. Elsewhere...here 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 time...here'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 program...flights 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 April...it will spend the next four months there. By 16 April it was high and dry (left...photo 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 April...it 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 Rothera...it 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 Romania...photo 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 isolation...now 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 Koch...as 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 left...my 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 just...no 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 Koch...now 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 February...to 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 happenings...in 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" including...me. 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 funding...so 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.

Here's the current listing of NGO treks, ventures, a flight(!), and a rowboat trip(!!) which mostly happened in 2019-20.

Colin O'Brady
now age 34, followed up his transcontinental trip of last season with what he called the "Impossible Row," which he first announced on Jimmy Fallon's "Tonight Show" on 15 November. Briefly, it was a six-man ocean row from the tip of South America to the Antarctic Peninsula in a 24-foot ocean rowing boat. This trip HAS been done before...in 1988 Ned Gillette and three others did it in a 28-foot aluminum craft, although their boat had a small sail occasionally used to maneuver the vessel near land. Here's a good memorial page by Eva Schandl with details and photos of the Sea Tomato venture, as well as a bit more information shared by participant, good friend, and 1980 Pole winterover Jay Morrison (he, Ned, and Mark Eichenberger of the crew are no longer with us).

In addition to Colin O'Brady, his team includes Cameron Bellamy, Fiann Paul, John Peterson, Jamie Douglas-Hamilton, and Andrew Towne. They set out offshore south of Cape Horn (the island--further south than Ned Gillette's departure point closer to the Patagonia coast) on 13 December 2019 at 0900 Chilean time (UTC-3) and landed on the Peninsula (at at 1045 Chilean time on Christmas Day at about 64º-12'S-61ºW--just south of Hughes Bay--with a time of 12 days 1 hour 45 minutes. The team took turns rowing in 3's for 90-minute shifts 24/7. This discovery.com page includes a bit more info and a link to a photo gallery of their training in Scotland. And unlike the Sea Tomato, O'Brady's craft was followed by a 120-foot boat from the Discovery Channel, which covered the trip for a documentary, although no support was to be offered except in case of emergency. The Discovery Channel has been putting up links to their videos here (archive site)...they may or may not work depending on your location and your browser. Here's a Guinness World Records page about the venture and a team hero shot taken after their landing (from Colin's Instagram account).
Flying Thru Life
is a planned flight by Robert DeLaurentis from pole to pole scheduled for 2019-20 after being postponed from last season. He was scheduled to head south from San Diego's Gillespie Field on 16 November. This is by no means a fast flight, as he plans to stop in a number of countries along the way (route details)...the overflight of Pole is planned for New Years Day. His original plan was to take off from PA, overfly Pole, and head to King George Island for refueling...a 20-hour flight in his modified twin-engine Turbo Commander. He will then make many stops in Africa and Europe before flying over the North Pole to Anchorage. He may carry representatives from his sponsors on some of the legs, but not on the Antarctic leg. Robert's plans are described in this 12 November KGTV San Diego article. He left San Diego on 15 November and initially flew to Portland, OR before returning to Los Angeles. As of November 26th he was in Panama City, Panama. When he got to southern South America his plans changed; he successfully finished his return flight from Ushuaia over Pole on 16 December. After the Antarctic trip he visited the Falklands over Christmas before continuing north to Brazil and Africa. As of 7 January he was northeast of Durban.
The Longest Journey (archive site)
is Queensland physician Geoff Wilson, who is starting out on a really long solo kite/ski journey--3600 miles--from Thor's Hammer, a 2000-meter peak southwest of Novo, to Pole via the Pole of Inaccessibility (POI), and then a return to Novo via Dome A (Dome Argus), the site of China's summer Kunlun Station. Dome A is the highest plateau on the continent (14,000') and has never been ascended on foot. He was flown to Novo by ALCI on 6 November, and apparently driven to his starting point on 11 November by Arctic Trucks. I'm unable to locate Thor's Hammer on a map or atlas...his planned start point was 72º 0'18.31"S, 10º51'56.96"E, but I'm unsure of the actual start point. On 2 December he reported arriving at the bust of Lenin at the Pole of Inaccessibility, his first expedition milestone. But after losing 3 bottles of fuel due to leakage, he announced on 8 December that he would not visit Pole but instead travel directly to Dome A. He then successfully returned to Thors's Hammer on 3 January and then continued downhill to Novo, after stopping for several hours late that day at 4,500 feet, the wind changed allowing him to reach Novo early on 4 January Novo time (UTC+3) shortly before a serious windstorm hit the base. Here's a map of his final route, this is from his Facebook page where he also posted updates and photos. His final distance of 3297 miles/5306 km is a new distance record for solo unsupported Antarctic travel. Here is his blog which is still online.
Mollie Hughes
age 29 from Edinburgh, is on a solo unsupported ski expedition from Hercules Inlet to Pole. Previously she has summited Everest twice, from both the north and south sides. She hopes to become the youngest woman to do the solo/unsupported trip. Here is a 1 March 2019 Renfriewshire News article about her venture. In February she was training in Norway, followed by two weeks in eastern Greenland. Her Facebook page includes additional info, including updates and photos of her training, and she's also posting updates on Twitter. She was on the first ALE passenger flight to Union Glacier on 10 November...fortunately her sled, stuck in Santiago for a week, arrived in PA in time for her flight south. She set out on the 14th, and on the 26th she crossed 81ºS. On Tuesday 8 January SP time she was at 89º-27'S and hoped to reach Pole by Friday. Earlier, on 27 December, she'd met up with Wendy Searle. She reached Pole on 10 January after traveling 58-1/2 days, although she lost her unsupported status by needing an emergency food resupply near Thiels Corner. Still, she's set a record as the youngest woman to reach Pole solo, as she is 15 days younger than Anja Blacha, who also reached Pole on 10 January 2020.
Southpole2020
is a 2019-2020 expedition being planned by Wendy Searle, a mother of four from Salisbury in the UK. Originally her plan was to be a 400-mile trip from the Ross Ice Shelf "coast of Antarctica" up a never-before-climbed glacier to the plateau and thence to Pole with an unnamed guide, but her plans shifted to setting the women's speed record from Hercules Inlet to Pole, solo/unsupported/unassisted. In May 2018, Wendy completed a 27-day crossing of the Greenland ice sheet guided by Lou Rudd (Lou is her expedition manager for her current venture). Here's a January 2019 Guardian article about her plans, and here's an interesting guest blog post she wrote before the Greenland crossing about "how to go to the toilet in the Arctic" and other relevant topics. She left Heathrow on 10 November en route to PA, where as of the 20th she was still waiting to go south. She reached UG on the 23rd and was flown to the starting point on Wednesday the 27th. She reached the Pole after 44 days late on 8 January or perhaps early on 9 January SP time...without resupply. As for a speed record to Pole, that didn't happen...Johanna Davidsson's 39-day record in 2016 remains unbeaten (Explorersweb article). Wendy's travel time was 42 days, 16 hours, and 23 minutes. The other woman who was attempting a speed record is...
Jenny Davis
the London-based lawyer and athlete, plans to complete the solo/unassisted/unsupported ski trip from Hercules Inlet to Pole that she had to abort last season. After traveling more than 200 miles she was running out of food, and was later evacuated to Punta Arenas with a bowel infection and peritonitis. She headed south from England around 18 November and as of the 20th was probably still stuck in PA. Presumably she made it to UG on Saturday the 23rd along with Wendy Searle and was also flown to the starting point on the 27th, but not on the same flight as Wendy. As of 6 January, Jenny was within the last degree, but was suffering from a thigh injury and also having problems with her (only) broken stove. This and other recent updates are on her Twitter feed. She reached Pole on 10 January after receiving an emergency resupply a few days earlier...she'd traveled for 43 days.
Southern Solitaire
is Anja Blacha, a 29-year-old German now living in Zurich, had plans for a solo unsupported/unassisted trek to Pole from Berkner Island...or more specifically the emperor penguin rookery at Gould Bay Camp Cache, which is 125 miles further north than most "Berkner Island" starts. She plans to complete the 870-mile trip in about 60 days. In 2017 she became the youngest German to complete the Seven Summits, earlier in 2019 she summited K2, and she's also crossed Greenland. I haven't found any website for her, but in mid-October she was interviewed by Ash Routen for Explorersweb, her Facebook page includes a recent video from RTL.de, and she's been adding posts on Instagram. She arrived at Union Glacier around 10 November. She started on the 13th and has been posting weekly video updates (in German) on intersport.de. In early January she was on the Plateau but I've seen no exact location. She reached the Pole on 10 January after traveling 57 days 18 hours 50 minutes.
Jing Feng
another Chinese explorer who in 2017-18 was the first Chinese woman to ski to the South Pole (from Hercules Inlet), had a unique expedition planned--a trip from the coast near Novo to the Pole of Inaccessibility. She was accompanied by guides Sarah McNair-Landry and Erik Boomer and they did not use kites. This 6 November Xinhuanet news article has more information, including that she flew from Cape Town to Novo on the 5th. As the described distance of their journey is 1100 miles, presumably they'll be picked up at their POI destination. According to ExplorersWeb the team was into their fourth week of travel as of 6 December...and by 2 January they were 340 miles from the POI. They arrived on 25 January after traveling about 1120 miles in 77 days, after which they were picked up.
The Women of Antarctica
...specifically the five women listed above (as well as others from previous years), were discussed in this excellent 12 January Team Fram blog post.
Tanel Tuuleveski
plans to be the first Estonian to ski from the Messner Start to Pole...also solo and unsupported/unassisted. He's previously summited Everest and Vinson, and one reason for his trip is to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Bellingshausen Antarctic expedition which was a Russian/Estonian venture. He has posted several updates on Facebook...as of the 20th he was stuck in PA with the others. He also was on the flight to UG on the 23rd and was flown to the Messner Start point on Monday the 25th. He didn't post many reports, but he did reach Pole on 30 December (his photo documentation from Facebook) after a mad dash for the last 20km to catch an ALE plane north...so he could attempt a Vinson summit. So it appears that Tanel was the first of the NGO folks to reach the Pole on foot this season. He completed the Vinson ascent on 2 January--the last of his seven summits.
Jacek Libucha
from Poland, is underway on a solo unsupported ski trip from Hercules Inlet. He was on the flight to Union Glacier on 11 November...and he was flown to the starting point and set out on the 13th. There were not many updates on his website, but he did reach Pole around 2100 UTC on 5 January after traveling for 53 days and 4 hours, per this londynek.net (mostly in Polish) news article.
90 Degrees South Solo
is Neil Hunter, a Royal Navy veteran, currently a police officer in Surrey, England. He will be flying from PA to Union Glacier on 18 November to begin his solo/unassisted/unsupported ski journey from Hercules Inlet to Pole. As a Type 2 diabetic, he'll be raising money to support Diabetes UK. He was scheduled to leave the UK around 11 November...on the 20th he was among the group stuck in PA as flights have been delayed. He also was on the flight south on Saturday the 23rd and was also flown to the Hercules Inlet starting point on November 27th. As of 8 January he was at 88º16' S. He's also been posting updates on his 90 Degrees South Solo Facebook page. He reached Pole on 16 January.
Robert Swan
now age 63, attempted a trek which he calls "Last 300"...in other words, completing the last 300 miles of his 2017-18 Pole venture that he had to abort because, in his words, he was slowing the group down. After returning home, he had a hip replacement in September 2018. He was accompanied by filmmaker Kyle O’Donoghue and guides Johanna Davidsson and Kathinka Gyllenhammar. They started in the Thiel Mountains near the point from which he was evacuated in December 2017, halfway to the Pole from the Messner Start (82º10'S-65ºW), while leading the South Pole Energy Challenge. This last 300 miles was also to complete Robert's long-term goal of crossing the entire continent, albeit not all at once. The first part of this crossing was the 1985-86 "Footsteps of Scott" expedition from Ross Island to Pole. In October 2019, while preparing for his trip, Robert visited his 104 year old mother in Teesdale, England per this Teesdale Mercury article. He arrived at Union Glacier on 23 November and since then he already suffered a blister on his toe while doing some local skiing. Updates and videos were being posted on the 2041 Foundation Facebook page. The team set off from Thiels Corner on 3 December. But...on 30 December at 88º22'S Robert suffered a severe hip dislocation from a fall (2041 Foundation press release). He was medevaced to Union Glacier and thence to Punta Arenas on 4 January SP time (4 January 2041 Foundation press release). Meanwhile, the rest of his team pushed on to 89ºS where they were met up with their "last degree" team on 5 January. Members of this team include Robert's son Barney, Paulina Villalonga Abscal (age 19), UK/Australian Mary Nicholson, and Americans Rob Miller, John Foster, and Cameron Kerr. Massachusetts native Cameron, who lost his lower left leg in Afghanistan in 2011, was training in Breckenridge in December (15 December Summit Daily article). The total team of 11 people reached Pole on 14 January per their web site. This website page includes a bit more info if you click "continue reading" and scroll to the bottom.
The All Women Expedition to Antarctica (AWETA) (archived site) (postponed from 2018-19)
is a planned 4-woman venture to be led by Malaysian Sharifah Mazlina (full name Sharifah Mazlina Syed Abdul Kadir), who previously made a ski/sailing trip from Pole to Patriot Hills in 2004-05, guided by Mike Sharp. This time she will be leading 3 other women--selection finalists Salehah Abu Nor, Siti Jumaida HJ Bensali, and Nurul Atiqah Tamarun--on a trek from Union Glacier to Pole beginning in November 2019. One of the goals is to retrieve a time capsule she left at Pole in 2004...while leaving another one to be uncovered by future generations of Malaysian women, perhaps in 2050. Three 2018 news articles--this one from This Week in Asia describes her 2004-05 venture, and this one from the Sun daily has more details about the training and the upcoming trip, and this New Straits Times article mentions the time capsules. Not much detail available from the website...the now-deleted FAQ was presented in Malay graphics. At a press conference on about 23 October 2018 they announced the postponement of the event to 2019-20 (graphic of announcement). The original plans involved six women...from the limited information on their Facebook page it appears that they might be preparing to leave for Antarctica...?? And...from that FB page it turns out that this was a Last Degree venture...starting on the 24th and reaching Pole on New Years Eve SP time. And due to language issues I'm unsure of the team members' names.
Richard Parks
has reportedly announced a trek to Pole per this 11 November ExplorersWeb article, but as of the New Year there was nothing about it on his website or anywhere else. BUT...on 11 January he emerged on social media to say that he'd been in Antarctica since mid-December (11 January Instagram post from his website) and left Hercules Inlet for Pole on 17 December. As of 13 January he'd made it to the last degree, but was he carrying enough food? Here's the 13 January explorersweb story. He arrived at Pole on 15 January as reported in this BBC News article...and he also posted this and other updates/photos on Instagram.
Xu Wen
a 32 year old Chinese scientist and mountaineer, has also announced a major solo unsupported ski manhauling journey, starting from Berkner Island, to Pole, and originally planning to finish at the base of the Axel Heiberg Glacier--3231 miles--longer than the distance covered by Lou Rudd and Colin O'Brady last summer. He's posted some updates here on Facebook, and this 13 November Adventure Blog post describes his plans and references this 22 October China Daily article. As of 20 November he was underway. His original plans had him finish at China's newest and fifth Antarctic station on Inexpressible Island, but that would require SAR support. As of 30 December he'd crossed 87ºS en route to Pole, and on 8 January he crossed 89ºS, and he reached Pole on 10 January at the same time as Anja Blacha. He was planning to continue north, but he head to cancel that because of delays--soft snow on Berkner Island, and his supplies were delayed 12 days in Chilean customs due to ongoing riots and strikes. He posted photos and updates here on Instagram.
Lucy Reynolds
a nearly 40-year-old breast cancer survivor from London, was underway on a guided/assisted trip to Pole from Hercules Inlet...the ALE Ski South Pole Expedition. She was flown to the starting point on the 27th...the group was guided by Christian Styve, although I don't know about the rest of the team. As of 8 January they had reached 87.8ºS...they crossed the last degree on the 14th and reached Pole on the 18th.
Jaco Ottink and Paula Strengell
were being guided to Pole from Hercules Inlet by Ryan Waters of Mountain Professionals. Ottink (originally from the Netherlands) has previously climbed the Seven Summits. They were on the flight to the starting point on the 27th along with Neil Hunter and Wendy Searle. They crossed 87ºS in early January and reached the Pole on the 17th after traveling 52 days.
Ski South Pole Axel Heiberg
was the first ALE guided trip on this route which followed Roald Amundsen's route up the Axel Heiberg Glacier, starting with a visit to the cairn Amundsen left behind on Mount Betty. They reached Pole on 12 January. Not much detail, but his and other ALE-supported expeditions are discussed on this ALE news page.
Headsouth 2020
was an 11-person "last degree" venture led by Brits Michael Tobin, Louis Moody, and Alan Chambers. They planned to raise money for brain tumor research--here's their justgiving page as well as this 2 December article on the braintumourcharity.org page. They arrived in PA on New Years Day before heading south....and after traveling for 10 days from 89ºS they reached Pole on 12 January per this Brain Tumour Charity article; the effort raised more than £300K.
Not On... Olivia Gourley
currently 15, from Stewiake, Nova Scotia, planned a Pole trip in 2019-20 along with her 42-year-old father Chris. Not a lot of details yet, but the two intended to start from the Union Glacier base and ski to Pole alone and unsupported/unresupplied. At age 11 Olivia had major spinal surgery to deal with scoliosis (abnormal spine curvature), but the following year she was fit enough for a 5-day hike with her father in high-altitude Peru. More here from this 21 August 2018 CTV News article with video. I've seen no recent news, and her website and her GoFundMe site have been deactivated with no archive. And at this point in the season their venture obviously has not happened.

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 story...as 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 Upgrade...by 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 coast...it 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 Array...as 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 Hobart...as seen in this 22 December photo from the Australian Antarctic Division (antarctica.gov.au) Facebook Page along with the Aurora Australis which was departing for Casey.

And some Antarctic news from 250 miles up in space...as 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 2019...an 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 here...in 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 updates...in 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)...it 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 year...at 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 upgrade...to install seven new and deeper strings near the center of the existing array. This will enable the detection of lower-energy neutrinos...to 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 stations...here'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 February...one 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 military.com 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 stuff.co.nz and radionz.co.nz (thanks Russell Rapp and Chris Rock). But there's more...at right is a great photo of the Polar Star with Wellington in the background....this photo is from USAP veteran/2008 Palmer winterover Carla Appel...here 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 bottom...got 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 over...at 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 Zach...here 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 workboat.com 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 news...an 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 cable...site 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 it...at 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 navaltoday.com 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 year...as 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 shutdown...it 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 travels...as 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.

Announced NGO Antarctic ventures for 2018-19, and how they turned out:
 
The Spanish "Antarctica Unexplored 2018-19" campaign
led by polar explorer and Windsled designer Ramón Larramendi, along with biologist Ignacio Oficialdegui, engineer Manuel Olivera, and guide Hilo Moreno, completed a 1500-mile triangular journey from south of Novo, to the abandoned Plateau Station, to near the summit of Dome Fuji and the Japanese Fuji Dome Station, and return, using their well-proven Windsled (a large skid-mounted tent complex with an open-ended "handling" tent where folks sit handling the "reins" of a huge kite. They departed from a point about 110 miles south of Novo on 12 December and returned to their starting point on 1 February. They did significant science along the way--the Windsled has been similarly used for a number of such projects in Antarctica and Greenland. And of interest to me, they did get to explore the interior of Plateau Station and camp in front of the (originally) 100' met tower which is still standing. Photos of that and the rest of the trip are in their diary as well as in this Explorersweb article and this Adventure Journal report.
The Marine Live-Ice Automobile Expedition
was a significant project by the Russian Geographical Society. They used two Yemelya 6x6 ATV's pulling a total of four trailers and two sledges to travel about 6000 km from Novo...to the Plateau Station site, to the Pole of Inaccessibility (POI), to Pole, and thence north to Vostok and Progress. They reached Pole on 23 December and left the next day for Vostok, which they reached on New Years morning...only to press on the same day. They reached Progress on the coast on 13 January...their vehicles were loaded onto the supply vessel there while the crew was flown back to Novo in a Basler. Here's the link to their diary which includes photos.
Aborted! Jenny Davis
a 33-year-old London-based lawyer turned athlete (she completed the 250km Marathon des Sables in 2015), announced her solo/unsupported/unassisted trek from Hercules Inlet to Pole beginning in November 2018. Here is an 11 October self.com article which describes the venture, her training, and her nutrition. In a 15 November interview with The Times (London) she said she'd be starting out on the 27th, while Explorersweb reported she won't begin until December. She reached Union Glacier on 27 November and flew to the Mt. Vinson base camp the next day...to acclimatize, not to summit. She was flown to her starting point on 12 December and set out on the 16th. While originally hoping to set a speed record, as of the 22nd she'd only been averaging about 11 miles per day. By 3 January she'd traveled 209 miles, with 506 miles still to go. But...by 7 January she had abandoned her trip, called for pickup, and was in a Punta Arenas hospital with suspected appendicitis.
Joe Doherty
age 25, a former Boy Scout from Andover, England, was on the way to Pole with...uh, 3 others--Grazyna Machnik (from Poland), Rakonczay Gábor (from Hungary) and AL&E guide Christian Iversen Styve (from Norway). Earlier, Joe had announced the first scout-led Pole expedition for 2018-19 where he would be accompanied by fellow Scout Oliver Robinson from Portchester, in what was titled Hampshire Scout Expedition (HSX). In February the two did a training expedition in Norway. Here's a 12 May BBC News article. Joe got to Union Glacier on 20 November, and the group was flown to their starting point on the 24th. Although previously announced as unsupported, the blog posts from UG indicates they will be resupplied at Thiels Corner and at Pole, where Joe (at least) will also get kiting equipment. Thiels Corner is where the Messner and Hercules Inlet routes come together, so it is also a refueling site for ALE's Twin Otters. As of 7 December the group was at 84.1ºS-75.4ºW. By 22 December he was about 260 miles from Pole. And by 4 January they'd reached 89.24ºS. The group reached Pole on 8 January on the 45th day of their trek, and then ski/kited back to Hercules Inlet, arriving on about 24 January. Meanwhile, the ALE guided "Ski South Pole" team that started at Hercules Inlet also reached Pole on the 8th. Joe's website and blog are gone, but there is a bit of information here., as well as reports and photos on his Twitter feed.
Colin O'Brady
originally from Portland, Oregon, set off on a solo unassisted/unsupported Antarctica ski crossing, beginning at the Messner Start at the head of the Ronne Ice Shelf (82ºS-65ºW), traveling to Pole and thence to the head of the Ross Ice Shelf at the foot of the Leverett Glacier (which of course implies that he's using the South Pole Traverse route from Pole. Colin has previously completed the "Adventurers Grand Slam" which includes reaching the Seven Summits and traversing to both the North and South Poles (these were "last degree" trips). He was dropped off at the starting point (along with Lou Rudd) by AL&E on 4 November SP time. He reached Thiels Corner on the 20th, one day ahead of Lou Rudd. By 3 December SP time he was 162 miles from Pole. He reached Pole on 12 December (day 40), and on 23 December after day 50 he was at 86.7ºS-135ºW with 122 miles to go. His blog posts are here on Instagram. And at 0640 SP time on the 27th he reached the goal, the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf, after an incredible 77-1/2 mile 32-hour push. Here's the New York Times article.
Lou Rudd
a British Army captain, completed a planned unsupported solo crossing by the same route used by Henry Worsley in his fatal crossing attempt in 2015-16--from Berkner Island to the Ross Ice Shelf via Pole. In 2016-17, Lou led the SPEAR 17 expedition of British Army reservists in a ski trek from Hercules Inlet to Pole. Here's an 18 April ExplorersWeb interview with Lou about the venture. Interestingly, while all of his publicity indicated he was starting at Hercules Inlet, he was dropped off at the Messner Start on 4 November, a mile away from Colin O'Brady. Are they racing? Here is Lou's general website, which has more information, as most of the expedition coverage on sponsor Shackleton London's website has been taken down, although there still is a good March 2019 interview with Mark here. As of 25 November, Lou had completed 19 percent of the distance to Pole, and by 3 December he was about 35 miles behind Colin O'Brady. He reached Pole on the 13th; by the 23rd (also day 50 for him) he was reporting 163 miles to go, perhaps a day or two behind Colin. By the 28th he had 19-1/2 statute miles left to go before meeting up with Colin O'Brady at the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf at their ALE pickup point. Which he reached at 1021 on the 29th SP time per this New York Times article.
Aborted! Eric Larsen
had also jumped into the "speed record" thing...he suddenly announced that he will be tackling the Hercules Inlet-Pole speed record. He's trekked to Pole before, most recently in 2014. Here's a 12 November ExplorersWeb interview with him. The link above is to his blog; this 11 November blog post describes his plans in a recreated press release. He left Boulder, CO on the 13th, arrived in Punta Arenas on the 14th, and at Union Glacier on the 19th (local times). He was flown to the Hercules Inlet start point on the 23rd and set out the next morning (24 November SP time). BUT...as he was planning for a fast trip, he only carried food for ~24-26 days. And with lots of bad weather, on day 21/16 December he found himself still 290 miles from Pole...so he called it quits.
Baz (Barry John) Gray (archived site)
is a 26-year veteran of the Royal Marines Commando currently living in southwest Devon, England. His plan at the time was a 2-season venture: in 2018-19 he skied alone/unsupported/unassisted from Hercules Inlet to Pole, and he planned an 1800-mile solo ski crossing of Antarctica from the north end of Berkner Island to McMurdo Sound, via the Shackleton Glacier and Pole in 2019-20 (now postponed until 2020-21). Note that Shackleton's 1907-09 expedition used the Beardmore Glacier to get to the plateau. He'll be supported by AL&E out of Union Glacier...so of course they would need to pick him on Ross Island at the end of the 2019-2020 trek. His original website with map has disappeared, but most of his blog posts appear on his sponsor SATcase site linked above. He also posted updates on social media including this Facebook page. He started on 30 November, and as of 7 December he was at 81.1ºS-80.2ºW. By 23 December he was 334 miles from Pole. By 5 January he was well past 89ºS with only 47 miles left to go to reach Pole. And he arrived on the morning of 7 January SP time.
Masatatsu Abe (Japanese language site)
a 35-year-old Japanese rickshaw driver, completed a solo unassisted/unsupported walk from the Messner Start in 2018-19, in preparation for a longer venture in 2019-20 when he intends to retrace the steps of the 1910 expedition of Japanese Army lieutenant Nobu Shirase. He's been planning this trek for several years. There is hardly anything about his journey on his website linked above, but this 15 November 2018 ExplorersWeb interview/story about him and other explorers indicates that he was in Punta Arenas buying supplies. Here is a 2 November ExWeb interview with him. He was scheduled to fly to Union Glacier on the 18th and begin his traverse on the 20th, but he flew south on the 20th and set out on the 24th. He did post updates on this Japanese language Facebook page. As of 22 December he was at 84.9ºS-80.4ºW. Around Christmas time he opted to request a food resupply because of his slow travels. By 5 January he'd crossed 86.8ºS, and he reached Pole on the 17th--the last NGO traveler to reach Pole in the 2018-19 season. But he said he wasn't done, at the time he was planning another venture in 2019-20 to complete the route to Pole that the Japanese explorer Army Lieutenant Nobu Shirase had attempted in January 1912. Shirase crossed the Ross Ice Shelf reaching a furthest south of 80º05'S-156º37'W on 29 January 1912. Reportedly he'd met up with Amundsen's expedition near the Bay of Whales as they were returning from Pole.
Matthieu Tordeur (French language site)
at age 26 and from France, was also on the South Pole expedition list. He, like Jenny Davis, started from Hercules Inlet. On 17 November local time he was in Punta Arenas--from Eric Larsen's 23 November post, Matthieu was at the Hercules Inlet start site with Eric. On 23 December (day 28 of his originally planned 50 days) he was at 84.42ºS-80.9ºW. His blog posts are here on Instagram (in French), as well as on the web site. On 4 January he was at 87,4ºS. He reached Pole on the morning of 14 January SP time, the next-to-last person to arrive at the ALE camp.
Aborted! Laval St Germain
from Calgary, is the only Canadian to have summited Everest without oxygen. He headed to Antarctica to climb the last of his seven summits--Mt. Vinson. Not leaving it at that, before the climb he was to ski solo from Hercules Inlet to Pole before being flown back to the ALE Vinson base camp for the summit effort. Laval has previously lost parts of 3 fingers from frostbite. When he's not doing extreme stuff, he is a pilot for Canadian North airline. On 18 November he was in PA, and he flew south on the 19th. Eric Larsen reported on the 23rd that he also was at Hercules Inlet. He set out for Pole on about the 24th, but on 7 December he decided to quit the Pole trip due to the bad weather he'd encountered, as well as issues with his warped pulk. He was flown back to UG on about the 10th. ExplorersWeb reported on 22 December that he STILL was at Union Glacier and hadn't yet been to Mt. Vinson. A recent blizzard at UG destroyed 8 tents. He summited Vinson on New Years Eve local time, and returned to Punta Arenas on 4 January. His detailed updates were posted here on Instagram.
Aborted! Richard Parks
who was the fastest Brit to ski solo/unsupported to Pole in 2014 (archive site), only recently decided to throw his balaclava into the "race" with an attempt to reach Pole from Hercules Inlet. He set out on 19 December; by the 23rd (day 4) he'd traveled 90 miles. His detailed updates are best seen on his Facebook page. But...on day 17--4 January SP time-- he decided to call it quits and summon a pickup, as his body was starting to fail him in difficult soft snow conditions. He describes the end of his expedition in this podcast. He was flown back to UG on 5 January.
Aborted! Clean2Antarctica
was a planned return drive to Pole (745 miles each way) from Union Glacier by Liesbeth and Edwin ter Velde of the Netherlands, using the solar-powered "Solar Voyager," a vehicle constructed from plastic waste with the help of 3-D printers. It was to be towing 2 trailers with 10 solar panels, as well as vacuum solar tubes for melting snow. Here's a June 2018 CompositesWorld article about the venture--it also describes the preliminary seagoing component of the project--a tall ship voyage to Patagonia with a crew of students and young professionals. They set out on the first leg of the trip--from Amsterdam to Tenerife in the Canary Islands aboard the Morganster on 29 August per this DutchNews.nl article. As of 7 November, the Solar Voyager was in Chile, They flew south to Union Glacier on the 30th and got started a few days later--not a lot of detail on their travels or route, but on 20 December they announced that they would not reach Pole, presumably because of the strong winds and heavy snow that have plagued other travelers as well. Here's a brief 19 December BBC News video about the end of the expedition.
Arctic Trucks
is back on the ice this year. I haven't found any details from them, but Joe Doherty reported from Union Glacier in a since-vanished 23 November blog post that they were heading to Pole and thence to the Ross Ice Shelf...and that there was a group of six skiers (5 plus a guide?) from Taiwan aka the Gamania Cheer Up Foundation (6 November China Post article) about to set out for Pole from UG and then get picked up by Arctic Trucks. Not a lot of info...except that it seems that the southbound SPoT 2 encountered the group on the traverse route about 120 miles from Pole (traverse member Thor's 14 December blog post) (archive site; scroll down), and they all showed up at Pole on 23 December SP time per this Business Wire report which has links to video. The Taiwan expedition team included Gary Wu, Tommy Chen, Albert Liu, Chris Wang and Sherry Lin, while director Yang Li-chou accompanied the group in the Arctic Trucks vehicles to film the journey, per this Taiwan Today article.
Never started...Jan Meek
from the UK, announced in January of 2018 that she was planning to lead a 5-woman team, dubbed the "Polar Maidens," to the South Pole in 2018-19. Still not much information from her about her detailed plans, other than she plans to take "the 200-mile trek that Robert Scott didn't survive in 1912" in this 2 January Richmond & Twickenham Times article. Jan, who completed a trek to the North Pole in 2008, will be 73 years old when this happens. The most recent info on this project comes from this July 2018 Times of India article which does not elaborate on the expedition plans...but it does say that the trip will include a total of six women--including two from India--Madhabilata Mitra (age 36) of Kolkota and Tanvi Buch (24) from Mumbai. The other women are Caroline Gereaty (60) from the UK, Aileen Crean O'Brien from Ireland, and Canadian Denise Martin. Jan Meek is 74. Aileen Crean O'Brien is the granddaughter of Irish explorer Tom Crean who participated in both of Scott's expeditions as well as Shackleton's 1914 failed venture...see this 20 September Irish Independent (Dublin) news article, which describes the venture as a 150-mile traverse. As of mid-November her website had been taken down.
Never started...Eirliani Abdul Rahman
from Singapore, was planning to be the first woman from that nation to visit Pole--her plans now are to do it in 2018-19. She'd originally proposed this for 2016-17, to be guided by Sarah McNair-Landry, but that didn't happen. As for the current season, there is no expedition website, and there's not much more about her plans other than media such as this 9 August 2017 Straits Times article. In March and April 2017 she was training in Canada, and more recently she's been dragging truck tires around. She now works for the Kailash Satyarthi Children's Foundation, and she plans to move to the US to work in their Washington, DC office.
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IceCube drill camp componentsWhat 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 predictions...flights 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. So...in 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 2019-20...so 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 recently...an 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 (?!)...here'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 news...in 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 site...here'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 2001...it'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 icebreakers...in 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 February...to 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 marker...co-designed 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 (stuff.co.nz 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 project...read on:

Brunt's traverse route16 December...an 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 ago...as 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 aboard...so 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 November...as 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. ??...read 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.

What happened (or didn't happen) with NGO visitors in 2017-18:
Ventures that happened at least in part:
 
Cut short! Ben Saunders (archived link of his blog)
no stranger to Antarctica, was departing the UK on about 27 October to set off on what he called the first solo and unsupported crossing...something originally planned by Ben's friend Henry Worsley, who almost finished before falling ill and passing away in a Chile hospital in January 2016. Ben dedicated his trek in memory of Henry Worsley and used a similar route. Ben's plans were to traverse from Berkner Island to the Ross Ice Shelf via Pole and the Shackleton Glacier. Here is a 20 October Outside Online interview with Ben about the venture...and an 8 November Daily Mail article, which includes a photo of his fiancée Pip Harrison (they became engaged in July) as well as the info that one of his major sponsors is Canada Goose...seller of Big Reds with their knockoff of the USAP logo. Ben arrived UG on the first IL-76 flight on 4 November, and was dropped off at his starting point on the 9th thanks to good weather. After 10 days he was at 82ºS; on 11 December he was about 250 miles from Pole. He reached Pole on 29 December but opted to discontinue the rest of his planned trip to the Ross Ice Shelf as he'd run short of food due to delays (Telegraph article).
Yasunaga Ogita
a 40 year old Japanese adventurer from Takasu, Hokkaido, attempted a solo unassisted trip from Hercules Inlet beginning in mid-November. In the past few years he made two unsuccessful attempts to reach the North Pole. His venture was publicized in this 22 September 2017 Japan Times article. He headed south from Japan to Punta Arenas on 10 November and was dropped off at his starting point on the 17th. His blog (in Japanese) with photos is here., and his position map is here. As of 7 December he was about 1/3 of the way on the 700 mile/1130km distance. And as of 5 January he was close...expecting to arrive at Pole on the 6th...which he did, accounted in this Japan Times article.
Davor Rostuhar (Diary index) (Croatian language site)
is a 35-year-old Croatian writer and photographer who has traveled extensively worldwide and written six books, including one for National Geographic. He was attempting to be the first Croatian to reach the South Pole...on a solo unsupported trek from Hercules Inlet. After an initial visit to ALE in Punta Arenas, he opted to travel from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia and travel by cruise ship to visit the Peninsula. As of late November he was still on a cruise ship...when that returned north he returned to PA and was flown to Union Glacier on 27 November. He was flown to Hercules Inlet on 1 December. By the 12th he was at 81º15'S and had traveled 180km. And by 8 January he'd reached 88ºS...by the 12th he was at 88º-40'S. He reached Pole on the 18th South Pole time...by his claim in this Total Croatia News article, he's the 20th person to complete the Pole journey solo and unsupported. His was the next-to-last NGO venture to reach Pole this season; the Norwegians Astrid Furholt and Jan Sverre Sivertsen arrived a few hours later. Davor's main website (in English and Croatian) with more information about him and his previous projects, is here.
Scott Sears aka the Antarctic Gurkha (archive page)
an Englishman who became a British Army officer after failed attempts to become a tennis pro and a country music singer in Boise (and then got a law degree), was underway on a solo ski trip from Hercules Inlet to Pole. He reached UG on 15 November and was flown to Hercules Inlet on the 17th. As of 11 December he was doing well...at 85.4ºS with about 320 miles left to Pole. He successfully reached Pole on 27 December.
Leo Houlding/Spectre Expedition...
Leo is a 37-year-old rock climber from the Lake District of northern England. He led a unique "off-road" Antarctic crossing/climbing expedition, accompanied by Frenchman Jean Burgun and Marc Sedon of Christchurch. Unique in part because their plans did NOT include a visit to Pole unless time permitted. Their plans were to be flown from Union Glacier to 88ºS-110ºW (the practical limit of ALE's Twin Otter...from there they kite-skied north to the Organ Pipe Peaks in the Gothic Mountains (86ºS-150ºW) where they spent about 20 days climbing. Their original plans included the technical south face buttress (2500' climb/6600' above sea level) of the expedition namesake Spectre. After that, they continued north down the Scott Glacier to the Ross Ice Shelf, manhauled back to the depot at their dropoff point, and kite-skied/manhauled back to Union Glacier. Other info...this 27 October Financial Times article and this 31 October Cumbria Crack article. Also of note...this blog post by geologist Ed Stump describing his first and only other ascent of the Spectre with his brother Mugs in 1980-81...using the much less technical north side. As for the Spectre team, they arrived at UG on 15 November on the second IL-76 flight. They were dropped off at their starting point on 21 November. By 8 December they had reached the Gothic Mountains and summited their goal, the Spectre, using much of the north face route followed by Mugs and Ed Stump years earlier. After some more serious climbing, they opted to not head north 60 miles to the Ross Ice Shelf, but instead head south. And they later opted not to visit 90ºS...as of 3 January they were awaiting favorable winds to kite them toward Union Glacier...which they got. By 5 January they were making great kiting speed on the established route from Pole to Union Glacier, with 280 miles left to travel. They arrived in spectacular fashion at Union Glacier on 11 January. Here's a 2 February Stuff.co.nz article about Mark Sedon, the Kiwi member of the team.
Jade Hameister with guide Eric Philips
Jade was a 16-year-old girl from Melbourne, on a 2017-18 ski trip to Pole) using a new 375-mile route from the southeast corner of the Ross Ice Shelf up the Reedy and Kansas Glaciers (the Kansas Glacier is a tributary to the Reedy). She was accompanied by her father Paul Hameister, who also happens to be the 12th Australian to climb the Seven Summits, guide Eric Philips, assistant Heath Jamieson, and National Geographic photographer Ming D'Arcy who was capturing stuff for a future documentary. Oh, by the way, Jade, Paul, and Eric were in the midst of a Greenland ski crossing east from Kangerlussuaq in May 2017. Not a lot of details originally appeared on Jade's website, but Eric posted frequent blog updates on his site as well as daily email updates. Also, here's a 19 November Australian news article from The Age. As of 5 December they were at Union Glacier, and on the 6th they were flown to their starting point at 85º14'S-139º38'W. Since then they've made slow and steady progress; by 5 January they were at 89º10'S. They reached Pole on the 11th. Here's a 9news.com.au article!
Robert Swan's South Pole Energy Challenge (SPEC) (archived site)
was underway on this, his latest South Pole adventure--note that this Royal Dutch Shell website includes an interactive map with videos from the team. Robert started the trip with 3 others including his son Barney, filmmaker Kyle O'Donoghue, and guide/leader Martin Barnett on a man-hauling trip to Pole...relying solely on renewable energy. The renewable energy was coming from new technology solar panels...as well as backup liquid fuels made from coffee beans, food waste etc., and solar powered snow melters that operated as they travel, speeding up their dinner preparation as they only had to heat the water, not melt the snow first. The team was being resupplied from caches. In December 2016 Robert was spending a week at the Union Glacier camp with an international team, making additional plans for the 2017 trip...in a venture he called IAE 80ºS (MediaGreen news article). By 20 November the team had reached Union Glacier, and they were dropped off at their "Messner Start" starting point (82ºS-65ºW on the Ronne Ice Shelf) on 22 November. However, on 18 December (day 27 of the venture) Robert Swan was flown back to Union Glacier after fearing that his travel speed was slowing the others down. As of 6 January, Martin, Kyle, and Barney were at 88º30'S...when they reached 89ºS on 11 January, they were joined by a Last Degree team accompanied by Robert Swan. By midday on the 13th South Pole time they were at 89º39'S.
Astrid Furholt (archived page)
of Norway, was underway on a 2017-18 ski trip to Pole following Amundsen's original 850-mile route from the Bay of Whales site and up the Axel Heiberg Glacier to the plateau...her intent was to be the first woman to track Roald Amundsen's entire route. She was accompanied by Jan Sverre Sivertsen, and they were being mentored by Børge Ousland and others. Their plans were to recreate Amundsen's route to Pole from the Bay of Whales. They were supported by AL&E out of Union Glacier--so they were flown to the base of the Axel Heiberg Glacier on the Ross Ice Shelf. From there they ski-sailed north toward the Bay of Whales. Due to poor weather, they turned around after traversing about 40% of the Ross Ice Shelf, and man-hauled their sledges to the Pole. Thus, they would actually travel about 1200 miles. Her older website is here. They were dropped of at their starting point on 13 November. As of 6 December they were at about 84.5ºS. By the 10th they'd left the Ross Ice Shelf and climbed up Mount Betty, a small ridge at 85ºS-163ºW, where they located a cairn and cache left by Roald Amundsen in 1911, as well as a plaque added by Monica Kristensen in 1986-87. As of 3 January they were at 86º40'S. They were traveling slowly then, but have more recently increased their daily mileage. By 13 January they were at 88º-48'S..and they had hopes of reaching Pole by the 17th. They did make it on the 18th South Pole time....the last NGO group to reach that silver ball this summer.
Exercise Ice Maiden
was a British Army team of women who planned a 1000+ mile walk from the base of the Leverett Glacier to Hercules Inlet via Pole and the SPoT route. This was planned for 2017-18, but they were busy training back in 2016. Here is a September 2016 Telegraph article about their plans and preparation. Before they began, there wasn't much recent info on their website, but their Facebook page had more current info...including mention of their departure for Chile on 25 October. Earlier, there was their June 2017 announcement of the the final team selection: Nics Wetherill, Nat Taylor, Sandy Hennis, Zanna Baker, Jenni Stephenson and Sophie Montagne. Also see this March 2017 Daily Star article about their training. They arrived at the UG camp on the first IL-76 flight on 4 November...and on 20 November they were finally flown to their starting point. They reached Pole early on Sunday 17 December where they rested up and got resupplied for the leg to Hercules Inlet. The first two ALE "last degree" trekker groups also arrived around the same time. And they completed their entire mission, returning to Hercules Inlet at 2300 20 January (BBC News article). The six women are the largest all-female group to complete such a return journey to Pole.
AL&E's Ski South Pole Hercules Inlet team
set off from there on 21 November. This trip included five clients--Anne-Elisabeth Eskerud and Jon Erik Thunold from Norway, Angelo Felgueiras of Portugal, and David Woodman and Ali Negyal from the UK. They were guided by Carl Alvey (UK) and Christian Iversen Styve (Norway). They received 3 resupplies and reached Pole in mid-January. Their information (and other info I used here) came from this ALE 2017-18 expeditions review.
Feng Jing
became the first Chinese woman to travel the 700-mile distance from Hercules Inlet to Pole. She was not part of the AL&E group...rather she was separately supported by Polar Consultants and guided by Paul Landry. They left Hercules Inlet on 16 November and reached Pole on 8 January, per this Xinhua news article and this Women of China report (archived site).
What didn't come off:
Jethro De Decker
a 33-year-old actuary from South Africa currently working in Singapore, had announced plans to do an unsupported, unassisted "fastest known time" trip from the coast to Pole. As of late October 2017, there still was nothing on his blog about his detailed plans...his most recent post discussed his completion of 100 miles (out of a planned 300 miles) of the Yukon Quest ultramarathon in February. This 9 March article in The Actuary has more information. But as of 7 December there was no recent news about his trip. He was still training, but on 6 December he ran the Singapore Marathon...so the Antarctic trip was obviously not on for this season.
Priya Venkatesh
a management training instructor living in Bangalore, had announced plans to put together an all-Indian team for a South Pole venture in 2017-18. She previously visited the continent in 2011 as part of Robert Swan's 2041 program "Leadership on the Edge." As of 26 October 2017 there was nothing out there since several December 2016 news articles such as this one from The Times of India.
Sir Chris Hoy
a six-time champion Olympic cyclist, had announced a 423-mile cycling trip to Pole from the Amundsen Coast...and more recently he'd announced he would be accompanied on his fat bike by fellow Brit Jason Kenny, who also holds 6 cycling gold medals. Of course, the Amundsen Coast is also the location of the base of the Leverett Glacier, which meant that he'd planned to the South Pole Traverse route...as did Maria Leijerstam in December 2013 (Maria's blog). James was hoping to beat Maria's record time of 10 days 14 hours 56 minutes. Earlier in 2017 Chris was still looking for a sponsor, he had no website that I could find, and his Facebook page does not mention the Pole venture. Still, he mentioned the trip in a late September 2017 interview, and he'd been ruing the fact that he'd miss the first weeks of his second child's life while on the ice. Here's a June 2017 road.cc article about his plans. This 15 November Daily Mail article indicated he's postponed the Pole venture until 2018-19. Which may still be on. This February 2018 Guardian article quotes him as saying "next year." ??
James Redden
from Buckinghamshire in southeast England, was planning a solo unsupported full trip from Hercules Inlet to Pole in 2017-18, a venture he titled "North by South 2017," but in mid-October he announced its cancellation due to lack of funds. In In April of 2016, he completed a "last 2 degree" trip to the North Pole. In March 2017 he completed a 2-week solo ski training trip in Norway...although weather and baggage issues meant he only covered half the planned distance. Here's a 28 February 2017 article about his plans from The Bucks Herald. He'd been discussing his plans and training program on his blog. Also here is his virginmoneygiving.com page seeking donations now for a May 2018 crossing. Elsewhere he mentioned a possible Pole venture in 2019.

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. No...it 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 submission...info 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 up...as 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 encountered...at 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 it...it 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 Sprint...as 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 phys.org 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 quietly...so 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 "...no 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 earthsky.org. 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 March...in 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 be...so 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 book...so 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. BUT...it 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 thing...here's the stuff.co.nz 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! (Hmmm...as 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 in...it 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 usap.gov.

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 2005...now 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 Pole...in 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 home...equipment 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 2016-17 NGO ventures that did happen (or at least got started):
 
Arctic Trucks
had another big season underway, but I was not aware of it until I saw this photo (by Sheryl Seagraves) of several of their vehicles at Pole on 13 December. That is their most ambitious project which they're calling only "film support," although a friend on the second South Pole Traverse who passed them said that their project involved National Geographic. They reported that they were taking 3 Hilux AT44's (two 6x6s and one 4x4) on a round trip from Union Glacier to McMurdo, although the photos I've seen also show that they had a minivan along...I originally thought the minivan was also a Toyota product, but no, it was a Hyundai Santa Fe. Along for the ride was Ernest Shackleton's great-grandson Patrick Bergel. They were very secretive...the venture details about their return trip from Union Glacier to McMurdo were not revealed until 20 April 2017, when it was described as "Shackleton's Return" based on the presence of his great-grandson, Here's the venture website, as well as a news article from the Daily Mail. That trip is 700 miles from UG to Pole and 995 miles to McM along the traverse route each way, for a total of about 3400 miles round trip, with 4 people. Plus, one of the vehicles made an extra trip earlier in December to drive 250 miles out along the traverse route to pick up ailing Aron Anderson and his guide Doug Stoup...who were then driven to the last degree start point 68 miles from Pole. Two other Arctic Trucks projects out of Novo--one is pioneering a new route from the ice shelf (ship offloading point) to Novo to the ice shelf for White Desert (the company/camp supporting Buzz Aldrin earlier this season)and thence to the Wolfs Fang blue ice runway White Desert is developing (more information on that project from White Desert's April 2016 Environmental Evaluation Report). Their other project is preparing and maintaining the FD83 runway and refueling site at 83ºS. There is nothing new on their website, all the current info is from their Facebook page.
Aborted! Lynx Adventure Antarctica
is a group of 4 Finns led by Patrick "Pata" Degerman who plan a round-trip snowmobile expedition from Novo to Pole (sponsored by Lynx snowmobiles, of course). They plan to begin on 21 December, hope to celebrate New Years at Pole, and will attempt to climb an unnamed unclimbed peak in the Wohlthat Mountains (71º35'S-12º-20'E) on the way back. The other team members are Mika Listala, Pekka Ojanpää, and Jón Ólafur Magnusson. Here's a 9 December 2016 American Snowmobiler article about the trip. They arrived at Novo on 22 December...with 6600 lbs of equipment and gear. But...not of their sledges got loaded on the aircraft with them...and they dealt with the fact that they wouldn't get all of the gasoline they'd ordered. But...after setting off, on 29 December they posted that their largest sled had cracked. So they opted to turn around, head north, and focus solely on climbing mountains. They bagged their first peak on 4-5 January.
Emma Kelty
the Brit who was the last NGO traveler to reach Pole in 2015-16, has planned her own solo round trip venture for 2016-17--unsupported and unassisted skiing from Hercules Inlet to Pole, and a return after a resupply at Pole...she claims that 1400 mile distance has yet to be completed by any solo female. The link is to her blog...she doesn't have a trip-specific website, but she's also posting public updates on Facebook. It's a go...she arrived at Union Glacier in the morning of 12 November and was flown to her Hercules Inlet start point on 16 November. She got a great start but had issues with her stove and fuel canisters, requiring a resupply from ALE which eliminated her unsupported/unassisted status. As of 29 November she was continuing south after fixing a few other stove issues. By 25 December she was at 88ºS; by 1 January she was halfway through the last degree, having difficulty with the soft snow that has plagued others. She reached Pole about midnight on the 5th/6th.
Aron Anderson
is a Swedish adventurer...who ended up in a wheelchair after cancer surgery at age 9. He's planning a sit-ski venture to Pole in 2016-17, guided by Doug Stoup, on the 400 mile Leverett Glacier (aka South Pole Traverse) route. This Swedish language website doesn't have much detail, although there's a 29 August video in English on the blog link, and he's also calling the venture the Pole of Hope expedition. Aron's blog posts are here (in Swedish). He and Doug were training on Svalbard in early April. He's trying to raise money for the Barncancerfonden (Childhood Cancer Foundation). The two men arrived at Union Glacier on 28 November. They were flown to their starting point on 2 December and started south the same day. And he arrived at Pole on 23 December per this Telegraph article, but what the article doesn't mention is that he did not travel the entire 400 miles on his own power. Per his blog, on 14 December, after completing 150 miles in 13 days, he decided that his stomach issues would make it too difficult to complete the entire distance. So, he and Doug would wait for a vehicle from the Arctic Trucks team (see above) to arrive...and it transported him to 89ºS, from where he completed the 68-mile "last degree" distance.
Aborted! Michele Pontrandolfo (his diary page)
from Italy, was giving another try this year for a kite ski crossing from Novo to Hercules Inlet via the Pole of Inaccessibility and the South Pole--last year he had to call things off, at first he opted to bypass the POI and was later evacuated due to lack of decent winds. His website in Italian has little updated information on this trip, nor does (yet) the sponsor Moncler site. The best information is from his Facebook page...it indicates he arrived at Novo on 29 October. He finally got favorable winds and set out on 12 November...the Moncler tracking site confirms that he was underway, on 1 December he was at 71.25ºS-11.2ºE. But a bit later, the tracking site indicated he'd returned to Novo (and later back to Cape Town). His 16 December blog post confirmed that the trip had been interrupted due to "bad weather conditions and unexpected technical events."
Johanna Davidsson
from Sweden, is on the first Swedish solo round trip from Hercules Inlet to Pole, in what she calls the Solo Sister expedition. Her trip south is to be unsupported and without kite/wind assistance; at Pole she will pick up additional supplies including kites for the trip north. As of 6 November she was in PA waiting for good weather for the flight south, which she finally boarded on 12 November, and she was dropped off at her Hercules Inlet starting point on the 16th SP time. By 27 November she'd reached 82.2ºS. And then, she reached Pole on 25 December (1820 UTC 24 December)...her time of 38 days 23 hours and 5 minutes is a new womens' ski speed record for the 700 mile/1130 km journey from Hercules Inlet. The previous record, 10 hours slower, was held by Hannah McKeand, of the UK, who'd made the trip in December 2006 (and, as ALE camp manager at Pole, met Johanna upon her arrival). Here's an English language news article from The Local Sweden.. She swapped out some of her gear at Pole--including getting a different sled more suited to kite-skiing, and headed north on the 31st. With her kite, she was making good time...by 3 January she was already 175 miles from Pole. She arrived back at Hercules Inlet on 12 January...she'd covered 60+ miles per day on the trip north, with a 120-mile day on the 11th.
Sébastien Lapierre
is a Canadian firefighter from Quebec City. He was set to do the Hercules Inlet route to Pole, hoping to be first Canadian to do that alone without outside assistance or kites. Here's a 3 November interview with him by python.com. He was dropped off at his starting point on the morning of 29 November SP time...by 30 December he'd crossed 87ºS...and on the morning of 4 January he was 122 miles from Pole. His occasional blog posts are only available on his French language site, and I never got a password for his VIP site after paying $3 :( He reached Pole in the early afternoon of 10 January after a journey of 42 days 5 hours. Here's an excellent article about his success in the Québec City French language newspaper leSoliel (use your favorite translator).
SPEAR17
is the South Pole Expedition Army Reserves 2017--a 6-man team from the British Army Reserves who planned to ski from Hercules Inlet to Pole in 2016-17. This unsupported unassisted trek will be led by Lou Rudd, who is guiding Alun George, Chris Brooke, Alex Brazier, Oliver Stoten, and James Facer-Childs. In February they spent time training in Norway; the official "expedition launch" was held on 10 March at the Palace of Westminster in London. Recent events are better documented on their Facebook page...in early October they were training in Iceland. The route includes a start at Hercules Inlet...after reaching Pole they will continue over the Titan Dome and down the Shackleton Glacier, finishing at the Ross Ice Shelf. As of 7 November they were in Punta Arenas waiting for good weather for the flight to Union Glacier; they'd arrived by the 13th. They were dropped off at Hercules Inlet on 16 November; by 28 November they'd reached 82.5ºS. By 23 December they were almost at 89ºS, with 3 or 4 more travel days to go. They reached Pole at 0600 26 December SP time...and after a couple of days of rest and medical exams from the ALE physician, they continued on toward Titan Dome and the Shackleton Glacier. All except for Alun George, who'd suffered from significant muscle loss...the doctor recommended he not continue. By 3 January they were a few miles north of Titan Dome (which is at 88.5S) heading for the Ross Ice Shelf. They reached their goal--the Ross Ice Shelf at the bottom of Shackleton Glacier, on 21 January.
Małgorzata Wojtaczka (Polish language site, if necessary click the English flag or use your favorite translator, not everything is on the English site)
at age 51, is attempting to be only the second Pole to traverse to the South Pole...after Marek Kaminski did it in 1995 and 1997. She's completed the trip from Hercules Inlet in 69 days on a solo unassisted (and no kites) ski venture. She was flown south to Union Glacier on 16 November and to the Hercules Inlet start point on the 19th. As of 31 December she'd crossed at 86ºS, and on 20 January she was at 89.1ºS. She reached Pole at 0100 SP time on Thursday 26 January...per this Radio Poland article.
Risto Hallikainen
of Finland, is on a solo unsupplied unsupported round trip from Hercules Inlet to Pole...he first said that he would not be leaving depots on his way south, but he later said he'd leave one at 84ºS. There's nothing public out there that I can find other than what is on pythom.com. Here is their 11 November interview with him. The trip could take most of the short season and the clock is ticking...he was flown to Union Glacier around 12 November and got started from Hercules Inlet on the 16th. On 3 December he was at 82.9ºS...he reached Pole on 29 December SP time and waited for doctor's clearance before heading out on the return on the 31st. On 3 January he was at 89.3ºS, and on 18 January he'd reached 82.6ºS. He completed the return trip at about 1200 25 January SP time...for total trip time of 71 days. There is more info on this Facebook page.
Aborted! Hank van Weelden
of Edmonton, Alberta, attempted to do a bicycle trip FROM Pole to Hercules Inlet. Why--because it's easier riding downhill with the wind--or so he said. His bicycle is a Carver custom model with dual fat tires front and rear...something else unique, but hopefully better to weather the soft snowfields and hard sastrugi he'll encounter. He said his bike weighs 48 lbs and his pulk would max out at 156 lbs. He was to get 3 resupplies on the way north. He's scheduled to start his trip around 15 December. He has no website that I can find, but here's a 15 November interview he gave to pythom.com, and here is his Facebook page. He arrived in Punta Arenas on Wednesday 7 December PA time. He was flown to Pole and started heading north on the 20th SP time...but...his first 3 days he only completed 16 miles...pushing his bike and pulk (260 lbs) most of the time. So on the 24th he was flown north to ALE's Thiel Corner refueling site at 85ºS where he hoped to find better snow conditions. But...after one good day of travel on the 24th, he called it quits the next day after 14 hours travel. He hoped to be back in PA by the 30th, although he'd still have a bit of travel to get to a spot where aircraft could pick him up. He was back home in Edmonton on 2 January. Here's a 5 January article about his trip from the Bangor Daily News.
Ryan Waters
was guiding an unsupported Fuchs-Messner Start traverse with three clients--Katrina Follows, who is being sponsored by Mary Kay Cosmetics--she's a UK native currently living in France; Canadian mountaineer and motivational team builder/speaker Scott Kress from Leamington, Ontario (Scott's blog); and American Paul Adams, who now lives in Greenwood Village, CO but also identifies as an Iowan. The expedition diaries are posted here. They were flown to Union Glacier on 15 November Chilean time and were dropped off at their starting point (82.4ºS-65.2ºW)on 18 November. By 8 December they'd reached 85.5ºS...and on 20 December they were approaching 88ºS. By the 28th they were well within the last degree, and they reached Pole on the 31st. Here's a 27 January article about Paul Adams from the Mason City Globe Gazette in which he claims to be the first native Iowan to reach Pole in this manner.
Carl Alvey
the British guide, is taking New Zealander Bob Maxwell to Pole along the Messner route. Bob had planned a 2015-16 snowmobile venture from the Ross Ice Shelf along the traverse route to Pole, which apparently didn't happen. They were also dropped off (presumably with Ryan Waters' team) on 18 November. I have not found much web or social media information detailing their venture. But ALE reported that they arrived at Pole on 28 December SP time.
Eric Philips
guided a trip to Pole along a new route south from the base of the Reedy Glacier (at the far southeast inlet of the Ross Ice Shelf)...about 375 miles. Their daily dispatches are here. He's taking two clients...
Rob Smith, who planned two polar trips in 2016. In April 2016 he completed what was planned to be a last-two-degree Borneo-based venture to the North Pole...he actually started from 89º40'N and completed the trip in about a week. That was part of his training for his planned South Pole venture. Rob, a resident of Harpenden (about 30 miles north of London) is a cancer survivor who intends to raise money for cancer research. Here is a 14 March 2016 Herts Advertiser article about Rob, and this 25 November Evening Standard article confirms that he was flying to Chile on 28 November. His latest blog posts indicate that his ankle is causing him major problems.

and Keith Tuffley, also from the UK. Not that much else out there about him, except that he did take his fat bike to Barneo this past boreal spring and ride around a bit before completing a ski trip from 88.4ºN to the North Pole with three other clients, guided by Audun Tholfsen.

They arrived at UG on the morning of 6 December SP time and were flown to their start point (85ºS-144ºW) 48 hours later. They're now well underway...as of 24 December they were well onto the plateau and passed 87ºS, and by 3 January they were approaching the last degree. They reached Pole on 10 January.
Mike Horn
(blog posts and position reports are at the pole-to-pole link; click on "follow his journey") is underway on his kite/ski crossing of the continent. He's South African born but currently lives in Switzerland. On about 22 November, he set sail on his 115-foot ice-strengthened yacht Pangaea from Cape Town, heading for Antarctica--as of 3 December he was at 64.1ºS and had been traveling through ice. He landed near Novo, from where he is crossing the continent on skis with hopefully some help from his kites. He visited Pole and continued on to Dumont d’Urville, from where he'll hopefully be picked up by Pangaea and continue to New Zealand. This May 2016 Monaco Yacht Club news article includes some earlier information on the trip, a small map of the Antarctic crossing route, and a photo of his yacht. In 2008-09 Mike made a similar attempt to land his yacht in Marguerite Bay south of Stonington Island (at 67º43'S-68ºW) and cross the continent, but that was thwarted by strong winds ashore (and his lack of a contingency rescue policy) so he opted to sail to Punta Arenas, from where he was flown by ALE to the continent and completed a traverse from Hercules Inlet to Pole on 19 January...he started back north but had to be picked up by air as the Patriot Hills season was ending. Here is an Mike Horn 8 November SA Breaking News article about his venture. There may also be more info about Mike's current venture on his Facebook page, where he reported having a successful day on 30 December...completing 127 miles, despite suffering a broken ski (yes he has spares). He hopes to reach Pole by 15 January so as to have time to complete the planned trip to DdU. By 3 January he was at 85.5ºS and making good time, although he had to improvise after losing his stove and cooking pot. He reached Pole on the morning of 10 January...and had dinner at the ALE camp with Hannah McKeand (thus losing his unsupported status for the full traverse) but opted to leave the next day. He's now getting closer to DdU...on 4 February he was at 69.5ºS-137.5ºE, with about 205 miles yet to go--perhaps doable in 4-5 days of good weather. But his yacht Pangaea had to turn back to Tasmania due to electrical issues. He left Dumont d'Urville on the weekend of 18 February...aboard the French supply vessel M/V L'Astrolabe (!). On the 24th, he was reunited with Pangaea in Hobart.

POSTPONED, CANCELLED, OR...just didn't happen...
 
Postponed... The Longest Journey
was a planned 2016-17 solo unsupported venture by Australian adventurer Geoff Wilson. He's no stranger to long journeys...in 2013-14 he completed the "Pink Polar Expedition" from Novo to Hercules Inlet, which he'd originally planned to be a more complete crossing of the continent, but for which he'd been unable to obtain the proper approvals. This time he'd planned to again leave from Novo and cross the continent via the Pole of Inaccessibility, Pole, and Vostok, completing the trip at Casey. If successful, it would have been the longest solo polar journey in history. This is supposed to begin in October--he's been training in various parts of the world. He announced he was postponing his trip, and although he is planning a Greenland crossing in 2017, there's no word on the Antarctic project.
Zero South
was originally a planned 2015-16 trip to drive two repurposed Hummer H1 vehicles converted to electric/biofuel technology and using Mattrack-type treads. The vehicles were to have a 3.2-liter turbodiesel straight 6 engine powered by aviation-grade biofuel. That engine powers a generator...the drive wheels are powered by by electric motors. Apparently the planning has been underway since 2009 with several postponements (it had most recently been announced for 2014-15). The vehicles were to be flown to Union Glacier by ALE, and the team would be sheltered in...a repurposed and modified 1962 Airstream trailer (!) Here is a 1 May 2015 digitaltrends.com article about the project, as well as a 2015 Autodesk article about some of the planning and design efforts. Early in 2016 they announced plans to do the trip in 2016-17, and at the end of February they did a round trip test drive of the vehicles--with their modified 1962 Airstream trailer--from Kuparuk to Barrow, AK, a total of 400 miles (as well as the rubber-tired road trips from Anchorage to Deadhorse and return). That trial is not mentioned on their website, but it is previewed in this Alaska Dispatch News story and followed on their Facebook page. Nothing much new has been posted on the website since the end of the Alaska venture...although there have been some recent posts/videos of their electric Hummers on their Facebook page. So it could yet happen someday.
Cancelled... Fat bike to Pole (!)
Well, this was something that you could have shelled out for starting in 2015-16, but I guess they didn't get enough €. TDA Global Cycling was offering a "last degree" fat tire ride to Pole for the 2016-17 season (111 km or roughly 60 nautical miles/one latitude degree). For only $70,000 ex PA (and not including the mandatory training at Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba) they also promised you could keep the fat tire bike. Not.
Kate Leeming
an experienced long-distance Australian cyclist (and a tennis pro, but with no previous polar ventures) had originally announced the "Breaking the Cycle South Pole" trip for 2013-14, but that has now postponed several times...in March 2016 she said she's now planning it for 2017-18. For the postponed 2015-16 venture she was to be supported on snowmobiles by expedition leader Eric Philips and filmmakers Claudio Von Planta and Phil Coates. She'll be riding the first-of-its-kind 2-wheel drive bike, built by Steve Christini in Philadelphia...it uses a series of gears and shafts to power the front wheel. In 2013 she trained with it in Svalbard. At present it appears that her route will start at the base of the Leverett Glacier, following the South Pole Traverse route to Pole, and then continuing to Hercules Inlet. Her trip will support AIDS treatment programs and education. This photo (from her web site) shows her bicycle; the silver tube visible on the right side of the front fork contains one of the drive shafts which transfers power to the front wheel. She was training in northeast Greenland in April-May, but not much posted since then... (?)
From Fire to Ice
was to be all about Rob Small, who barely survived a 2010 house fire in Zanzibar...he required 200 days in the hospital and more than 30 operations. To raise awareness and funds for burns, he'd planned a December 2016 trek from Shackleton's January 1909 furthest south (88º23' S) to Pole, a distance of 112 miles. During the trip, his medical team would be monitoring his physiology--one thing that was to be studied is the fact that burn-scarred skin is more prone to causing hypothermia than unburned skin. He was to be accompanied by physician Greg Williams (one of the surgeons who treated Rob), and photographer/videographer Seb Coulthard. Rob is from the UK, having grown up in Aberdeen. Dr. Greg Williams was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica; here is an interview about the venture he did in March 2016 for iamajamacan.net. The trip was originally planned for 2015-16 but postponed after Seb Coulthard broke his wrist. Looks like it's off again...in September 2016 Rob was being vague about the schedule, and there is nothing new since then.
The British Antarctic Microlight Expedition
has been planning the first ever microlight aircraft expedition for, well, since 2012, per this September 2012 news article from the Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard. They've continued to have a media presence ever since...more recently in the same newspaper on 9 June 2015. At present, their website still mentions this as a "2016 Antarctica" venture, but there was no specific timetable. The latest plans involved flying 3-5 aircraft to Pole along the South Pole Traverse route (supported by ground vehicles). They then were to continue to Union Glacier and perhaps overfly Mt. Vinson. This group was to be supported by a Ministry of Defence program which assists the recovery of injured and amputee service people. The venture plans kept changing; earlier plans involved the team landing on the western Antarctic Peninsula, assisted by the Royal Navy's ice-strengthened HMS Protector, which would land the venture on the western Ronne Ice Shelf in the Weddell Sea. They would then fly to Union Glacier. There was also some sort of overflight of Mt. Vinson planned. Afterward they would fly back to Union Glacier from where they and the ultralights will be flown back to Chile. This venture was once announced for December 2014, to commemorate the centenary of Shackleton's trans-Antarctic attempt. Here's a newer 4 August 2014 Gizmag article. The aircraft of choice continued to be the the P&M PulsR Microlight.
Eirliani Abdul Rahman
a Singapore resident, hoped to be the first woman from that nation to reach Pole by foot, in a venture she planned for 2016-17. She was to be accompanied by her Lithuanian rock-climbing partner Ruta Sidlauskaite, and guided by the experienced Sarah McNair-Landry. Eirliani planned to raise money for/awareness of child sexual abuse survivors. No website or blog for this venture, only this 3 May Channel NewsAsia post. And no announced route...although the planned 1100 km/685 mile distance matches the length of the Hercules Inlet route. She described her plans in this 26 April Outdoor Journal blog post. But there was no further news after the initial announcement.

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 scrapyard...no 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 left...an 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)...one 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.

NGO Pole ventures that happened (or didn't) in 2015-16:
Shackleton 2015 TransAntarctic
is yet another venture originally to complete the Antarctic crossing--the 1915 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition--that Shackleton planned 100 years ago. More than one such previously planned expedition never happened. The original plans were to start on Berkner Island (a bit further south than Shackleton thought he'd get to), proceed to Pole, and then continue to Ross Island, but now the plans are to start on the Weddell Sea coast, ski to Pole, and return to Hercules Inlet using kites. The ice team now includes only Stew Edge from the UK and Canadian Devon McDiarmid. Newall Hunter (who did a solo Pole trip in 2014-15) has dropped out to devote his time to completing the Seven Summits. They arrived at UG on 26 November, but had to wait around until 9 December for good weather at the Messner starting point. For the Messner Start/Pole segment of their trip, they are being accompanied by Mostafa and Sharom...on 5 January they had about 170 miles to go before reaching Pole. The four of them reached Pole on 16 January. From there, Stew and Devon headed north on their kiting trip to Union Glacier on the 18th. They arrived on 26 January.
Mostafa Salemeh
a 44-year-old Muslim from Jordan living in Scotland, announced plans to trek to Pole this summer along the full Messner route. This Daily Record article (from Scotland) describes his intent to raise money for the Islamic Relief charity. He's completed the Seven Summits and a North Pole venture. In early November he was in Norway for final training and gearing up, as of 8 November he was back in Jordan preparing to head south. After long waits in PA and UG, he finally got started from the Messner Start on 9 December. His website now includes a blog of the journey, including several of his hero shots at Pole after arriving on 16 January.
Shahrom Abdullah
a Malaysian triathlete, has announced his "South Pole All The Way Expedition 2015"--using the Messner start, beginning on 17 November. He doesn't have a website, but he may be getting some financial help from the Malaysian government. Here's a press release from the Prime Minister's office. As of 27 October he was planning to leave Malaysia on 12 November for Amsterdam before heading south. You can follow his trek on Mostafa's and the Shackleton 2015's blogs above. This article describes his arrival at Pole on 16 January.
Henry Worsley 
a British descendant of Shackleton's expedition member Frank Worsley, is about to start on a solo unsupported/unassisted expedition from Gould Bay (near Shackleton's planned starting point) to Pole and thence to the foot of the Shackleton Glacier on the Ross Ice Shelf. Titled Shackleton Solo, this will be Henry's third polar trek--in 2008-09 he led an expedition commemorating Shackleton's 1907-09 "Nimrod" expedition to a point 97 miles north of the Pole (Henry then continued to Pole)--and in 2011-12 he led a team of soldiers to Pole via the Axel Heiberg Glacier. As of 8 November he was still cooling his heels in PA. Two days later he flew to Union Glacier, and on 14 November he was flown to his Berkner Island starting point...he skied 4 miles that day before setting his first camp. He reached Pole on 3 January...but stayed around for only about a day before heading on toward his planned first solo descent of Shackleton Glacier. He almost made it. 30 miles from his destination, he was stopped by a whiteout...and then took ill. He was evacuated on the 71st day of his journey to Punta Arenas, Chile on 22 January, where he died of bacterial peritonitis on 25 January. Further information from the New Zealand Herald which includes his last audio message on his (currently down) website, this report from his sponsor's website including a note from his wife Johanna, and this New York Times article.
The Endurance 100 Expedition
is one of the few Shackleton commemorative ventures proposed over the past few years which actually happened. A group of 12, led by David Hempleman-Adams and including a couple of relatives of Shackleton's expedition member Sir James Wordie. The team left the UK on 25 November, were dropped off at their starting point on 11 December, and reached Pole on 18 December.
Michele Pontrandolfo
an Italian explorer who has done many Arctic trips, is about to embark on a traverse from Novo to the Pole of Inaccessibility, Pole, and Hercules Inlet, a total distance of more than 2000 miles. As of 15 November he was still in Cape Town awaiting good weather for the flight to Novo. His website is in Italian and doesn't yet mention this venture...but this page in English from sponsor Moncler has detailed info about his plans, which involve a kite...as well as his expedition diary. He flew to Novo around 18 November and set out from there. In mid-December he reported that due to poor kiting winds he was no longer heading to POI, but rather heading directly to 90º South. Some time later he opted to be evacuated due to his slow progress.
Luke Robertson
a 30-year old Scottish financial worker who uses a pacemaker (and also had severe brain surgery last year) will attempt to be the first Scotsman to travel solo unassisted and unsupported, starting from Hercules Inlet. Training has included time in Greenland and Norway; backers include patron Ran Fiennes. Nothing new on his blog, but his website is posting position reports and links to Twitter and Facebook posts. This 1 November The Courier (Dundee, England) article gives an update on his planned trip south later in the month. He was scheduled to head to Chile on 9 November. As of 22 November he was still waiting in Punta Arenas...he finally got to the ice in early December, and started his trip from Hercules Inlet on the 6th. He reached Pole on 14 January.
Doug Tumminello
a 48-year-old attorney currently living in the Denver area, set his sights on a solo venture from Hercules Inlet, pulling a pulk with, at the start, 225 pounds of gear and supplies. He's been around, having summited Everest, Denali, and Aconcagua, not to mention a rowboat trip from Western Australia to Mauritius. He was scheduled to fly to Union Glacier around 29 November, but didn't make it there until 5 December. He was flown to his Hercules Inlet starting point on 6 December, from where he skied for an hour before making camp. His progress was slowed by the difficult weather and a nagging foot injury...he had to have a replacement teapot dropped to him to replace a leaky one, and around 10 January he decided to abort his Pole trip after reaching the (unstaffed) Thiels Corner airstrip used by ALE at 85.1ºS-80.8ºW.
Carl Alvey
after a year's break, is again guiding an ANI team to Pole from Hercules Inlet. This year his team members are two people--Emma Tamsin Kelty from London (link to Em's blog), and Khai Nguyen, a Vietnamese Canadian (his blog). Khai has previously done both North Pole and South Pole last degree trips. As of 21 November the group was still in PA waiting for their flight south. They finally reached Union Glacier on the 27th, and, after several boomerangs, started the trek from Hercules Inlet on 6 December. But on 12 December, Khai decided things were getting too strenuous and he decided to pull out (his 12 December blog post). The remaining pair are getting resupplies, and on 19 December they were airdropped medical supplies for Emma's thigh.And interestingly, on about 22 January, a plane landed to change out the guide. Carl was replaced by a Chilean, Pachi Iberra. The two of them made it to Pole on a chilly 2 February...one of the latest trekker arrivals ever. She's already planning and preparing for another South Pole trek, this one solo, in October 2016.
 Charles Werb
had previously announced a "snowsail" to Pole at some point, originally proposed for 2014-15, but suddenly in February 2016 (!) his plans had jelled. Those plans...to take his snowsailer south, perhaps all the way to Pole. The Australian magazine publisher is doing this to raise money for leukemia research...he arrived at Novo on 11 February, where an Arctic Trucks team was to take him south 250 miles or so to the plateau. He was hoping to get started on 15 or 16 February, but his Snowsailer was damaged and had to be towed back to Novo. Turns out...he did not make it anywhere near Pole...actually he never made it very far from Novo, but he did traverse over 600 miles at a maximum speed of nearly 40 mph. He left the snow sailer at Novo, perhaps in view of another future attempt. His story can be read if you scroll down and follow the links from this page.

Announced but cancelled, postponed, or otherwise never happened...
 
The Exploration Company
announced a unique offering for folks who don't want to ski or walk to Pole. This season they offered a series of driving trips to Pole, using those Arctic Trucks vehicles. Earlier this year they announced three trips...the first two being November one-way trips between Union Glacier and the base of the Leverett Glacier (via Pole and the South Pole Traverse route). The third one was a return trip covering the same route, with plans to be at Pole for Christmas Day. The price: well, if you have to ask, you probably couldn't afford it. Prices started at £110,000 ex PA. Bookings closed earlier this year, and it doesn't look like anyone took them up.
Shackleton’s Unfinished Business
was another Shackleton-inspired venture which planned to more closely follow Sir Ernest's planned Antarctic crossing route. It was being organized by Charlie Paton (28 July Aberdeen Press and Journal article, with several companions, including Tarke L'Herpiniere, one of two participants in the successful 2013-14 Scott Expedition, Tom Alden, Mike O'Shea, Hannah Forrestal, and Michael Byrne. The trip was to start in October from Vahsel Bay on the Weddell Sea, and cross the Filchner Ice Shelf, the Beardmore Glacier, and the Ross Ice Shelf en route to Ross Island. There were be 3 resupplies including one at Pole. As of 9 November there is no information out there about the start of the expedition, which obviously is not happening.
John Dennis
originally from New Zealand but now living in Bishop's Waltham (in south England) was planning a solo unsupported ski traverse to Pole--an attempt to be the first Kiwi to do so. His Expedition dare2express was to be raising funds for charities that support mental health issues. Here's a 2 May 2014 article from The News (Portsmouth), which describes the venture for the 2014-15 season. But it was postponed to 2015-16 per this 17 November 2014 The News article which is no longer available. But in October he announced that it wouldn't happen in 2015-16. Here is a 4 May 2015 Portsmouth News article about the venture. Here is another 1 May 2015 Hampshire Chronicle article about his training in Norway.
The 2015-16 Windsled Antarctica Circumnavigation
was supposed to be the next big kite sled venture planned in part by Ramón Larramendi. It has been announced for several seasons including 1015-16, in its present incarnation it was to feature a train of 3 sleds (more than 3-1/2 tons) pulled by a collection of 20 kites sized up to 1000 square feet (selected based on wind conditions). They would start and finish near Novo, their 4300-mile route includes Plateau Station, the Pole of Inaccessibility, Vostok, Concordia, Kunlun, and Dome Fuji--somewhat reminiscent of Larramendi's 2005-06 Tierras Polares expedition. It did not happen...instead, the team did a 2016 crossing of Greenland.

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 15th...it showed up...but visibility was too poor for it to see the skiway...or for folks on the ground to see the aircraft. So...one 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 January...an 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 2016...here (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 Pole...as station folks are planning for Christmas celebrations next weekend, the sun is now starting to head for the horizon. Construction is in full swing...one 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 did...as 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 October...new 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) . So...it 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. Amazingly...you 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 2015...it'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 back...as 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 Station...as 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 published...it 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 winters...as 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 antarcticauction.com, 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...

What was up for 2014-15:
 
Ian Evans
a 58-year-old originally from Shrewsbury in England but now living in Canada, completed a 2014-15 Pole trip, with accountant Andy Styles (age 50, from Hampshire, England) and Scotsman/drilling engineer Bradley Cross (age 30), guided by American Keith Heger. Ian climbed 5 of the "seven summits" before a 300-foot fall from Mt. Elbrus ended his mountaineering. They used the Messner Start from the Ronne/Filchner Ice Shelf--525 miles from Pole in a straight line (but the actual route is longer). They were supported by Polar Explorers (team photos). They reached Pole on 7 January...they're working on a planned documentary film...and Ian declared Polemart to be a "bust." Two blogs...this one from polarexplorers, and this one from Ian on mytripjournal.
Runners to the Pole
Børge Ousland had a busy season in the Arctic for much of 2014. He assisted planning for this 3-person resupplied full trip from Ronne-Filchner Ice Shelf to Hercules Inlet: Norwegian guide Are Johansen and the French couple Stéphanie and Jérémie Gicquel on a crossing from the Messner start to Hercules Inlet via Pole. They flew to the starting point and began on 15 November. Arrival at Pole came on Christmas eve morning SP time...after a rest day and tour of the station they headed north on the 26th and reached Hercules Inlet on 27 January.
Tractors to the South Pole
was a long-time dream of Netherlands "Tractor Girl" Manon Ossevoort. But in early 2013 she obtained sponsorship from Massey Ferguson, the manufacturer of the tractors that Ed Hillary drove to Pole in 1957-58. The original plan was for three tractors to travel to Pole in 2014-15, so far she has support from experienced Canadian guides Sarah McNair-Landry and Matty McNair. Here is an AGCO blog post from January 2014. In June it was reported that Arctic Trucks was modifying a 5600-series tractor in Reykjavik for the journey (stuff.co.nz article) The expedition link above is to Manon's blog...this Antarctica2 site has more details about the expedition. The tractor was shipped south early in November, the expedition team was on the ice by 20 November, and Arctic Trucks was getting their support vehicles ready (their blog). They started south at 0755 SP time on 23 November...and were the first NGO land venture to reach Pole, at 1630 SP time on 9 December. Here is their press release. Oh yeah, this was just the halfway point of a round trip. They returned to Novo on 21 December.
Newall Hunter
who grew up in the mountains of Scotland, is doing a solo trip to Pole on the Messner Start route, followed by a climb of Mt. Vinson. He got to PA on 16 November...only to suffer that frequent misfortune of polar travels...his baggage didn't make it. He flew to UG on Saturday the 22nd, and was flown to the starting point on the Ronne-Filchner Ice Shelf on 25 November. He was posting publicly on Facebook before he flew to UG (you don't have to join FB to see the posts and photos). Newall is also an organizer of the Ice Race, which plans an April 2016 300 nm team race from Resolute Bay to the 1996 Magnetic North Pole position and on to the site of the abandoned Isachsen weather station. Newall reached Pole on 4 January.
Adventure Consultants
(based in Wanaka, NZ) led several travelers south from Hercules Inlet to Pole--they are Tim Garrett from Australia, Hugh Dougall from Canada, and Brit William Morrison. They were guided by Icelander Einar Finnsson. They flew to UG on 23 November; on 24 November they were flown to Hercules Inlet...they started walking early on the 25th SP time. On 12 January they were south of 88º--they reached Pole on the morning of the 20th. Their venture was apparently the only team to do the Hercules Inlet route.
Frédéric Dion
from Canada, did a successful kite-ski trip from Novo to the Pole of Inaccessibility; he flew to Novo on the 11th and set off almost immediately--the first Antarctic skier to get underway this season. His blog is in French and English. By 20 November he'd traveled over 300 miles...and suffered a fire in his tent and a badly broken sled. He reached Pole on Christmas Day and finished his trip at Hercules Inlet on 5 January.
Faysal Hanneche
This Frenchman had to abort a planned crossing from Novo to Hercules Inlet in 2013-14 because of a knee injury. He tried it again in 2014-15..again attempting this solo kite/ski expedition. He arrived at Novo on 14 November and had set out by the 16th. His daily blog entries are in French and English. He reached Pole on 14 January.
The PoleCat South Pole Expedition 2014-15 (archived site)
was the Adventure Network International (ANI) supported venture; they traveled to Pole from the Messner Start, guided by Robert Smith; the group includes Vincent Piguot from Switzerland, and from the UK: Arabella Slinger (who'd planned to do the trip last year but dropped out due to injury), Julian Thomas, and...
Paula Reid
a leadership trainer from Alverstoke, a small community on the south coast of England. Here's a 1 September 2014 article about her plans in the Portsmouth News. She was supporting a charity with an interesting name--Gutsy Gastros--for children with life-threatening bowel conditions. The group flew to the ice on 22 November and were taken to the start point and began the trip on the 26th. Vincent decided to call it quits just after Christmas, he was flown out a couple of days after Christmas. The rest of the group reached Pole on 10 January.

What didn't happen:
 
Cancelled...Ann Bancroft and Liv Arnesen
are familiar names in the polar regions...in part for their 2000-01 Antarctic crossing. The two explorer/educators have been planning a new multi-year venture, now postponed yet again to 2014-15, titled Access Water, in which they will lead six other women from six continents to various destinations, focusing on the global crisis involving access to fresh water. They'd previously announced that the 2014-15 event would be an 800-mile trip to Pole...but now their first venture will be a 1,569-mile 60-day expedition down the Ganges River, planned for an unannounced future date in 2015. Antarctica is still on their list of future journeys.
Didn't happen...Fabien Docet (French language site),
had announced the Antarctic Way Expedition 2014--a solo unassisted crossing of the continent in 2014-15...starting from Neumeyer Station (near Sanae), and traveling via Kohnen (a German summer-only station on the Plateau at 75ºS-0ºE, 475 miles south of Neumeyer), Pole, Vostok, and Concordia, finishing at Dumont D'Urville--a total distance of 3100 miles, planned to take 150 days (!) He called it the longest ever Antarctic expedition on foot. That page on his site now does not open, and I've seen no recent news. Unfortunately this site was 100% Flash driven and I couldn't translate it...but I'd say the venture was called off.
Postponed (?)...The British Antarctic Microlight Expedition
was to be a new twist, planning the first ever microlight aircraft expedition. While (as of mid-November) they continued to have a media presence. At present, their website briefly mentions this as a "2016 Antarctica" venture, but there isn't much more info. This group is supported by a Ministry of Defence program which assists the recovery of injured and amputee service people. The venture plans kept changing...their most recent plans were to fly 3 to 5 aircraft from McMurdo to Pole over 14 days via the "Great Ice Road to the South Pole" (quoting from their website, but we of course know that to be the McM-Pole traverse route. They would then fly to Union Glacier. There was also some sort of overflight of Mt. Vinson planned. Afterward they would fly back to Union Glacier from where they and the ultralights will be flown back to Chile. This venture was most recently announced for December 2014, to commemorate the centenary of Shackleton's trans-Antarctic attempt. Here's a September 2012 news article from the Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard and a newer 4 August 2014 Gizmag article. The aircraft of choice is the the P&M PulsR Microlight.
Cancelled...The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Centenary Expedition 2014
was planned to mark another upcoming centennial in 2014-15--that of Shackleton's famous attempt to cross the continent in a 1914-1917 venture. But after much much publicity and planning, they announced the cancellation on 13 August 2014 (Dundee [UK] Courier article). This group would have had a bit easier time of it, what with air support, GPS, and modern equipment. It was originally to be a six-person group led by Joanne Davies who was born in Kenya and who has rowed across the Atlantic and skied across Greenland. Other team members were sought from the Commonwealth countries, and selected in May 2012 (10 May 2012 press release copy/MS Word document). They included physician Alexander Kumar (blog; he wintered in 2012 at Concordia), Ian Prickett, Stewart Stirling, Zac Poulton, and Ro Sharma. They'd planned to retrace Shackleton's planned route from Vahsel Bay to Shackleton's hut at Cape Royds, Ross Island, via Pole.
Postponed...The Outer Edge Polar Challenge
consists of Australians Charles Werb, Adrian McCallum, and Jonathan Moody. They plan to sail from the polar plateau south of Novo to Pole and back, perhaps returning via the Pole of Inaccessibility. They'll be using a unique "snow sailer" which looks somewhat similar to an ice boat with skis (not much more detail about the vehicle). They were scheduled to start in December 2014, but now they're talking about 2015-16..
Didn't happen... Pole2PoleandBack
originally a 2011-2012 venture, was to be an ambitious round-the-world expedition being organized by Ewan van Breda of South Africa. The event was originally planned for January-December of 2014, to raise funds for cancer patients, and as of yet most of the information on the site is about cancer. They postponed their original plans to start at Pole (which were described in this news24.com article) and now plan to start from northern Greenland in January 2014, head to Pole for the 2014-15 summer, and then return north to Greenland...if they got funding. That venture didn't happen, and the website now has no specific information about an Antarctic journey.
Didn't happen...Richard Parks
who completed a fast 29-day trip to Pole in 2013-14, announced afterward that he would attempt "the longest solo, unsupported and unassisted Antarctic journey in history" with a "unique twist." That announcement was here (but it is no longer). Currently he's concentrating on promoting his book Beyond the Horizon as well as a UK television series.

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 markerYes...it 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, VA...in a single-engine Lancair IV aircraft...in 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 stuff.co.nz 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 west...to get it away from the sink that used to be the sewer (left, photo from IceCube w/o Erik Beiser). Still to be determined...how 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 Trophy...as the FA is the governing body of English soccer. It was brought down as part of a league publicity effort...by 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 Walker...in 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 Tuesday...it and the pax made it all the way to Pole but boomeranged due to low visibility.

let's pull a pump tonightSaturday 1 November...it 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 Pole...it 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 toast...as 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 station...here'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 weather...at 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 sharing...in 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 links...an 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. Oh...construction and installation of the first BICEP telescope began during the 2005 winter when I was around...here 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 storm...at 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. Also...here'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. And...at 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.

The 2013-14 nongovernmental ventures, starting with...

...the winter one that got underway at the March 2013 equinox:
 
Called off! The Coldest Journey
is the name of the next great expedition of Sir Ranulph Fiennes, that dauntless 68 year old Brit who has done a bunch of stuff, including the 1979-82 Transglobe Expedition that visited both poles on the first circumpolar venture. This time they planned to cross Antarctica during the winter. Ulp. Yes. They officially started at the coast near Novo at the equinox (21 March 2013), although the venture started much earlier. But they got mired in a massive crevasse field after traveling only 185 miles/300 km. They'd hoped to clear the potential crevasse field before it got dark...but no. On 18 June they officially announced they'd called off the crossing...they'd stay put for the rest of the winter and do outreach and science, and return to Crown Bay in the 2013-14 summer. They flew from Princess Elisabeth to Novo and then north to Cape Town on 23 November Here's my updated detailed discussion about the expedition.

The venture started out well...the expedition support ship, the South African cadet training vessel SA Agulhas, left Cape Town for England on 2 November. For 30 years it was the supply vessel for South Africa's SANAE base. It picked up the equipment and supplies at London's Canary Wharf and headed back to Cape Town on 6 December UK time. The team was still in London for more training and testing; they joined the vessel in Cape Town. They all sailed south from Cape Town on 7 January for Crown Bay (70ºS-23ºE). They reached that unloading point on 20 January and left the team behind. The team progressed with establishing a depot on the plateau, but on 25 February they announced that Ran had developed a severe case of frostbite after taking his glove off for too long--on his left hand, which had previous frostbite injury and amputation. Ran was evacuated to Princess Elisabeth Station and flown back to Novo and Cape Town...as the remaining 5 expeditioners continued their efforts. After the depot laying, they returned to Crown Bay for the official start...and as of 2 May they were still experiencing slow traveling conditions in heavily crevassed areas.

The plan...to reach Pole shortly before midwinters day, and finish at McMurdo around the September equinox. Or so goes the plan. Here's the September BBC article. I've posted more information here. The rest of the six-man ice team consists of mechanic/driver Richmond Dykes; Dr Rob Lambert (the physician, a late replacement for Mike Stroud); Ian Prickett, an engineer with extensive BAS experience; Brian Newham, the traverse manager, an experienced mountaineer also with BAS experience; and mechanic/driver Spencer Smirl, who is the only Canadian on the venture. Spencer will be driving one of the two Caterpillar D6N tractors; here's a 17 October Edmonton Journal article about him. The tractors are pulling living/energy modules and fuel bladders on plastic sleds similar to those used by the USAP South Pole Traverse.

In 2013-14, in what must be the year of the fat-tire bicycle, we had:
 
Maria Leijerstam
Maria Leijerstam at Polea British woman cyclist who completed a more unique trip, which she was calling the White Ice Cycle Expedition. Around 10 December she flew to Novo and on to Pole, where she was met by an Arctic Trucks team who transported her to the base of the Leverett Glacier. From there she started her ride to Pole on a recumbent tricycle on 17 December, with the truck providing close support as well as a cameraman. Her blog also describes some of her previous exploits. She reached Pole on 27 December. At right is a photo of her at Pole with her Arctic Trucks escort (photo by IceCuber Mike DuVernois).
American Daniel Burton/South Pole Epic
was underway on a cycling round trip from Hercules Inlet. He says the purpose of his trip is to encourage a culture of active lifestyles. Originally he was to be accompanied by Todd Tueller on another bike as well as snowmobile support by an ANI guide, but now he went solo and had 3 resupplies. He'll now be riding a Borealis Yampa fat bike. He planned to fly to Antarctica on 23 November, but weather delays pushed that to the 29th. He was flown to Hercules Inlet and got started south on 3 December. As of 17 January he was 46 miles from Pole...after running out of food he arrived on the 21st.
Juan Menendez Granados
a 30 year old Spaniard, announced his cycling venture at a Madrid press conference on 1 May. His 35-day trip from Hercules Inlet was to be unassisted and unsupported--he'll pull his gear on a 200-lb sled towed behind his Surly Moonlander. Previously he's done a solo cycle across Lake Baikal in 2010 and attempted a Greenland crossing from Kanger in 2012. In July 2013 he started a blog (available on his web site), and both the site and the blog are available in both Spanish and English. On 7 November he announced that he was to start his trip in 10 days but was still looking for a sponsor with perhaps €12,500. After weather delays, he was on the flight to Union Glacier on 29 November. He was scheduled to start from Hercules Inlet on the fourth. As of 16 January he was 30 miles from Pole and running seriously short of food. Also, he was reportedly traveling 15+ hours per day and sleeping only 4-5 hours. He reached Pole on the 18th. The link is his blog in Spanish and English.

Other more conventional (?) ventures included:
 
The Scott Expedition
formerly named Scott2012, was an expedition which finally hapened 2013-14, renamed the Scott Expedition. It was led by Ben Saunders, with Frenchman Tarka L’Herpiniere, who replaced Alastair Humphreys. And Martin Hartley was no longer involved. This trip was first planned for 2011-12, and was cancelled last year as well. The goal was to be the first team to complete Scott's round trip route to Pole from Scott's hut at Cape Evans on Ross Island. They claim the 1800-mile trek would be the longest unsupported polar journey in history. In late August they started posting details of their route on their blog. A Basler took them from Union Glacier to the McMurdo sea ice runway on 24 October; they then traveled to their starting point at the Cape Evans Terra Nova hut, from which they officially started their trip on the 25th. They reached Pole on 27 December, although they camped about 6 miles away and made only a brief visit, avoiding personal contact. On the return they ran short of food and had a resupply from an ALE Twin Otter on 2 January.
Antony Jinman
from the UK, embarked on a solo expedition from Hercules Inlet to Pole in November 2013. The project involved major interaction with schools through the ETE (Education through Expeditions) Teachers organization (website)...unfortunately the ETE site is hard to navigate and most of the expedition information is password protected. Antony took lots of electronics including some Parrot AR drones, which he said might be used for the first drone flight at Pole (??). Antony did a solo North Pole trip in 2010. Here's a wired.co.uk news article. He was flown to Union Glacier on the 29th and to Hercules Inlet on 2 December and started traveling the next day. He reached Pole on 17 January.
Expeditions 7
is a group of hardcore offroaders that decided they wanted to drive a Toyota Land Cruiser on all continents. Antarctica is continent #6 of 7...and although there is no current information on the Pole venture on their website, we know from the Arctic Trucks blog that they were doing a round trip from Novo in two of Arctic Trucks' AT44 Hilux vehicles. They left Novo on about 1 December and were at Pole on the 7th. They then continued on to the Ross Ice Shelf via the SPoT route down the Leverett Glacier, and returned to Pole on the same route in less than 24 hours, often traveling faster than 35 mph despite a broken spring, arriving at Pole on 9 December. They then continued to Novo. The group included Greg Miller (owner of the Utah Jazz among other companies), Scott Brady and Chris Collard of the Overland Journal, and Gísli Karel Elísson from Arctic Trucks. I have more coverage and a link to video here.
The Pink Polar Expedition 
(?!) was a 2013-14 kite/skiing Antarctic crossing by Australian veterinarian Geoff Wilson, with promotion support from breast cancer survivor Kate Carlyle. Geoff intended to promote breast cancer awareness (and fund raising) by hauling his supplies on a 400 lb. (!) "boob sled," which is depicted in this 24 December 2013 Sydney Morning Herald article--at that time he was 107 km away from Pole. He'd set out from Novo on 14 November doing a solo trip, although he started out with Faysal Hanneche (see next entry). He reached Pole on 28 December, rested and waited for favorable winds for 2 days, and then continued to Hercules Inlet, which he reached on 6 January. All information and blog posts have now disappeared from Geoff's website, which is now discussing his planned Novo-to-Casey Antarctic crossing, "The Longest Journey".
Aborted... ...the French adventurer Faysal Hanneche,
who reached the North Pole in April. Interestingly, one of Faysal's sponsors was Bitcoin--he supposedly planted a Bitcoin flag somewhere on his way to Pole, and he also ordered a pizza (for delivery when he returned to South America)--supposedly the first Bitcoin transaction from Antarctica (Bitcoin forum post). He also started at Novo and returning to Hercules Inlet; it's described as an unsupported crossing planned for less than 64 days. As of 9 November, Faysal and Geoff were still in Cape Town waiting for good weather to fly to Novo, they finally did so on the 12th. Faysal set out in another storm on 19 November...and was making slow but continuing progress until 8 December, when he was evacuated (by truck) back to Novo because of knee problems--dislocation of the meniscus, aggravated by the kiting. On the 12th he flew back to Cape Town.
Vesa Luomala (Finnish language site)
from Helsinki, Finland, announced his planned solo ski trip to Pole from Hercules Inlet--previously he's crossed Greenland from east to west and from Narsaq to Qaanaaq. He was scheduled to fly to Union Glacier on 23 November..delayed until the 29th. He was flown to the Hercules Inlet starting site on 2 December along with Lewis Clarke, Carl Alvey, Antony Jinman, and Daniel Burton. Vesa headed south the same day. On 18 January he'd reached 89ºS...only one last degree to go. He arrived at Pole early on 23 January.
Richard Parks
was making another Pole attempt in 2013-14, after having run out of time in 2012-13, he had to be picked up 140 miles short of Pole. This year's trip would again be a 715-mile venture from Hercules Inlet, and he aimed to beat Christian Eide's 2010-11 time of 24 days. He posted more information on his public Facebook page. He set out on the record attempt at 0340 Pole time on 29 November...but after 3 days and slow going, he decided to turn around and start again. He returned to Hercules Inlet on the 4th, took a rest day, and planned to set out again at 2300 Pole time on the 5th. He reached Pole at 1824 on 4 January, completing the trip in 29 days, 19 hours, and 24 minutes. This was a British record for such trips, and the second fastest time--Richard had targeted beating Norwegian Christian Eide's 2010-11 record of 24 days, 1 hour, 13 minutes.
Parker Liautaud/The Willis Resilience Expedition 
was born in Palo Alto but lived in London since he was nine. At the time of the venture he was 19 years old, a sophomore at Yale, and already an experienced polar explorer. In April 2012 he completed his third (!) North Pole expedition (well, the first time in 2010 at age 15 he had to turn back 15 miles from the North Pole, but the next two were successful, and his 2011 trip was one of the fastest recorded). He'd planned an unsupported trip to Pole from the Messner Start, guided by Doug Stoup, in 2011-12, but this was postponed. However...in late August 2013 he obtained sponsorship from the Willis Group, a global insurance broker (press release with extensive information about the expedition). The reorganized venture (now guided by Doug Stoup instead of "solo") was named "The Willis Resilience Expedition Antarctica"--on about 3 December he planned to set out from the base of the Ross Ice Shelf and set a speed record from the base of the Leverett Glacier to Pole along the USAP SPoT traverse route. He considered this "unsupported" as they were on skis, each pulling a 180-lb pulk...but they were followed by a team driving Ice Broker, a Toyota Hilux 6x6 vehicle customized by Arctic Trucks and driven by Eyjólfur Már Teitsson. which was to film the trip live, maintain social media contact and transmit science and weather data. The support team was The Great Outdoors contributor Nathan Hambrook-Skinner (his blog posts covering the expedition), along with British cameraman Paddy Scott. The science projects, primarily on the approach route from UG to Pole to the base of the glacier, included the digging of snow pits to track stable isotopes as well as tritium as they cross the continent. A lightweight weather station (a Coldfacts-3000BX) was to be tested for a 5-week period near Union Glacier. He and the vehicle arrived at Union glacier on 29 November, where they were doing some test drives. They reached Pole on 4 December after 4 days of driving...they rested only a few hours before continuing toward the Leverett Glacier. The official start of the 314.49 mile (506.12km) trip to Pole was at 2200 SP time on 6 December; they reached Pole at 0243 on 25 December, in what was reported to be a record time of 18 days, 4 hours, 43 minutes. The Arctic Trucks blog about the venture is no longer up.
Walking with the Wounded 
was a challenge race sponsored by the British charity of that name, scheduled for November/December 2013. In September the event was titled the Virgin Money South Pole Allied Challenge, denoting the new major sponsor. Three teams of wounded service personnel--one from the UK, one from the US, and one comprised of other British Commonwealth personnel from Australia and Canada, were to trek about 200 miles from 87ºS to Pole, pulling 150 lb sleds. Each team was accompanied by an experienced guide, a challenge mentor, and a world-famous media personality, and there also was a support/medical crew. The teams arrived at Novo on 22 November; all of them were then flown to the starting point, in two groups, by 28 November SP time, which is when Prince Harry got to the start. The competition started at 0235 2 December (1335 UTC 1 December). They were supported by Arctic Trucks (their blog)--eventually the "competition" aspect of the event was cancelled because of difficult conditions, and the participants were given a lift of about 50 miles by the Arctic Trucks support team. They reached Pole at 0235 on 14 December SP time and had their major photo shoot at the Pole before retreating to their camp site several miles away. The group had a tour of the station on Monday morning 16 December before the first half of them departed for Novo (NSF press release with photo).

Earlier, in July it was announced Dominic West, star of The Wire, is accompanying the Commonwealth team (Telegraph article). Prince Harry is participating with the British team (video from the web site and BBC coverage). When the winning team arrived at Pole they were to dig up and claim the "Walking With the Wounded Allied Challenge Trophy," which was buried at Pole by the 2012-13 expedition. In May of 2012 it was announced that Prince Harry would accompany the British team per this Sunday Express article. Harry participated in the charity's North Pole challenge in March 2011, pulling a 220-lb sled in -30º temperatures. More information about Prince Harry's planned participation--this video from the expedition web site and BBC coverage. For this venture he was fully clad in ECW gear. Here's a September 2012 article from The Age (Melbourne) about early plans for the race.
The ANI Ski South Pole-Messner Route
this year included Wen Yuan from China and Australian Joshua Hodgkinson, to be guided from the Ronne-Filchner Ice Shelf (the Messner Route) to Pole by Canadian veteran guide Devon McDiarmid. Arabella Slinger from Britain was to be part of the group but dropped out due to injury. They were still hanging around in PA the last week in November, and were on the flight that reached UG on the 29th. After setting out on 3 December, the venture reached Pole on 12 January...this was Devon's fifth trip to Pole (CBC news article).
Børge Ousland
guided an ALE "last degree" expedition to Pole in December, arriving on the 28th after 7 days of skiing.
Lewis Clarke
from Bristol, England, wanted to be the youngest person to ski the full distance from the coast to Pole 2013-14 at the age of 16. He's been training and raising money by selling ad space on his face (!) He swam across the English Channel at age 12. And he's being guided by ANI guide Carl Alvey, who also helped him earlier this year on training trips in Norway and Greenland. Here is a 14 October article about him from the Bristol Post. They arrived at Union Glacier on the 29th and were flown to their Hercules Inlet starting point on 2 December and set out the next day. On the morning of 19 January SP time they reached the elevated station.
3 Below Zero
is the husband-and-wife team of Chris and Marty Fagan, ultrarunners from Bend, Washington. They are planning an unassisted/unsupported ski trip from the Ronne-Filchner Ice Shelf to Pole (the so-called Messner Route) starting in late November. While this will be their first polar trek, they've been training in Ely, MN and Svalbard...and the couple first met while on separate Denali climbing expeditions in 1998. If they succeed, I believe they'll be the second American married couple to do so...the first was Jenny and Ray Jardine in 2006-07. They left for Antarctica on 17 November, reached Union Glacier on the 29th; and were flown to their starting point (and set out) on 3 December. They reached Pole on 19 January.

The following 2013-14 expeditions were announced, but didn't happen. As of April 2014 all of these sites were still up, so maybe some of them will eventually happen:
 
Dwayne Fields
a 29-year-old Londoner born in Jamaica, in 2010 was only the second Black person to trek to the Magnetic North Pole, had announced a South Pole venture for 2012-13. Not a lot of details on his trip came out, except that he'd be making the 700-mile trip with a group of Americans. And on 15 December 2012 he officially announced the postponement. As of May 2013 he was still planning a 2013-14 trip, although I haven't seen much since then.
Michele Pontrandolfo
is an Italian man who's traveled the Arctic extensively since 2000, where his still-unrealized goal is to reach the North Pole. This season, however, he's focusing on a solo unassisted Antarctic crossing from Novo to Hercules Inlet via Pole--something he's calling the Italian Antarctic Solo Expedition. He'll be using skis and a kite where possible. As of the end of August he was seriously preparing and training...and still trying to obtain funding from sponsors. And as of late October I haven't seen any further news or updates.
Hans Wijnand and Jacob Slooff
from the Netherlands are planning a "kite buggy" Antarctic crossing starting at Novo, visiting the Pole of Inaccessibility, stopping at Pole, and continuing to the vicinity of Mt. Vinson, where they will be joined by a third expeditioner for a summit climb. The lightweight kite buggies will also be manhauled as needed. The project was originally announced for 2010, but was most recently proposed for a November 2013 start. There was nothing new on their website icebuggy.com since June 2013, and now that website is no longer theirs.
Cancelled... Twins to the South Pole
are twins Zac and Josh Lyon, currently 20 years old. They are New Zealanders, currently students at the University of Waikato, who planned a round trip from Hercules Inlet to Pole in 2013-14. They planned to support the Child Cancer Foundation--this link is to their crowdfunding web page...but they did not reach their funding goal, so the venture is off. Here's their Facebook page...and here is 22 May 2012 stuff.co.nz article about their plans and preparation. In April 2012 the twins sent a weather balloon with cameras to the edge of space (104,600 feet), recovering some amazing photos and video (stuff.co.nz article with photos/video).
Cancelled... Karen Darke
is a 38-year-old paraplegic Scottish woman who is planning to be the first to reach Pole using only arm power, on a "sit-ski." She has been seriously training in Greenland and Patagonia for a team venture supported out of Union Glacier, previously postponed until 2013-14 (main expedition site). She was to be accompanied by her cyclist brother Simon, climber Andy Kilpatrick, and triathlete Mike Christie. But...she was run over by a car in June and couldn't collect enough funding, so the venture is off for now.
Extreme World Races
the last I knew, was soliciting participants for their 500 mile 2014-15 event (for only £15,999 ex London)...presumably because their 2013-14 event, supported by Arctic Trucks, was fully booked. But now it seems that the company and their website extremeworldraces.com has vanished without a trace. ???

Polar Star update...here'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 Christchurch...in 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 hangar...as 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 sundial...it 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 Healy...by 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 season...it 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 use...as 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 stuff.co.nz article. Oh, and about that South Korean base, it's expected to be completed by March of 2014 (July 2013 3NEWS.co.nz 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 time...it 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 usap.gov 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 years...so 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 usap.gov home page about the problem...no specific answers, but they're seriously looking for suggestions. The Pole population will go down a bit from last season...to 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 Plan...here'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 USAP.gov 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 recover...to 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 Rappler.com--Blaise 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 Pole...now 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 report...one 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 morning...it 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 Mountains...weather 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.

Here's the record of 2012-13 private Pole treks...

Announced ventures for the 2012-13 season:
 
ABORTED! Eric Larsen
from Boulder, CO, announced his "Cycle South" expedition on 2 November. He'd planned a 750-mile bicycle ride (with resupply) from Hercules Inlet to Pole, starting in mid-December...with a possible return ride back to the coast. Eric has made two previous ski trips to Pole, and is one of the few Americans who has skied to both the North and South Poles, and the only American to achieve Everest as well. No information yet on if he'll have help or support. Doug Stoup once contemplated this trip, originally planned for 2001-02, and Doug tested a bike at PH in 2002-03; Eric told me that the technology has significantly improved since then. He's using a Surly Moonlander bike with 4.7" LGP tires. Eric left Boulder on 13 December, got to UG on 18 December, and officially started from Hercules Inlet on the 21st. However, on 28 December after reaching 82.5ºS, he decided to turn around and head back to Hercules Inlet, because of slower travel than he had planned for. He was back near the coast on 3 January, back in PA 2 days later, and home in Boulder on the 12th.
Aaron Linsdau
from California, hoped to be the first American (and only the fourth person) to complete an unsupported 1450-mile round trip from Hercules Inlet to Pole in 2012-13, doing it solo. He'd previously trained in Yellowstone and Greenland, and will be supporting the Prostate Cancer Foundation. In addition to serious planning and training, he'd been studying the blogs and photos/video of Aleksander Gamme, and Cas & Jonesy, the first 3 people who did this trip, in 2011-12. He was on the first IL-76 flight to Union Glacier on 1 November, and was flown to the starting point the next day. He reached Pole on the 22nd.
ABORTED! Richard Parks
a 35-year-old former rugby player and current adventurer from Wales, planned a solo unsupported Pole venture from Hercules Inlet starting in December...and he looked to do it quickly--in 35-40 days (which still wouldn't come close to Christian Eide's 24-day trip in 2010-11). Amazingly, Richard completed the 7 summits plus both poles in less than a year between December 2010 and July 2011 (Wikipedia). His 2010-11 Pole trip was a "last degree" trek. Here is a July Wales Online article; there aren't any further details or links on Richard's main web site. Richard arrived in PA on 8 December but his baggage (his sled and other equipment) did not. What's next? (13 December South Wales Argus report). Well, the gear was found, although he ended up borrowing a pulk from ALE. He started from HI on 19 December SP time, and his travels were slower than expected, particularly in the rougher-than-usual sastrugi on the Plateau. He ended up getting a food drop, but on 25 January he decided he couldn't complete the trip to Pole before the end of the ALE/ANI season on 28 January...he was picked up south of the 88th parallel. By the 28th he was back in PA.
Hannah McKeand
from the UK, made her SIXTH trip to Pole...this time she was guiding fellow Brit Toby Selman (a former Royal Marine), and a Finn, Eero Oura, on an unsupported 580-mile ski trip to Pole from the Messner Start (the Ronne/Filchner Ice Shelf). They headed to UG on 23 November and started a few days later. Unfortunately, Toby reported on 20 December that he was back in PA after covering only 125 miles of the planned 560 mile trip. Hannah and Eero were continuing...they reached Pole on 9 January. This was Hannah's sixth full trip to Pole...adding to her record of the most full trips by anyone male or female.
The Best of British South Pole
was a 6-man team (from the UK, obviously) led by Manley Hopkinson, along with Rupert Baddeley, Steve Walton, and Dave McCormack. They planned a 2011-12 unsupported traverse (put off from 2010-11), aiming to set a record for the Beardmore Glacier route, something not many people have tried since Scott and Shackleton. They planned only a 460-mile trip from the base of the glacier, rather than a Ross Island start. They are staging through Cape Town, and then presumbably through Novo ("White Desert"). They were unable to secure funding in time for a 2011-12 venture and were hoping they can proceed in 2013-14. Since then, their website bestofbritishsouthpole.com has disappeared.
MODIFIED! The International Scott Centenary Expedition (ISCE)
was announced by Anthony Jinman in early May 2010. The main part of this event, originally scheduled for the 2011-12 season and later rescheduled for 2012-13, was to be a 290-mile trip from Scott's Cape Evans hut to the site of Scott's last tent site, where a commemoration service was to be held--this has been cancelled. Expedition patrons and descendants of Scott's party were to be flown to the memorial service--that would have been an interesting bit of logistics. Anthony had planned a trip to Pole in 2009-10 which was cancelled due to lack of funds. Anthony previously announced a North Pole trip for the boreal spring of 2010, which he successfully completed on 22 April 2010, and he was a member of the Hannah McKeand venture from the Ronne-Filchner Ice Shelf, reaching Pole on 3 January 2009 (these trips were once described on Henry's main site). Still on, according to this Plymouth Herald article, was a 120-mile trek to Pole by Henry Evans, winner of a Daily Telegraph competition; he will be led by Geoff Somers. As of 14 December they were in PA. They finally flew to Union Glacier on 18 December, and were flown to their starting point just north of 88ºS, arriving on the 24th. Geoff and Henry reached Pole on 6 January.
Vilborg Arna Gissurardóttir (Icelandic language site)
from Iceland, was also doing a trip to Pole, starting from Hercules Inlet. She was doing a solo, unsupported, and unassisted trip, pulling 2 sleds totaling 220 lbs. Here are 22 October articles from the Iceland Review in English, and from Morgunbladid (this is the Google Translate link in English). She headed south to Union Glacier on 17 November and started her trip on the 21st SP time. She also encountered slower-than-expected traveling, and despite carrying extra food, she did have to get a resupply from ALE. By 13 January she was well within the last degree...she reached Pole on the 17th.
Roland Krueger
a German skier, had previously reached Pole in December 2005 as part of the mostly-Norwegian "Unsupported to the South Pole" venture. This season he planned a solo unsupported/unassisted trip from the Messner Start (the Ronne Ice shelf, 82.3ºS-65ºW)...and after reaching Pole intended to continue across the continent, ending on the Ross Ice Shelf at the foot of the Axel Heiberg Glacier. He was flown from PA to Union Glacier, arriving on 20 November, and arrived at his starting point on 23 November. He reached Pole on 13 January and decided to end his trip there because of bad weather and rough traveling. He found monstrous sastrugi south of 88ºS, an unusual condition. He was the first solo German to reach Pole, and he thought he was the first unassisted/unsupported trip to reach Pole this season.

"Last Degree" and similar short ventures included:
Test Your Limits 2013: The South Pole,
was a venture planned for early January by heart transplant recipient Dale Shippam of Thunder Bay, Ontario. He was joined by three cardiologists, Heather Ross, Diego Delgado, and Michel White. This was Dale's fourth journey to promote organ donation since 2006...previous trips were to the North Pole, Mt. Vinson, and a mountain near Everest in Nepal. They had three guides from Polar Explorers (and there were several other members of the travel group). Here's a 19 December CBC news article, a main project web site, and Dr. Delgado's blog. They were to leave Canada on 30 December. The team arrived at Pole on 14 January after seven days of travel, as part of a 14-person group guided by PolarExplorers (their blog).
Mark Allan
the 40-year-old Bristol chief executive of Unite, a British student housing company, completed a 100-mile trek to Pole, returning home just before Christmas. His charity page...
An Irish-Russian journey
by Irishman Niall Carton and his Russian friends Alexey Borichev and Alexander Zozulya planned a last-degree trip in January to support the Greater Chernobyl Cause, a charity supporting abandoned children and the old/infirm who have suffered from the Soviet Union breakup (their fundraising page). They also were part of that same 14-person PolarExplorers group and did arrive successfully on 14 January (Moscow Expat Life news page).
Vanessa O'Brien and Mike Hamill
did a last degree trip after summiting Mt. Vinson, arriving on 15 December.
In the Footsteps of Legends 
was a "last-2-degree" 140-mile unsupported ski trip to Pole that began in late November 2012. They were supported out of Union Glacier (UG), although some of their web site info mentioned Glacier Bay (which is on the coast at 99ºW). This group was led by David Hempleman-Adams, co-led by former British Army member Justin Packshaw, and includes Corporal Robbie Harmer, Lance Corporal Nick Webb and Captain Adam Crookshank of the Royal Dragoon Guards. Five other Brits were accompanying them--Olympic rower Matthew Pinsent, Hector Macleod, Malcolm Walker, Dr. Lynne Summers, and Sasha Borodin. The Royal Dragoon Guards is the present-day unit which at one time had included Lawrence Oates, the member of Scott's expedition whose last documented words were, "I am just going outside and may be some time." The group is supporting Alzheimer's UK and Walking with the Wounded charities, and they are carrying with them a silver trophy which they'll bury at Pole, to be dug up in 2013-14 by the winning team of the Walking with the Wounded Challenge race, per this 15 November York Press article. Here's an earlier (3 March) The Advertiser (Yorkshire) newspaper article. As of 23 November the team was waiting in PA. The team arrived at UG on the 26th and were flown to their starting point the next day. But on 5 December, Malcolm Walker (the chief executive of Iceland Foods--a main sponsor) was medevaced back to PA because of a stomach illness (Malcolm's blog). The team reached Pole on 11 December, the first overland venture of the season to do so...and were flown back to UG later that day.

Postponed from 2012-13 (perhaps rescheduled as noted):
 
Dwayne Fields
a 29-year-old Londoner born in Jamaica, in 2010 was only the second Black person to trek to the North Pole, had announced a South Pole venture for 2012-13. Not a lot of details on his trip came out, except that he'd be making the 700-mile trip with a group of Americans. And on 15 December 2012 he officially announced the postponement. As of May 2013 he was still planning a 2013-14 trip.
Parker Liautaud
a Londoner now 18 years old, is already an experienced polar explorer. In April 2012 he completed his third (!) North Pole expedition (well, the first time in 2010 at age 15 he had to turn back 15 miles from the North Pole, but the next two were successful, and his 2011 trip was one of the fastest recorded). He'd planned an unsupported trip to Pole from the Messner Start, guided by Doug Stoup, in 2011-12. He calls this venture the Polar Orbiter Expedition 2012...and he'd be deploying automatic weather stations (AWS's) for the University of Wisconsin along the way. The postponement was announced by Explorersweb in late October 2012. His web site now mentions a 2013-14 trip but with no details as of 1 May 2013.
Scott2012
is a 4-man British expedition planned for now in 2013-14 and renamed the Scott Expedition. In 2012-13 it was to be led by Ben Saunders, with Alastair Humphreys and Martin Hartley. This trip was originally planned for 2011-12, but was cancelled last year as well. The goal is to be the first team to complete Scott's round trip route to Pole from Scott's hut on Ross Island. They claim the 1800-mile trek will be the longest unsupported polar journey in history. Interestingly, after this year's Antarctic plan fell through, Alastair Humphreys spent 4 weeks in November/December walking more than 1000 km in Oman, from Salalah to Dubai (coverage by John Henzell in The National).
Ann Bancroft and Liv Arnesen
are familiar names in the polar regions...in part for their 2000-01 Antarctic crossing. The two explorer/educators have been planning a new venture, now postponed to 2013-14, titled Access Water, in which they will lead six other women from six continents on the 800-mile trip to Pole. Expedition focus is on the global crisis involving access to fresh water.
Karen Darke
is a 38-year-old paraplegic Scottish woman who is planning to be the first to reach Pole using only arm power, on a "sit-ski." She has been seriously training in Greenland and Patagonia for a team venture supported out of Union Glacier, now postponed until 2013-14 (main expedition site). She was to be accompanied by her cyclist brother Simon, climber Andy Kilpatrick, and triathlete Mike Christie.

Announced for 2012-13 but never happened (?)
 
Ben Thackwray
from Leeds, England, completed a fast 2-man ski crossing of southern Greenland in May 2010. He announced that this was a precursor to a planned Pole venture with Ian Couch and Niall McCann, now planned for 2012-13 known as the Endure More expedition. It was planned to be the "first unsupported/unassisted crossing of Antarctica" from Berkner Island to McMurdo via the Axel Heiberg Glacier...a follow-up to his summit of Everest in May 2011. There hasn't been much recent news on the web site or elsewhere.
Kasim Rafiq
is a Scottish adventurer and student at Edinburgh University. He announced that he was planning an unsupported trip from Hercules Inlet to Pole in the 2012-13 season...his goal was to be the youngest Briton (age 22) to ski the distance to Pole without outside help. To be guided. Hmmm, he said he'd start in November but there never was more recent recent news. Last word, he was training...and working to raise the estimated £40,000 that the venture will cost. More recently, his website journeysouth2012.co.uk has disappeared.
The Spirit of Scott Expedition
was announced in July by Brits Alan Chambers and Edward Coats, with support from Yahoo!(hence this 5-minute Yahoo! video). They planned to do a resupplied return trip to Pole from Scott's hut on Ross Island. Alan has previously guided ten North Pole ventures, Edward went on one of these, and also went to the South Pole with Ben Fogle and James Cracknell on the Amundsen Omega 3 South Pole Race in 2008-09. They planned to start in October, but I haven't found any recent information or a web site.

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 wharf...so 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 new...gift 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 sides...like some other small towns I've spent time in. As for some of the construction and science projects...here'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 events...one 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 Crikey.com.au 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 December...it 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 module...it 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, Amazon.com link) committed suicide. The news announcement from his publisher is rather crass...in 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 2012...by 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 October...it 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 no...it 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 22nd...it 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 (Military.com 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 facilities...no 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 1980...in 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 Pole...to the present time (he and wife are currently living in the Philippines). The book is now available on Kindle (readable on most anything) at Amazon.com, 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 Military.com article). The McM population is now over 400.

Discussing Winfly...here'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 Pole...it 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 update...it 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 old...my 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! Yes...it 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 fedbizopps.gov 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 goodies...it 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 frozensouth.com 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 point...it 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" news...in 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 world...in 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 manner...it 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 it...next 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.

Below...the busy season of trips to Pole in the centennial season of 2011-12...100 years since Amundsen and Scott showed up without an audience.
Amazingly, there were races:
 
The Race to the South Pole
managed by Extreme World Races(EWR) was the successor event to the Amundsen Omega 3 South Pole Race, which was a great success in 2009-10. The 100th year anniversary race in 2011-12 already has eight three-member teams booked, mostly from the UK. The race starts south of Novo from which it is based. After acclimatization and training at Novo, teams will fly to the starting point and travel 500 miles to Pole in 30-45 days--two 250-mile legs with an enforced 24-hour rest stop between them. One of the seven teams is Team SladenWoods, Marc Woods and James Mark...Marc, who lost a leg to cancer, originally was part of the cancelled 2012 Inspire expedition. The teams started arriving in late December...they were taken to the start line by 3 January, and the event officially kicked off on 4 January. The teams arrived at Pole between 21 and 28 January.
The Scott-Amundsen Centenary Race 2011/12
is a British venture that put two 3-man British Army teams on the ice to duplicate Amundsen's and Scott's Pole routes simultaneously! Yes...one team started from Cape Evans, and the other team started from the Bay of Whales site. They will be supported at the start out of Union Glacier, but the treks themselves will be unsupported. The teams...Henry Worsley is leading Amundsen's route; he led the Shackleton Centenary Expedition to Pole in 2008-09). His team members are Lennie Browne and Lou Rudd. Mark Langridge is leading the Scott's route...he did a solo/unsupported Pole journey in 2008-09. His other team members are Vic Vicary and Kev Johnson. This will be a significant venture to watch, since the routes up the Beardmore (Scott's route) and Axel Heiberg glaciers (Amundsen's route) have not been frequently traveled. The teams were flown to their starting points on 3 November and set out the next day, but Lennie Browne of the Amundsen team had to withdraw on 5 November...he was to be picked up and flown back to Union Glacier. Meanwhile, the Scott team went from Cape Evans to McMurdo, where they toured Scott's hut before heading south across the Ross Ice Shelf. As of 11 December both teams were close to their respective glacier climbs to the plateau--the Axel Heiberg and the Beardmore. The Amundsen team arrived on 10 January, the Scott team arrived in the evening of the 17th.

More trips up the Axel Heiberg glacier:
 
South Pole 1911-2011 (the English language site of Sørpolen 2011), is the Norwegians...
Vegard Ulvang, Jan-Gunnar Winther, Harald Dag Jølle, and Stein P. Aasheim, who plan a trip duplicating Amundsen's route up the Axel Heiberg glacier. They also planned to match his arrival date at Pole on 14 December. Here's a NRK press release from last October (in Norwegian). This event is supported by the Norwegian Polar Institute as part of their Nansen-American Year commemoration, here is the Norwegian Polar Institute site about this expedition. They arrived at Union Glacier on 29 October and were flown to their starting point about 25 miles south of the original Framheim location on the 31st and set out the next day. As of 11 December they were at 88°50'S, not far to go...the Twin Otter that flew Asle Johansen of the Nansen to Amundsen expedition to Pole (next listing) passed overhead, landed and picked up some of their gear to lighten their loads. Later, an aircraft returned on the 13th and picked up Jan-Gunnar Winther and Stein Aasheim to get them to Pole in time for the ceremony; Vegard and Harald continued the ski trip...arriving at Pole at 2330 SP time on the 14th.
From Nansen to Amundsen 100 years later (Norwegian language site)
is a trip led by physician Asle T. Johansen, along with Agnar Berg and Gaute Grindhaug. They also started on the Ross Ice Shelf and headed to Pole via Amundsen's route up the Axel Heiberg Glacier...using replicas of Amundsen's equipment and clothing (!) (but not the dogs). The trip intended to commemorate the centenary of Amundsen's trip...in 1988 Asle led three others on a trans-Greenland trek, duplicating Nansen's similar trip 100 years earlier, and also using authentic replica equipment. They were being resupplied. They started on 17 November, As of 2 December they were at 85.73°S, and had just met up with members of the Jubilee Expedition (next link). And on 11 December Asle aborted the trip and was flown to Pole to be present for the centennial, while Agnar and Gaute completed the journey overland.
The South Pole Jubilee Expedition
(expedition blog in English on Børge Ousland's site) was a large mostly-Norwegian unassisted/unsupported venture being guided by Christian Eide and Trond Sundby...the Norwegian participants were Theodor Johansen (age 19!), Silje Molid, Gørild Hustad, Linn Elise Rølvåg, Jacob Meland, and Ottar Haldorsen, along with Rory O'Connor from the UK. Correne Erasmus-Coetzer from South Africa, the Explorersweb correspondent, was originally part of this group but she joined the Børge trip instead--Correne was the first African woman to traverse to Pole, in January 2007. Also involved originally were Russians Victor Bobok and Igor Grishkov. who opted to travel independently from the Norwegians. The main group started at the south end of the Ross Ice Shelf and headed up the Axel Heiberg Glacier, but their departure from Union Glacier was delayed by weather and aircraft issues. (Børge was also involved in the planning, but he was guiding the Last Degree venture discussed below, not this one.) They finally were flown to the starting point on 24 and 25 November and reached the top of the glacier on the 30th. On 14 December they were still 138 km from Pole, they figured this would take them 8-9 more days. They actually arrived on the 19th...and after staying a few days they split up. Trond, Linn Elise, and Ottar headed for home...Ottar had severe frostbite which got infected, he ended up being hospitalized in France. Jacob returned to Union Glacier to prepare for an attempt on Vinson. Meanwhile, the two Russians Victor Bobok and Igor Grishkov, frustrated by the delays, decided to make their venture independently...they were dropped off 250 km from Pole on about 27 November, and arrived at Pole on the 14th just in time for the ceremonies.
Jacob Meland and Ottar Haldorsen
two of the Jubilee Expedition participants, have this Norwegian web site...here's a news article (in Norwegian) from 30 April 2011 which outlined their plans.

Trips from the "Messner Start" (82°10'S-65°W on the Ronne Ice Shelf; this route was pioneered by Reinhold Messner and Arved Fuchs in 1989-90)
 
Erling Rosenstrom
was guiding an expedition sponsored by the Norwegian outfitter Hvitserk...he will guide 5 other men...Kjell Vingen, Arve Husby, Eivind Prytz Rynning, Per Gunnar Jevne, and Tore Ovstebo on an unassisted/unsupported trek to Pole from the Messner Start...they were dropped off on 1 November. As of 14 December they'd made it to 87.5°S, they reached Pole on the 26th SP time.
Howard Fairbank
a South African adventurer, planned to leave in late November for a solo trip to Pole from the Messner Start...he was airlifted to the starting point on 21 November. He originally planned to return to Hercules Inlet with Richard Weber's group, using kites. As of 1 December he was at 84°14'S and having to repair breaking ski poles...he reached Pole on 28 December and then opted not to return north with Weber.
Polar Vision
was a 3-man British-American team led by Alan Lock...whose vision has deteriorated badly from macular dystrophy, a disease that can gradually lead to total blindness. Still, he's put together the rest of what was originally a 5-man team--Richard Smith and Andrew Jensen, for a 2011-12 trip to Pole. Guided by Hannah McKeand, they will be following the 600-mile Messner route, with two resupplies. Alan's venture is featured in a 21 October New York Times article. They were flown to their starting point on 26 November and are making good progress, as of 2 December they were about 20% of the way, 439 miles to go. They reached Pole on 4 January.
Richard Weber
the experienced Canadian guide, led four folks on a 35-day expedition from the Messner Start on the Filchner Ice Shelf to Pole...Kiwi Michael Archer, Chris De Lapuente, American Kathy Braegger, and British/American Ruth Storm (USA/UK). They flew from Union Glacier to their starting point on 22 November, but on the 27th Kathy was very ill...and medevaced back to Punta Arenas. Kathy's (aborted) blog was at southpoleroundtrip.com. On 1 December they'd passed 83°S. Richard fell at some point in mid-December and severely injured his left wrist, right knee and calf. He was flown back to Union Glacier on the 23rd, thence to a hospital in PA where, fortunately, his injuries turned out to not be long term. Richard and Michael reached Pole on 30 December SP time, from there they planned to kite/ski back to Hercules Inlet...as of 3 January they were still waiting for favorable wind conditions. They left Pole a couple of days later and completed the trip to Hercules Inlet on the 17th.

Trips starting from Hercules Inlet/Union Glacier:
 
Cas and Jonesy
is Australians James Castrission and Justin Jones, they planned what they claimed would be the first unsupported round trip from the coast (Hercules Inlet) to Pole in 2011-12. Among other previous adventures, they kayaked across "the ditch" between Australia and NZ in 2007-08. They were on the first flight to Union Glacier on 29 October and started from Hercules Inlet on the 31st. After a slow start due to soft conditions, their pace has improved, although they've recently developed some pains and strains, and Cas was suffering from a groin skin infection. As of 2 December they'd reached about 83.4°S. they arrived at Pole on New Years Day, staying only a few hours before heading north, a race against time to get back to Hercules Inlet before the season ends. After struggling on short rations, they reached HI on 27 January (well, still Australia Day--the 26th in their time zone).
Mark George
an Australian financial advisor and Everest summiter, proposed a 2011-12 solo unassisted trip to Pole from Hercules Inlet, using a kite on the return trip. After the usual delays, he was finally dropped off at his starting point on 27 November, and he's making fair progress with loud music on his Ipod. On 2 December he was at almost 81°S. Here's his older/main web site. He reached Pole on 9 January...and contemplated continuing for a few days, but there were no suitable winds for kiting so he planned to fly back to UG.
Aleksander Gamme (Norwegian language site)
is yet another Norwegian hoping to make it to Pole from Hercules Inlet in time for the Amundsen centennial...only the first half of what he hopes to be the first solo unsupported round trip from the coast without using kites. He hopes to take advantage of the extended flight season to pull off what may be a 100-day trip. He was on the delayed first passenger flight to Union Glacier on 29 October and set off almost immediately. He reached Pole on the 26th and quickly turned back north. He reached Hercules Inlet on the 25th, although he waited until the 27th to join Cas and Jonesy for the final kilometer of the route.
Aborted! Steffen Dahl (Norwegian language site)
is yet another Norwegian who planned a solo unsupported/unassisted trip to Pole from Hercules Inlet. He was supposed to be on the second ANI/ALE flight to Union Glacier on 22 October, but as of 28 October he was still in PA. He finally reached his HE starting point on 30 October...but after slow going, on 11 November, at about 80°S, he opted to hitch a ride on an ALE vehicle that was heading to a Thiel Mountains fuel depot, where he was dropped off at 85°S on 16 November and set out again. Here is another link to his blogs from the ice. As of 28 November he was at 87°35'S, on 1 December he was near 88°S, but he had become ill, and radioed for pickup due to medical problems. The ALE aircraft that picked him up on 4 December continued to Pole, where Steffen stopped briefly...then he was flown back to Union Glacier.
South Pole 1911-2011 (Catalan language site)
is the English name of the trip by Albert Bosch and Carles Gel from Patriot Hills...they hoped to be the first Catalans to reach Pole. Albert has completed the Seven Summits and Carles has done some significant Arctic and Andes travel. They were on the first flight to Union Glacier arriving on 29 October and started from PH on the 31st. They were pinned down by bad weather for much of the first week before starting to make good progress, but Carles injured his foot and was flown back to Union Glacier and Punta Arenas...Albert continued alone. Here's Albert's home page with a blog in English...and a lavanguardia.com blog (Catalan) with video. Albert reached Pole on 5 January.
Polarexplorers...
is guiding a resupplied trip from Hercules Inlet to Pole starting in late November. Guides are Lisa and Oskar Strom...participants include Bryony Balen, Ronny Diz, Dennis Woods, and Bob Douglass. They started from Hercules Inlet on 26 November...on 3 December they were at about 81°S...and on 8 January they reached their final resupply point at 87.24°S. On the 9th, Dennis was flown back to Union Glacier after struggling with a respiratory/altitude problem. Oskar went with him. The rest of the team made it to Pole on 21 January. Here's the Polarexplorers main site.
North South Solo
is another "North Pole/South Pole" attempt by Coventry, UK explorer and ex-fireman Mark Wood, who has extensive Arctic experience. He first did a 55-day unsupported trip to Pole in 2011-12 from Hercules Inlet, and then had planned to follow that venture almost immediately with a trip from the Ward Hunt Island to the North Pole. He prepared by training in the Arctic. He was flown to Union Glacier on 20 November and started from Hercules Inlet on the 22nd. As of 8 January he was at 89.5°S, he made it to Pole on the 10th. Plans for the Arctic portion of his venture changed several times due to deteriorated ice conditions and the high cost of rescue bonds...he considered traveling south from the North Pole to Cape Discovery in Nunavut, and finally decided to do a "last degree" from 89ºN-164ºE and then continue on to the Russian annual ice station Barneo. He started his trip on 6 April from 89ºN-164ºE and reached the North Pole on 11 April where he encountered a wedding in progress (Børge Ousland and bride Helge Drange, along with a minister, candles and champagne, and about 30 guests, flown in by helicopter--this was reportedly the first wedding held at the North Pole) (BBC News article). He then pushed on to Barneo (89.4ºN-35ºE) arriving there on the 13th.

The motorized trips (Arctic Trucks):
 
The Double Traverse of Antarctica (updated blog page)
was a rather unusual event sponsored by EWR in conjunction with their 2011-12 Race to the South Pole, and supported by Arctic Trucks (the EWR web site has totally disappeared). In mid-November four of their Toyota vehicles traveled to Pole from Novo; three continued on to McMurdo via the SP Traverse route (originally they'd planned on retracing Scott's 1911-12 route via the Beardmore Glacier!) They then returned to Pole in time to assist in support of the Race...after the race everyone headed north back to Novo, except that two of the vehicles traveled to SANAE (the permanent South African station) instead. The venture left Novo just after midnight on 23 November SP time...they stopped to prepare two skiways near the start point of the race, and at the beginning of December they'd stopped at 88°S to build a field camp...first to be occupied by a THINK Global School group...a private non-profit high school that travels globally. The high school students arrived on 3 December and skied to Pole for the centenary.
The Kazakh Geographic Society
planned to send a team to Pole from Novo in three of those Arctic trucks Toyota vehicles. Last year two of the group made a test run to Pole in 108 hours, setting a new speed record for the trip. While they'll be doing science along the way, they also have timed their schedule so they'll be at Pole in mid-December for the Amundsen centenary. They planned to start the first week in December. Expedition leader Nurlan Abduov said "...we are planning to present a special program about Kazakhstan to about two thousand guests, who are expected to be at the South Pole at that time. So, we are taking souvenirs and books there and will maybe even try to cook some special dishes." 2000 people? Hmmm. Here's a news article, from the Telegraph. The group arrived at Pole on the morning of the 15th (SP/NZ time).
The Thomson Reuters Eikon Expedition
is a 3-person 2011-12 road trip led by experienced guide Jason De Carteret, no stranger to the ice since He's been to Pole 4 times. Second is Kieron Bradley, an engineer with Lotus Engineering, and the third team member was selected from an outside competition--39-year-old Jason Thomas, an advertising copywriter living in downtown Toronto. Based from Union Glacier, the group is traveling in the "Thompson Reuters Eikon Polar Vehicle," a Toyota Hilux pickup heavily modified by Arctic Trucks. The vehicle has a 4L 320 bhp V6 biofuel engine, 44" wheels, supplemental solar and wind power equipment, and a 570-gallon fuel tank. The described route starts from Patriot Hills; the original plan was to get to Pole before the Amundsen centenary and beat the 2-day, 21 hour, 21 minute record set by the Ice Challenger vehicles in December 2005--a venture also led by Jason De Carteret. They set out officially at 0230 Tuesday 13 December SP time but opted to return to PH a few hours later because of extremely poor visibility conditions. And, on the way back they hit a small bump and the front wishbone snapped. So they hauled the vehicle back to UG for repairs, and Jason Thomas opted to head back home to Toronto rather than participate in the second attempt. Here's the Arctic Trucks coverage, and this is an earlier web site about the expedition. Jason and Kieron set out from the PH starting point at 0942 Monday SP time, and after an uneventful trip they arrived at Pole to kiss the silver globe at 0136 Wednesday 21 December...a new record of 39 hours 54 minutes, smashing the old record of 2 days 21 hours 21 minutes!

Other longer and unique routes:
 
Acciona Antártica (archive site)
are four men from Spain: Ramón Larramendi, with Javier Selva, and Ignacio Oficialdegui, led by Juan Pablo Albar. They did a 1900-mile crossing from Novo to Union Glacier via Pole using a five-runner "Polar Catamaran" sled--a concept that was successfully tested in the Spanish Transantarctic Expedition (Tierras Polares) of 2005-06. The sled equipped with tents and solar panels was pulled by kites of up to 80m²...they were hoping that they would find the right winds! As of 7 December they were in Cape Town awaiting the flight to Novo; they set out on 8 December and reached Pole on 2 January after a 190-mile non-stop run. Here also is a Greenland Windsled page about the trip.
Aborted! Aloha Antarctica
called itself a "South Pole Skiing Expedition and Transantarctic Crossing"--Austin Wirth from Germany, and Dieter Staudinger from Austria (currently living near Toronto) planned a ski/kite venture starting in November 2011. They flew to Novo and then started from near SANAE on 10 November to on the way to Pole on what they said was the first expedition to use this route. They then planned return north to Hercules Inlet, covering a total distance of about 2200 miles, but they turned around after three days of very difficult ground travel conditions. With a sudden aircraft of advantage available, they, flew back to Novo from SANAE, got back to Cape Town on 3 December, and then returned home to Germany. The two men have traveled and trained extensively in the Arctic, and they first tried this South Pole trip in 2008-09 starting from Neumayer, but they ran out of kiting wind and aborted the trip when they didn't have enough supplies to reach their depot. Here is a 12 October news article from thespec.com (Ontario) about the expedition, with video and audio interview links.
The Basque Team (Spanish language site)
are Juan Vallejo, Mikel Zabalza, and Alberto Iñurrategi; they were on a long ski trip from Novo to Pole with a return to Union Glacier. On 16 November they were dropped off for their start 6 miles from Novo. A few days later they had to recover one of their sleds from a deep crevasse. They reached Pole on 29 December, after traveling the last 80 miles in 3 hours, and they lost their "unsupplied" status by having dinner at the tourist camp. They continued on to HI arriving on the 10th, well ahead of the 21 January deadline for completion of their venture.
Antarctic ICE
was an unusual 6000km 2011-12 kite exploration of East Antarctica by Belgians Dixie Dansercoer (age 48) and Sam Deltour (age 25). Both have done extensive long-distance polar travel, and Dixie has traveled to Pole before. Using a variety of large kites, their trip was to start and end at Novo...from there they were to head counterclockwise to Pole and thence across some of the "inaccessible" sector toward the coast. They then will circle back west, following the prevailing winds, and head back to Novo across the lightly traveled northern edge of the plateau. As of 2 November they were in Cape Town awaiting the flight to Novo (news24 report). They actually reached Novo a few days later and were flown to their starting point on 7 November. But ten days after their start, trapped in a "labyrinth of sastrugi," they were picked up and flown back to Novo for a second start (16 November Reuters article). They waited out a storm and plotted their plans...and on 23 November they were flown out to a new starting point, from which they have been making much better progress with their large kites. They reached Pole on 22 December SP time, and left for on the evening of the 23rd. By 9 January they were near 78°S, roughly 2/3 of the way back to Novo. They reached their final position, 69º33'24"S, 93º36'20"E, on 2 February, having covered more than 5013 km. They were picked up and flown to Progress Station on 9 February, and when weather improved they returned to Novo a week later. They left their gear behind in anticipation of a future return.
Felicity Aston
of the UK, who led the December 2009-10 8-woman Kapersky Lab Commonwealth Antarctic Expedition to Pole, did a crossing, which she called the 2011-12 Kaspersky ONE Transantarctic Expedition. On 25 November she was flown from Union Glacier to her starting point at the base of the Leverett Glacier from where she was heading to Pole--the first skier to use the USAP traverse route. On 2 December she'd reached the top of the Leverett Glacier, and by 10 December she was at 87.5°S. Felicity arrived at Pole at about 0900 22 December SP time. At Pole she received a resupply and continued to Hercules Inlet, which she reached on 24 January, claiming a record of the first woman to ski alone across Antarctica. The 33-year-old has worked for BAS for several years, traveled in the Arctic, done the Marathon Des Sables, and participated in other similar ventures. This version of her main web site has a bit more information about Felicity's background.
Pole to Pole Run
is exactly that...a multistage "run" from one Pole to the other organized by veteran Australian extreme distance runner (and ex-MP) Pat Farmer. The polar portions are being led by Eric Philips of IceTrek fame. Their departure from the North Pole was scheduled for 2 April, but that was delayed a few days due to delays with the establishment of the annual Camp Barneo. From the North Pole, Greg's route headed to Canada and south through the Americas to Ushuaia, from where Pat was to fly to the ice on 29 December. The Antarctic portion of the trip will be a 4-man team, also including adventure filmmakers Jose Naranjo and Clark Carter. They are starting from the Ronne ice shelf and be resupplied from caches. The team posted dispatches from the Arctic portion of the trip on the ExpeNews web site. At the end of October Pat was around Lima, Peru, and at the beginning of December he was closing in on PA. It looks like he flew south to Union Glacier about 31 January. He then headed for Pole via Hercules Inlet and Patriot Hills. And since he was running and not carrying/pulling anything, he was supported by a crew in one of those ALE Ford vans. Amazing to see videos of him running...not carrying anything, hundreds of miles away from a warm hut. He was held up a bit by mechanical problems with the van, but he reached Pole on 19 January.
Pole2Pole
was another Pole-to-Pole venture.. Led by Johan Ernst Nilson of Sweden, accompanied by Harald Kippenes in the polar portions and Carl Robert Björkander on the the temperate leg. Johan and Harald left the North Pole around 8 April...their route originally included a crossing of Greenland, but they adjusted their route to cross more of Canada instead. As of the end of October the team was bicycling through Panama...a ways to go yet. At the end of November he was in central Ecuador...and opted to fly south to Antarctica from there...he said he'd return to finish the South America portion of his route afterward. He was flown to Novo, from where he set out for Pole on 2 December. As of 8 January he reported knee problems and a broken rib...and another week to go to reach Pole. Which he finally reached on the 20th.
Sebastian Copeland and Eric McNair-Landry
trained in Greenland in 2010 for what is to be an unusual 2011-12 unassisted kite-supported venture which they call the Antarctic Legacy Crossing. First, leaving in early November, they started directly from Novo on 6 November and headed first to the Pole of Inaccessibility (82°06'S 54°58'E)...to Pole...and then on to Union Glacier and Hercules Inlet. They had to head back north and replace a broken ski a few days after starting. As of 1 December they were at 76°S, still heading for the POI but a bit behind schedule. They reached the POI and visited the bust of Lenin on 28 December SP time, then headed for Pole. As of 7 January they'd had some good traveling days and were 50 miles from Pole as the skua flies, but Sebastian's sled had come open and he lost his sleeping bag and other gear. They reached Pole the next day, picked up some replacement gear, and headed for HI on the 12th. They finished the trip on the 24th after a long day of kiting about 230 km.

Shorter ventures and "last degree" trips:
 
Helen Skelton
an adventurer as well as a moderator of popular BBC children's show Blue Peter, went to Pole on an interesting 500-mile ski/kite/bike trip. Her bicycle was designed with assistance from Doug Stoup, who previously experimented with his own two-wheeler around Patriot Hills while contemplating a ride to Pole (BBC News article about the bicycle design). The small-tired (!) bike, which weighs 40 pounds, is towing a 180 lb sled...I'm not sure how all this was configured when she's kiting. She's accompanied by Niklas Norman, a Norwegian guide, who has a similar bicycle, as well as a media crew. Their trip was based from Novo...they flew there on 24 December, and were flown to their starting point at 83°S on 3 January. Their course and track paralleled the South Pole race with support from the same Arctic Trucks crew. As of 9 January they were nearing 86°S...and they reached Pole on the 22nd.
The Push
is an unusual venture originally planned by two athletes, California and Lake Tahoe natives John Davis and Grant Korgan, who are partially paralyzed. They planned a "last 100 mile" trip to Pole using custom-made Sit Skis; here's a September 2011 ESPN article about their expedition and the development of the unique skis that they will use. John had to drop out because of a training accident in Argentina; Grant is being guided by experienced Pole traveler/guide Doug Stoup and fellow Arctic/Antarctic guide Tal Fletcher, who is making his first trip to Pole; there will also be a 4-man film crew. The first week in December they were training in Fairbanks (10 December Fairbanks Daily News-Miner feature). They were flown from Union Glacier to their starting point on 7 January...and reached Pole on the 18th. For the final bit of the journey, Grant got up on regular skis and was supported by is companions as they reached the Pole...where Grant was met by his wife Shawna, who had flown in for the occasion as a surprise.
Børge Ousland 
with Bengt Egil Romo guided about 10 people on a last degree trip scheduled to arrive at Pole for the centennial of Amundsen's arrival. This the "Jubilee Last Degree" portion of the Jubilee expedition...the folks had gathered in PA on 1 December before flying to Union Glacier. They were dropped off at their starting point on 6 December, and reached Pole on the morning of the 14th just in time for the ceremonies.
The Humpty Dumpty Foundation
of Australia is being supported by a last degree venture guided by Australian mountaineer Damien Gildea, leading Kim Loane, Grant Bambach, Cath Murray, and Rob Clarke. The trek is raising money to assist sick children. They left Sydney for PA on 1 January, were flown to Union Glacier on the 6th, and were then flown to their start point at 89°S on 9 January.
One Call Wintercamp (Norwegian language site)
is a Norwegian group of 3 women and 3 men who planned to complete a kiting journey from 88°S 30°W in time to celebrate the Amundsen centennial on 14 December. They were selected by the mobile phone company after a competition involving more than 4000 applicants. The team was flown from Union Glacier to their starting point on 30 November. But they completed only about half of the planned distance before they ran short of wind and supplies, so they were flown to Pole on 12 December in time for the ceremony on the 14th, they then were flown back to Union Glacier the next day.
David Hempleman-Adams
led nine others on a 97-nautical-mile trip to Pole from the southernmost point reached by Shackleton in January 1909. Based out of Union Glacier, the group included his 16-year-old daughter Amelia (her web site/blog), Julian Evans, and Hazel Richards. They left the UK on 18 November, and were flown from Union Glacier to their starting point on 27 November (Huffington Post article), and reached Pole early Saturday morning 10 December...and didn't stay around for the festivities...they were headed back to Union Glacier and PA that same day.
Neal Laughton
the British adventurer and successful entrepreneur, is leading a group on a 100-mile trip to Pole in January, timed to coincide with the Scott centenary. Members of his group include James Balfour and Jon Beswick. They reached Pole on 17 January, in time for a commemorative cricket match (BBC article) in which the Brits beat the science team.
Other last degree expeditions
included one sponsored by ANI/ALE guided by Eric Larsen, a several trips run by Polarexplorers, one of which includes Wendy Booker, and a trip from Adventure Consultants.
Eric Philips
According to his web site...before he guides Pat Farmer's trip to Pole, escorted a group of 11 Chinese to Pole--they were to fly from Novo to the base camp 14 miles from Pole, and travel to the station from there.

What didn't happen at least in 2011-12...announced but with no updates unless noted:
 
Alastair Humphreys
from England had previously announced a round-trip venture to Pole along with fellow Brit Ben Saunders. This was currently planned for 2011-12, but was recently rescheduled Scott2012, for the 2012-13 season. Ben attempted the North Pole in 2010 but had to give up early when one of his fuel containers broke and contaminated most of his food.
the British Antarctic Expedition 2011
was a 5-person team consisting of Duncan Cameron, along with Anna Wakefield, Claire Marritt, Alex Toseland and Carl Alvey. Goals--Anna and Claire would be the first British women to cross the continent, Claire would be the youngest person, and Alex the first epilepsy sufferer. Oh, Duncan and Claire planned to get married at Pole (not exactly a "first") They plan another interesting route--a kite-assisted unsupported trip starting at the base of the Axel Heiberg Glacier, following Amundsen's route to Pole, and then proceeding to Hercules Inlet. This was announced for the 2011-12 season, but there have been no recent web site updates.
Cancelled! polarice
is a 4-man British team led by Mike Dann, along with Tim Tottenham, Simon Edmundson and Paddy Scott. They had been training in Greenland for what they called "the longest unsupported transantarctic journey ever undertaken"--a kite-assisted trip starting at Novo and proceeding to the Pole of Inaccessibility, the South Pole, and a finish on the Bellingshausen Sea, originally scheduled for 2010-11 but now put off indefinitely. Here's their blog.
Cancelled! 2012 Inspire
was a project including 3 British athletes--Olympian Derek Redmond, Paralympian Marc Woods and Special Olympics athlete Declan Kerry...along with Rosie Stancer, great niece of the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, with manager/guide Tim Moss. They planned to ski to Pole unsupported starting in mid-December but had to cancel due to lack of funding. 51-year-old Stacey now proposes a 1913 solo trip to the North Pole (Telegraph article). Marc ended up as a participant in the Race to the South Pole.
Nabil al Busaidi
–an Omani adventurer who has already summited Vinson, walked to the north magnetic pole and rowed across the Atlantic, wants to be the first Arab to walk to Pole, starting in mid-November 2011. Not much on his web site or blog, although this was announced in a 2 October article in the Oman Observer.
Antarctic Challenge 2009-2012
is an interesting planned centenary venture, where 5 teams of 5 (including experienced guides and young people) will start at 84°S from 5 points (roughly grid north, east, southeast, south and west) and travel 500 miles to Pole. Among other things, the group is commemorating the late Norman Vaughan, a member of Byrd's first expedition in 1928-30. Perhaps the best known of the ten leaders is Sarah McNair-Landry...but note that the website news for the venture, which was originally titled "Antarctic Challenge 2009-2010, has not been updated since June 2010.

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)...an amazing construction by Steele Diggles, the 2011 machinist.

Just when you thought it might not happen...it 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 exploits...in 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 teams...as 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 dagbadet.no with video in English and an article in English from theforeigner.no. 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 news...it 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 do...it 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 passed...as of 3 December the facts about the contract were...it 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 station...it 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 Antarctic...now 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 antarcticachallenge.com 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 (stuff.co.nz 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 weather...at 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. Whew...now 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 over...at 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 ATM...to the N B Palmer...to...the 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 breeze...it 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 watch...it 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 deadline.com 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! Yes...here'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 years...to 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 dark...here'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?)...in 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 (the letter was posted on the usap.gov home page). 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 media...here'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! Remember...in 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 1911...it 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 again...to 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 September...no, 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 science...to 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 activities...cleaning 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.

 What NGA expeditions went down in 2010-11...here's what actually happened...
[For much better coverage, watch thepoles.com, run by Thomas and Tina Sjogren...or the individual expedition websites. Also note that all distances listed below unless otherwise noted are in statute miles (5,280 feet, 7/8 nautical miles or 1.6 km), and times are South Pole time (UTC+13 in the austral summer).

Christian Eide
announced late in the planning cycle that he would do a solo ski trip from Hercules Inlet to Pole starting in December...after a Vinson climb and a Last Degree trip as a guide. After doing that stuff he started out for Pole on 20 December. He arrived on 13 January...the time of 24 days is almost 10 days faster than that of the Canadian team of Richard Weber, Ray Zahab, Kevin Vallely who arrived in January 2009. Christian was not very happy with the "official" NSF reception he received...I'm not sure what happened, since general relations with NGO visitors seem to be better than they were in the 80s.
The Korean "green expedition"
arrived at Pole on 28 January after a 41-day trip from Hercules Inlet. The group, led by Park Young-seok, used snowmobiles powered by solar panels. The trip was slowed by cloudy weather which slowed down their recharging, they almost had to abort the trip because of the scheduled closure of ALE flight operations--to speed their journey, 2 team members and some of their cargo were evacuated to Union Glacier along the way. Typically it took 3 hours of recharging to provide enough power for one hour of travel. I haven't been able to find out much English language news about this interesting venture.
The Moon Regan Transantarctic Expedition
with co-leaders Andrew Regan and Andrew Moon, happened at last, after several years of delays (my coverage). The group flew from PA to the AL&E Union Glacier (UG) camp on 26 November. There the group assembled their Winston Wong Bio-Inspired Ice Vehicle (BIV), and they set out for Pole on the 28th (SP time). That was supposed to be a 5-day trip, then they continued on a 7-day drive to...McMurdo via the Leverett Glacier. Or they were supposed to, but because of delays they turned around when they hit the Ross Ice Shelf at the base of the Leverett Glacier on 10 December. They then retraced their route, arriving back at Pole on 12 December, and at UG on the 17th. The BIV is a one-person vehicle, its engine was recently switched out to a four-cylinder 115-HP 1.2 liter Rotax 914 aircraft engine, which burns E85. The rest of the 10-man expedition rode in 2 converted Ford Econoline vans, one of which we've seen before. They had fuel depots at Pole and Marble Point...the latter one the felt they couldn't get to before the ice melted. They did pass the SP Traverse along the way. Here's a news article from the Engineer (UK magazine/blog) with many more technical details. Oh, as it turned out, the BIV was parked at Pole when the team first arrived, and on the return trip they picked it up and towed it back to UG.
Willem ter Horst
from the Netherlands planned a resupplied trip guided by Hannah McKeand, starting from Hercules Inlet. After the usual delays (and discovering they forgot to pack the stove) they started out on 27 November. They reached Pole on 12 January,
the 2010-11 South Pole Race (my coverage)
was a 2010-11 preliminary event to the big Race to the South Pole sponsored by German and Austrian TV networks ZDF and ORF. 4-man Austrian and German teams traveled 200 miles to Pole, supported by some of those wheeled vehicles that have been seen on the continent in the past few years. The Austrian team featured Hermann Maier and Tom Walek, accompanied by Sabrina Grillitsch (Austria's only woman member of the mountain infantry), and Husky racer Alexander Serdjukov. The German team was led by celebrity Markus Lanz and triathlete Joey Kelley, along with scientist Claudia Beitsch and Air Force member Dennis Lenhart. Advance teams showed up at Pole around 26 December...the race teams finished a couple of days later, and there was a big New Years Eve party attended by some of the Polies. Who won? Well, I know, but...the TV shows were aired in Europe in April 2011, and you can watch a YouTube summary. Or have a look at Robert Schwarz's documentation and pictures...
An 8-man team from the Indian Army
led by Anand Swaroop and includng Bala Karthik, Showkat Ahmad MirArjun Kumar Thapa, Parsuram Gurung , Ram Singh, Khilap Singh and Tsewang Morup, and guided by ALE/ANI guides Devon McDiarmid and Svante Strand, started from Hercules Inlet on 26 November and reached Pole on 15 January. No good blog site, but here's another news article, and here's a blog site with a few pictures.
Chris Foot
from southern England, set off on a 2010-11 solo unsupported return trip from Hercules Inlet to Pole. Walking...he set out from Hercules Inlet on the morning of 26 November SP time. If he'd succeeded, he would have been the first Brit to do so, but he called off the return portion of his trip a couple days before successfully reaching Pole on 6 January, since he wouldn't have had enough time to get back to the coast before the ANI/ALE season ended on the 28th.. He's an ex-Royal Marine and Special Air Service member, part of his preparation included the Polar Challenge race to the North Magnetic Pole earlier in 2010. Here is a London Telegraph article and an Explorers Web article with more information. After reaching Pole he hinted at a new Antarctic venture for next season.
The Kazakh Geographic Society (KGS) (Arctic Trucks blog)
planned a trip from Novo to Pole with 7-10 people, using three or four of those Arctic Trucks AT44 vehicles, including some of the same ones used by the scientific expedition by the Indian National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research. They cut back their plans to a 4-person crew, Konstantin Orlov and Stanislav Makarenko from KGS, Hlynur Sigurðsson from Arctic Trucks, and Andrey Myller of ALCI. They departed Novo on 4 December (SP time), originally planning to go only to the fuel depot at 83°S, but they made such good time that they continued on to Pole, arriving at midday on 9 December--total travel time of 108 hours. This was later certified as a world record for the 1434-mile trip from Novo, at an average speed of 13.3 mph, beating out the British record of 10.8 mph for the shorter trip from Patriot Hills. They left Pole the next day, returning to Novo late evening on the 14th. This trip was a test run for a much larger expedition planned for 2011-12.

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 scene...here'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...NGA events mentioned above.

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. But...in 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 surveys...in 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 announced...to 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 stuff...no 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 2010...in 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, but...as 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.

What NGA expeditions were up for 2009-10...actually thanks to the economy it was a rather short list, with some cancellations.

Cecilie Skog and Ryan Waters,
planned an unsupported unassisted ski trip from Berkner Island to Pole--the longest distance--800 miles, of any of the traditional NGA routes. And...time and weather permitting, they proposed to continue across the continent and descend to the base of the Axel Heiberg Glacier where it meets the Ross Ice Shelf. Cecelie is a Norwegian adventurer and guide...the only woman to complete the "Adventurer's Grand Slam" (7 summits and both poles), and Ryan is an American outdoor educator and mountain guide. They were among several teams who arrived at PH on the Ilyushin on 13 November (SP time) and were flown to their starting point later that day. They reached Pole on New Years Day, and after a tour of the station and some very positive comments about the station and the science on their blog, they continued (grid) south toward the Ross Ice Shelf, which they reached on 22 January.
Eric Larsen
from Grand Marais, MN, guided an ANI/ALE trip from Hercules Inlet this year, with resupply. The trip includes Canadian Dongsheng Liu (who grew up in China) and Irish/Canadian William Hanlon. This is also a kickoff of Eric's attempt to complete the Three Poles (North Pole, South Pole and Everest) in 365 days. They also were on the 13 November flight and were delayed getting to PH because of high winds, they made it to the starting point on the 17th and set out the next day. On day 47 (3 January SP time) they arrived successfully at Pole, and were flown back to PH less than a day later.
Hannah McKeand
the British woman who previously set a South Pole speed record, led a guided resupplied trip for ANI/ALE from the Ronne-Filchner Ice Shelf, also known as the "Messner Start" (82° 26'S, 64° 58'W) since Reinhold started his 1989-90 crossing from nearby. She guided Canadian Arnold Witzig. They reached Pole around 27 December, although there was very little public news. Hannah embarked on a solo trip to the North Pole in 2010.
The Kasperky Commonwealth Antarctic Expedition
consisted of 8 selected women from the British Commonwealth countries of Singapore, Ghana, India, Jamaica, Brunei, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Cyprus. The group was led by 31-year-old Felicity Aston from the UK...the other group members also have web presence. They also arrived at PH on the 13th, and waited at PH (suffering a tent-battering windstorm) for many days before getting flown to their "Messner Start" position on 22 November. Kim-Marie Spence from Jamaica was forced to abandon the trip after only one day due to severe frostbite. The team completed the 562-mile trip to Pole on 30 December. All of their blog entries are available from this page.
Morten Grundsøe and Jens Erik Nielsen
are two Danes who set off on a trip from the "Messner Start" on 30 November after some last-minute scrambling for a sponsor after their original flight arrangements were cancelled. They successfuly reached Pole on 29 December. Here's a link to the Google English translation of their Danish language blog.
Cancelled! 670 Arctic Miles.com
was Swedes Ted Karlsson and Christian Rosenqvist, who said they would ski this distance (which is also 1130 km) from Hercules Inlet to Pole, unassisted and unsupported, in the 2009-10 season. But there was nothing new on their now-disappeared website for months, their venture never happened.
The Moon Regan Transantarctic Expedition
was to be a rather unusual venture planned to include not one but two of those tricked Ford 6-wheel-drive vans ("Science Support Vehicles")--one of which made the trip to Pole already in 2005-06 in a trip which included Andrew Moon--as well as a "Concept Ice Vehicle"--a 3-ski biofueled propeller-driven lightweight vehicle developed by Lotus. They planned to start from PH, head to Pole, and then cut through the Transantarctic Mountains and cross the Ross Ice Shelf to McMurdo. The team includes Moon and Andrew Regan, this is another of those expeditions that had been in the planning stages and the media for awhile, but no dates. They never said how they will get their vehicles shipped from McM, and the site hasn't been updated since mid 2009.
Meagan McGrath
adventurer from northern Ontario, aimed to be the first Canadian to complete a solo unsupported/unassisted from Hercules Inlet to Pole. She's already done the seven summits and the Marathon des Sables, and is working on the rest of the 8000 m peaks. She flew south from PA to PH on 29 November and was dropped off at Hercules Inlet on 1 December. Buther trip to Pole was a bit rough, after starting off from HI on 2 December, she fell into a crevasse and spent 8 hours in it before being rescued, with bruised ribs. After resting up a bit, she set out again from PH on 8 December. She arrived on 16 January. Here's another of her sites with detail of her previous exploits.
SouthPole2009.co.uk
is a simulated journey by 17-year-old British Katie Walter, from Shackleton's furthest south (88°23'S) to Pole, the last 97 nautical miles. They (Katie and three others--56-year-old Nottingham pharmacist Shally Suri, 43-year-old IT manager Ian Berry from Croyden, and 53-year-old Wendy Kidd, a publicist from Northern Ireland) were based out of Patriot Hills and guided by veteran Mike Thornwill. The team arrived at PH on 17 December, did a bit of training, flew to the starting point on the 22nd, and reached Pole on New Years Day. Here's another blog from guide Mike's Polar Challenge International site.
Postponed!Ronny Finsaas and Fiona Lindsay
had planned a crossing of the continent starting at Novo, heading to Pole with a return to Patriot Hills. Sometimes chef at the PH camp, Ronny, who was born in Norway, kited from Pole to the camp in 5 days in January 2008; and Fiona is from Scotland.
The Last Great Challenge
was the English businessman John Wilton-Davies' next proposed venture with Justin Miles--a planned unsupported round trip in 77 days from Hercules Inlet. John previously tried to reach Pole in 2006-07 but was delayed by weather and problems with a crevasse field, and had to abort his venture when the ALE airlift support season ended. This time he hoped to do the return trip in 77 days. John was having trouble finding a sponsor , so this never happened.

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 stuff.co.nz).

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)...it 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 word...it 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. Well...by 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 stuff...as 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 buried...so during the week before sunset NSF decided it was time to dig up the entrance and remove that access ladder...it 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 2009...so 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 winter...by 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 page. 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 left...here'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).

The events of 2008-09...
 
The Amundsen Omega 3 South Pole Race (archive page)
was another competition (well, I do call this the "Sports" section) that picked up a lot of interest. In the spirit perhaps of Kim Stanley Robinson's Antarctica it was a real life challenge--a 480-mile race supported from Cape Town and staged south of Novo (south of what is left of the Filchner Ice Shelf,) in 2 legs, by 3-person teams. All equipment was provided, as well as some training events in the months before the race. Only £42,300 per person. This event was originally planned for 2002-2003, but this time it really happened. The event was scheduled to start 1 January and actually started on the 4th. While there were 7 teams signed up (all but one from the UK), six actually started and 5 officially finished. And if running wasn't your bag, you could have joined an SUV caravan in one of the four pace/safety vehicles (specially prepped by Arctic Trucks of Iceland), which headed back from Pole to Novo after the race. Only £55,000 for that venture...how's the economy treating you? Anyway...Ben Fogle, James Cracknell and Ed Coats were among the first Brits to announce their participation in said Race. James is an Olympic gold medalist in rowing, and the pair came in first for pairs/third overall in the 2005-06 Atlantic Rowing Race, 2931 miles from the Canary Islands to Antigua. They were Team QinetiQ. The winning team was the Norwegian one, Team Missing Link...they reached Pole on 22 January with a time of 17 days, 8 hours, and 58 minutes. The other teams in order of finish were QinetiQ, Danske Bank, Due South, and South Pole Flag, which included blind member Mark Pollock. Team Southern Lights also finished but not officially as they received assistance from the race support team.
Mark Langridge
from Wales, was up for a solo unsupported round trip from Hercules Inlet...on 10 November he finally got underway, after the delays due to aircraft mechanical problems in PA and high crosswinds at PH. He was one of several travelers planning a speed attempt...but at the end of November he realized he wasn't going fast enough and decided to abandon his planned return leg. After 49 days of travel he arrived on the morning of 30 December, making him reportedly the 8th person to travel solo unsupported to Pole.
Richard Weber, Ray Zahab and Kevin Vallely,
are 3 Canadians who make up the South Pole Quest expedition. Richard is a veteran Arctic explorer, and Ray and Kevin are extreme long-distance runners--thus this was to be another speed attempt from Hercules Inlet--perhaps 35 days. They planned to start later in November than other teams, hoping for better weather. They reached PH on 29 November and planned about a week of training before setting out from Hercules Inlet on about the 4th...reaching Pole on 8 January for a record time of 33 days, 23 hours and 30 minutes.
The British South Pole Expedition 2008
is Gavin Booth and Adam Wilton, both in their 30s. They were underway with an unsupported, unresupplied trip from Hercules Inlet to Pole. They too started on 11 November; they crossed 82°S on the 25th...and reached Pole in the evening of 27 December, taking 45 days.
An ALE/Northwinds guided trip
led by veteran Sarah McNair-Landry of Northwinds, included Canadian cancer survivor Tom Davenport, Australian Steven Gates, New Zealander Ross Maxwell, and Norwegian Kari Gundeso. They plan a round trip from Hercules Inlet using kites, without resupply. They flew to PH on 10 November and got started the following day. The group reached Pole just after midnight on 3 January SP time after a 53-day trip. Afterward Sarah and Tom kited back to PH, heading north on 7 January and reaching PH on the 19th.
A second ALE guided trip...
...used the Messner route (which he and Fuchs pioneered in 1989-90) starting from the Ronne Ice Shelf at 82°10'S-65°W. They were guided by Eric Larsen; the five others include Daragh Horgan from Ireland, Australian doctor Jill Maxwell, and Londoners Doug Oppenheim and Jeremy Rogers. They flew to PH on 21 November and to the starting point the next day. At the beginning of December Jill decided to abandon the effort and was flown back to PH. The rest of the team completed their journey on 4 January. After reaching Pole, Jeremy kited back to PH along with Norwegian guide Ronny Finsaas (Ronny is a chef at PH). The return took 10 days, they arrived on the 15th.
Happy Feet
are 5 Norwegians who attempted a 900km trip to Pole from the Ronne Ice Shelf. The venture was put together by Hvitserk, a Norwegian company. They were led by Christian Eide, the other members of the "Happy Feet" are Rune Midgaard, Mads Agrup, Morten Andvig and Jørgen von Tangen. They left PA for the ice on 20 November and started traveling south on the 22nd, but Jørgen ended up in pain and required evacuation. The rest of the group returned to the starting point on 3 December and began again, reaching Pole on 27 December.
Chus Lago
a Spanish woman (and movie star) who was 44 in December, undertook a solo unsupported trip from Hercules Inlet known as the "Caixanova Expedition." She too started on the 11th and was held up by the intense windstorm that buffeted the teams near PH on 15 November. She was the only solo woman on the ice this year, and wanted to be the first Spanish woman to ski to Pole (Spanish language site). She successfully reached Pole on 8 January, but not before running out of food and getting a resupply.
Julio Fiadi
the Brazilian, was again going to try taking his "polar capsule" from Hercules Inlet to Pole, this time alone and with one resupply (Portuguese language site). But I haven't found any info that says he actually did it (and I can't read Portuguese, sorry).
Todd Carmichael
after failing to get past 84°S last year, tried what he'd hoped would the first American completely solo unsupported trip from Hercules Inlet, to Pole, to "properly plant the American flag at the heart of Antarctica" as he said. He headed south to PH on the 10th and got started from Hercules Inlet on 11 November. He was also shooting for a fast time of less than 40 days, and he made that...on the 22nd and briefly held the record...according to thepoles.com he made it in 39 days, 7 hours and 49 minutes, beating Hannah McKeand's time of 39 days, 9 hours and 33 minutes in 2006-07. His ski bindings broke early in the trip and he had to walk most of the way...he was a bit exhausted when he reached Pole.
Extreme South
is Robert Conway, a Type I diabetic who plans to be the first diabetic on insulin to reach Pole unsupported, and Toby Williams, another medical student from St. George's Hospital in SW London (a third team member, Doug Orr, backed out in 2006). Their previously planned trip to recreate part of the Scott/Shackleton route was been postponed until 2008-9 for financial reasons. Now they are doctors and there is nothing recent on their site to indicate they are still heading south anytime soon. They'd planned to use kites to help the otherwise unsupported trip from the top of the Beardmore to Pole and thence to Patriot Hills.
Alastair Humphries
the British round-the-world cyclist who competed in the Marathon des Sables earlier this year, has announced an 1800-mile round-trip from Berkner Island to Pole, along with Ben Saunders, now planned for October 2009.
South Pole without Limits
is a Spanish team of Jesús Noriega, Xavier Valbuena and Eric Villalón, guided by Ramón Larramendi and Ignacio Oficialdegui. This group has special challenges (an Explorersweb feature perhaps behind a paywall)--one member without a hand, another who lost a leg, and a third with only 5% sight. They completed a 125 mile trip and reached Pole on 20 January 2009. The expedition link has been taken down, but here is a brief YouTube video (in Spanish) about their trip.
Doug Stoup's venture. They did a "last 2 degree" trip, arriving at Pole on 20 January.
this year is leading Team South: Fred Losani, Steve Stipsits, Mark MacLennan, and Peter Turk on a "last degree" trip (well, 100 miles) starting at 88.26°S on 4 December. They actually started on the 7th, but Mark suffered frostbite to his hands after having his gloves off for too long, and was medevaced to PH on the 12th. The rest of the team reached Pole on 16 December SP time.
Another Last Degree group, Southpole09
guided by Alan Chambers, included Kevin Gaskell, Matt Gaskell, John Harrison, Pete Lowrie, Andrew May, and Angelo Speranza, They started on 5 January and finished on the 14th. Kevin (50) and Matt (18) are father and son...but no, Matt isn't the youngest to do this, and this isn't the first father/son team.
Pôle Nord – Pôle Sud (French language site)
is Frenchman Charles Hedrich's next adventure, planned for 2009, when he hopes to leave the North Pole on skis in February and (after using various means of transport) arrive at our striped South Pole 10 months later. In 2007-08 Charles tried for a speed record to Pole but had to abandon the trip for medical reasons...
PolarExplorers/ Northwest Passage
did a "last degree" trip--well, they actually started on 10 January at 89°20'S because of overcast conditions at 89°S. They reached Pole on the 14th. They consisted of American Mike Strong, Maud Oortwijn from the Netherlands, Andrzej Wojda of Poland, and Brit Peter Lemon. They were guided by American Keith Heger. Immediately after flying back to PH, everyone but Mike caught another flight and headed off to try to climb Mt. Vinson (they were unable to summit).
Kari Poppis Suomela and Pasi Ikonen
proposed the first Finnish trek to Pole, a 2008 unsupported venture from Hercules Inlet. Poppis was part of the Finnish expedition to the North Pole in 2006, and Pasi was part of a Greenland ski crossing the same year. They too started walking from Hercules Inlet on the 11th. And they made it to Pole on Christmas Day SP time...making Poppis the 12th person to reach both poles unsupported.
Teemu Lakkasuo
another Finn, was trying his own unsupported/unassisted solo ski trip from Hercules Inlet to Pole...he too flew south on 10 November, he officially started his trek from Hercules Inlet on the 12th, but was slowed first by a stubborn case of flu, and then by a leg injury in a fall...perhaps a fracture. He was evacuated to PH but was contemplating going on...he returned to the ice to do a "last degree" venture, getting dropped off around 11 December and arriving at Pole on 16 December SP time.
The Moon Regan Transantarctic Expedition
is a rather unusual venture planned to include not one but two of those tricked Ford 6-wheel-drive vans as well as a "Concept Ice Vehicle"--a 3-ski propeller-driven lightweight vehicle developed by Lotus. The team includes Andrew Regan and Andrew Moon (who first visited Pole by van from PH in 2005 Wikipedia article), as well as designer Jason de Carteret. They plan to start from the Ronne Ice Shelf, head to Pole, and then cut through the Transantarctic Mountains and cross the Ross Ice Shelf to McMurdo. When? The web site doesn't say, although they originally announced the venture for 2007-08, and it certainly hasn't happened yet. While the project received some New York Times coverage in February, there still no date on their web site.
The Matrix Shackleton Centenary Expedition
was proposed by Henry Worsley, Will Gow and Henry Adams--descendents of members of the Nimrod Expedition that got within 97 miles of Pole in 1908-09. The three men are duplicating the original route from Shackleton's hut at Cape Royds, getting there on a flight from Patriot Hills. On Friday 14 November they set out from the hut toward Pole via the Beardmore Glacier. They reached Shackleton's farthest south, 88°23'S-162°E, on 9 January, the centenary day of the original achievement. At that point they were joined by Shackleton's great-grandson Patrick Bergel, Jameson Boyd Adams' great-grandson David Cornell, and Frank Wild's great-great-nephew Tim Fright for the last 97 miles to Pole. Henry, Will and Henry reached Pole on the 18th, and the 97-mile group arrived a day later. The Ross Island team carried Shackleton's original compass...and solar panels to recharge IPods and other electronic devices. The group also had plans to duplicate the 1908 first ascent of Mt. Erebus but they arrived on Ross Island late and there wasn't time for that. This was a one-way trip, the group was flown back to PH from Pole.
Mike Horn 
the South African who was one of a 2-man trek to the North Pole this past boreal winter, has announced the Pangea Expedition--a 3+ year pole-to-pole expedition named after his new 35m aluminum yacht to carry him part of the way. First stage was to be a 9 October sailing from PA to the Antarctic, from where he was to trek to Pole. He was in fact dropped off near Adelaide Island on 10 November but was unable to find a good landing spot. So he reboarded the yacht and went back to PA. He later flew south with ALE around 27 November to begin his Pole trip in the more usual way, starting from HE on 1 December and reached Pole on 19 January. He had been joined on 11 January at 88°42'S by Børge Ousland, Clémence Cadario and Nicolas Valdivieso, the latter two folks being selected from Mike's Young Explorers Programme...and a day later they were joined by Prince Albert and his team of 8. They all flew close to Pole and walked the final 22km, arriving on the 14th...then Mike, Borge, Clémence and Nicolas flew back to their campsite to complete the main trek, arriving back at Pole on the 18th. Mike then started kiting back north. But not fast enough...as the ALE season was ending, he was the last NGA traveler still out...he was picked up at 86°34'S on the 28th.
Postponed! The Last Great Challenge
was the English businessman John Wilton-Davies' next proposed venture--a planned unsupported round trip in 77 days from Hercules Inlet. John previously tried to reach Pole in 2006-07 but was delayed by weather and problems with a crevasse field, and had to abort his venture when the ALE airlift support season ended. This time he hoped to do the return trip in 77 days. He was having trouble finding a sponsor in time for a 2008-09 venture, he postponed it again until 2009-10, and it never happened.
Postponed! The Bear Dodgers
is Aussie Cynan Rhodes, Englishman Charlie Hunter, and Irishman David O'Brien, who planned a round trip from PH (manhauling south, kiting back north, otherwise unsupported). But...in the current financial climate they found it impossible to come up with the £30,000 each needed for the trip. So they thought they might try the next season. Not.
Postponed! Robert Knight
an Australian who reached the North Pole in 2007, had planned a solo unsupported trip from Hercules Inlet but he found the financial crevasses too daunting...he has postponed his planned departure until November 2009.

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 it...in 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 iol.co.za 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 galley...as 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 (Stuff.co.nz 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 news...it 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 out...it 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!  
NGA expeditions...what was on in 2007-08...

Ronny Finsaas
set off from Pole on the afternoon of 20 January in an attempt to set a kiting record to PH. He made 190 miles in the first 2 days, and successfully made it to Hercules Inlet at midday on the 25th (SP times)--five days, or 60 hours of actual kiting, which included a record run of 312 miles in less than 24 hours. No website, but here is the Explorersweb.com article announcing his success. Ronny actually warmed up by starting at 87°S, 46°E (250 miles from Pole) between the 15th and 19th, with a rest day at Pole before the main venture.
South Pole 2007
...as a precursor to check out the course for the South Pole Race, Doug Stoup guided Brits James Fox and retired champion jockey Richard Dunwoody on an unsupported trek. They flew south from Cape Town to Novo on 29 November and then flew further southwest via DC-3 to the Herbert Mountains from where they started their trip on 1 December. James suffered from strain and altitude and was flown out on Christmas Day. Doug and Richard continued, as of 3 January they were at 86° 51' S. They reached the Pole late in the evening of the 18th, and were flown back to Novo. Here's a 26 October North Lake Tahoe (California) Bonanza article about Doug, who runs Truckee-based IceAxe Productions. Hmmm. I wonder if Doug has found any more Hershey bars on this trip!
the Friluftsaktiviteter team
is leader Ine-Lillie Gabrielsen and Rita Glenne, two Norwegian women who planned a unique venture starting with a climb of Mt. Vinson, followed by an unsupported trip from the old Vinson base camp to Pole. Yes, a new route! They started from the base camp on 5 December; as of 16 January they were still 225 miles from Pole. But they made it on the 27th. Whew...ALE/ANI air support was supposed to end the 25th (Chilean time). Here's a brief entry (in Norwegian) from their old web site.
Vision South Pole (otherwise known as the Optical Express South Pole Challenge)
was doctor Cameron Hudson planning a 2007-08 venture in support of vision charities...the Cardiff (UK) eye researcher announced he'll participate in a 700-mile sledging trek as part of a group including guide John Huston (of Northwinds), Sumio Tsuzuki (who climbed Everest and Cho Oyu and starred in the Everest IMAX flick) and Peter Blaikie (age 70),starting at Hercules Inlet. The team left PA on 26 November, Peter decided to bag and was flown out on 8 December; they crossed 88°S on the 15th after shifting their schedule to 29-hour "days" in an effort to reach Pole before air support ended. They made it on 25 January.
The CANDU ANI Messner Route South Pole Expedition (archive page)
started at the edge of the Ronne Ice Shelf and followed the route used by the 1989-90 Messner/Fuchs expedition. The resupplied group is led by guide Eric Philips (Icetrek) of Australia, along with Merete Gjertsen (Norway), George Szwender (Canada) (blog), Alison Levine (USA) (blog archive), and Bernice Notenboom (Netherlands). They reached their starting point on 5 December; as of 4 January they were 125 miles away from that reflective ball. Which they reached on the 14th.
Sibusiso Vilane and Alex Harris
are 2 South Africans who tried an unsupported/unassisted trek. They started from the inlet on 16 November, they passed 87° on 4 January and made it to Pole on the 18th to be the first to do so from their country.
The ANI South Pole Quest
ended up consisting of:
Expedition Antarctica--Swiss climber Evelyne Binsack's plan for an 18-month effort to reach Pole starting with a bicycle trip across parts of Africa and the Americas beginning in September 2006, and then try a ski trip from PH to Pole beginning in November 2007. Evelyne was the first Swiss woman to summit Everest, in 2001 (German/French language site only; more preliminary info in English here).
Adrian Hayes, a former British Army Special Forces officer who's lived in Dubai for the past 10 years, doing motivational speaking and selling Airbuses among other things. Anyway, after climbing Everest in 2006, he decided to hit the poles in 2007, starting with a 4-man expedition to the North Pole from Ward Hunt Island this boreal spring, followed by this trek to the South Pole. They started at Hercules Inlet on 12 November, and reached Pole on 28 December. This site has a detailed log with many photos; thepoles.com identified this as the "ANI South Pole Quest" guided by Canadian Devon McDiarmed. Other team members include Norwegian cross-country skier Hans Foss and Lebanese climber Max Chaya. Max has made it up Everest and done previous last-degree ventures to both poles.
Hvitserk South Pole expedition
was a 7-person unsupported/unassisted Norwegian trek led by guide Bengt Egil Rotmo. The others are Jens Kristian, Ann Trude, Gro Mette, Bjørn, Truls and Lars. They reached their starting point on 12 November and reached Pole on New Years Day (SP time). It was put together by the Norwegian company Hvitserk (Norwegian site) which of course was also putting together a tour for the 2011-12 centennial of Amundsen's trip.
Beyond Endurance
originally planned a 2007-08 3-person Irish venture following Shackleton's original planned route across the continent from the Weddell Sea to McMurdo. That was scaled back to a 4-person supported Pole trip from Hercules Inlet. They had considered continuing going some distance past Pole, but this trek extension was cancelled. The team members included leader Pat Falvey (website), Dr. Clare O'’Leary, Shaun Menzies (trip blog), and Jonathon Bradshaw. This 3-year project included a trek across South Georgia in 2006 (and another planned one in 2008). The successful SG crossing was led by climber Pat Falvey, as was a boreal 2007 summer crossing of southern Greenland via DYE 2. They started from the inlet on 12 November. On 5 January they were at about 89° 20', they reached Pole early in the morning of 9 January SP time.
Cancelled! Slovakian Peter Valusiak
again planned a continental crossing to McMurdo, this time starting from Novo. He just barely started when word came that his mother had suffered a stroke, he was airlifted out on about 20 November.
"Last Degree" ventures
included one from 89°S that started on 9 December, reaching Pole on the 16th. This one included Kevin Dempsey, Lance Ranger, Stefan Anders, and Armund Mussey, led by ALE guide Tim Hewette. This one is newsworthy because Kevin Dempsey continues to speculate about the station and the alien forces behind IceCube... :) Later, two separate "last 2 degree" groups were dropped off at 88° on about 10 January. They split up into 2 groups, one with Børge Ousland (guide): Nils Thomas Lien, Britt Thorstensen, Nicolas (Nick) Moga, Otto Kalvo, and Stephan Kucsko. The other was guided by Svante Strand: Adrian MacLaughlin, Andrew Pearce, Helen Turton, Rudi Jansen, and John Bourke. As of the 18th both groups were at 89 degrees. Borge's team made it to Pole on the 20th; Svante's group was flown to a point 8-1/2 miles from Pole, Borge went out to meet them as they came in. Yet another "last degree group" was the British venture Shackleton's Unfinished Journey which consisted of a group guided by vet Mike Thornewill and team co-leader Barry Harper, with Murray Howitt, Carolyn Aitchison, Deb Stevenson, Richard Durance, Lynsey Gawn, Dean (Woody) Woodcock, Jo Craig-Humphreys, and Mary ?. They were doing the "last 112 miles" that Shackleton didn't finish when he turned around at 88°23'S. They arrived at PH on 9 January, got flown to their starting point (well, latitude, not longitude) on the 11th, and made it to Pole on the 22nd.

What's off...cancelled, deferred, or forgotten...
 
Opération Pole Sud (French language site)
was Frenchman Charles Hedrich's solo attempt at a speed record from near the coast of Berkner Island, assisted by kites. He started on 2 December and made great speed for awhile--completing 350 miles through the 22nd, he had to abandon the trip due to a nagging urinary tract infection and fever. After waiting 5 days he was flown back to PH on the 27th. He's planning a new pole-to-pole 2009 venture...
Sub-Zero Antarctic Expedition
consists of Jason de Carteret (British) and Todd Carmichael (American) who are doing an unsupported unassisted trip from Hercules Inlet. They started on 28 November hoping to break the speed record of 40 days for this route. But Jason had suffered injuries during the first few days and was flown out on 5 December. Todd continued on until 23 December. Storms slowed his progress, and he decided to be picked up after pushing on to near 84°S. Todd was already planning a solo unassisted/unsupported try for next year.
Peter Valusiak
from Slovakia, had planned a solo crossing from Berkner Island to McM via Pole...which has been postponed until 2008. Not much that I could read on his Slovakian language web site, which is now gone.
Extreme South
is Robert Conway, a Type I diabetic who plans to be the first diabetic on insulin to reach Pole unsupported, and Toby Williams, another medical student from St. George's Hospital in SW London (a third team member, Doug Orr, backed out in 2006). Their previously planned trip to recreate part of the Scott/Shackleton route has been postponed until 2008-9 for financial reasons. By then they'll be doctors. They plan to use kites to help the otherwise unsupported trip from the top of the Beardmore to Pole and thence to Patriot Hills.
Icebird
was still planning their "kitesled" trip over a "new route," but they have been set back by the death of one of the original expedition members, Andrew McAuley, in a kayaking accident off the west coast of the South Island (NZ). They recently reworked their kitesled during a Norway trip, now they are trying to figure out how to finance their trip to a remote part of the continent, including provision for rescue. In the boreal 2008 summer they will venture along the shore ice of Hudson Bay.
Journey South 2007
was a planned 2007-08 four-man unsupported venture led by Briton Alex Hibbert, to be age 21 at the time of the expedition. Originally his plan was to be the youngest British person to reach the Pole and the youngest unsupported expedition leader. Later the plans were to do a new route from Halley to Pole. That was cancelled as well...latest plans are to do the North Pole in 2008.
South Pole Solo
is 24-year-old Mark Evison, from Dulwich (near London), he wanted to be the youngest person to walk to the Pole (from Hercules Inlet) alone and unsupported. But he's postponing things due to lack of funds for 2 years (well, looks like 2008-09) until he graduates from Sandhurst...
90° SOUTH
was the planned unsupported round trip from Berkner Island by Brits Ben Saunders and Tony Haile. They planned to pull sledges to Pole, and switch to backpacks for the return trip on skis. Hmmm...on 24 October they pushed this trip back to the 2008-09 season...in the meantime, this past March/April Ben attempted a solo speed record trip to the North Pole, which he had to abandon after only 8 days when his ski bindings failed. Now Ben is planning to accompany Alastair Humphries on his 1800-mile return venture in to Pole in 2008-09.
Hummers to hit Highway 90
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak announced he's planning to join an expedition of hydrogen-fuel-cell powered Hummers on a drive south from McMurdo in December 2007, along with astronaut Buzz Aldrin. Yeah right. The trip was to be filmed in 3D by Academy Award winner James Cameron. Another old story (scroll down). Presumably they intended to travel the much cussed-and-discussed "road to Pole," but they would first have to get their vehicles to McM. Hmmm.
Cynan Rhodes
has another green trip planned for the Antarctic, at least according to this news article. He's not going with the Hummer team, but will use an electric car to cross the continent. Right.

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 time...one 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 event...here 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 events...here'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 upgrade....as 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.


 

Here are the 2006-2007 expedition, last-degree and other similar events I've watched:

Correne Erasmus-Coetzer
from South Africa, wanted to be the first African woman to ski from Hercules Inlet, she was part of three-woman expedition which also included Brit Beth Cheesebrough and guide Denise Martin. They had several resupplies en route. Denise (with Matty McNair) guided the 1997 McVitie's Penguin Polar Relay, the first all-woman trek to the North Pole. Correne did "last-degree" trips to both Poles in 2001 and 2002. They arrived at PH on 24 November and were flown to Hercules Inlet two days later to begin their trip. They successfully reached Pole on 18 January, where they were offered an early-morning snack of coffee and cookies in the galley.
Beth Cheesebrough
accompanied Correne and Denise, here's her web site with diary and pics.
Antarctic Solo Expedition
is 44-year-old Brit John Wilton Davies, who tried his own solo unsupported from Hercules Inlet to Pole. Impressive--he had no Polar experience and if he succeeded he told folks he'd be the oldest person to do this. He started on 28 November, as of New Year's he was halfway (85°S) but it was slow going and he was running short of supplies. He ran out of food and time...stopping at 89°S where he had a food drop and then waited for ALE's last flight to pick him up on the 26th...and take him to Pole to gather up the last Last Degree group.
Polar First
the helicopter team, Jennifer Murray and Colin Bodill, that visited Pole in December 2003 shortly before crashing north of PH on a transpolar venture, are did it again this season. It again was a Bell 407, they headed south starting from Dallas, Texas on 5 December. On 31 December they reached Marsh Base on KGI, and they showed up at Pole on around 1700 on 7 January, after a 9-hour 1200-mile trip from Fowler with two fuel stops. Conveniently for Polies it was a Sunday, and they shared the limelight with two Russian helicopters that arrived the same day. This time Jennifer and Colin were accompanied by a second backup Bell 407 aircraft. They stayed around Pole for about 8 hours and then headed back north to PH for some welcome sleep. After a couple of rest days they continued north (one of their stops was their 2003 crash site) and crossed the Drake from Marsh to Ushuaia on 19 January.
Ray and Jenny Jardine
from Arizona, did a ski venture from Hercules Inlet with one resupply. They left PH on 12 November, first skiing north from PH to the inlet before turning around. They arrived at Pole on 9 January. Originally they planned to kite back to PH but they changed their mind and flew back instead...and Ray then decided to go climb Vinson, which he summitted on the 26th. These guys have done a lot of extreme travel...like the Kiwi "Thermal Heart" team, they've also rowed across the Atlantic. They're the first American married couple to ski to Pole.
Hannah McKeand
who did a group traverse to Pole 2 years ago, announced she'll do it again this year--this time a solo unsupported trip from Hercules Inlet. She hoped to complete the Pole trip in a record 40 days, and she did! She showed up at PH on the 12th and started a training trip before racing south, starting from Hercules Inlet on 19 November. to complete what would be the fastest trip to Pole--39 days, 9 hours and 33 minutes, arriving Pole on 29 December at 0933 Pole time. She had the station and IceCube tour, dinner in the elevated station, and spoke to the USAP community before being flown back to PH the next day (here she is in the galley with Glenn Grant). She'll follow this venture with a sailboat voyage from Tasmania to the South Magnetic Pole.
The Thermal Heart Antarctic Expedition
was the expedition by Jamie Fitzgerald, a Kiwi from Tauranga who holds some Atlantic rowing records. He announced a round-trip trek from PH along with age-25 Auckland oarsman Kevin Biggar. They hoped to be the first all-Kiwi trek in 50 years. Back in March 2006 they talked to media about their planned unsupported 1800-mile trip. They were on the first flight to PH and started their trip from Hercules Inlet on 12 November. Temps were above zero (F)...an auspicious start. But on 1 January they were late, still 5 miles from Pole, which they reached the next day. They announced that due to hamstring injuries and unfavorable weather they'd abandon their return trek and fly back to PH.
team n2i (n2i stands for "Novo to Inaccessability")
is a venture by Rory Sweet, Rupert Longsdon, and Henry Cookson, guided by veteran Paul Landry. They flew into ALCI's blue ice runway (70°51'S-11°36'E, about 10 miles from the Russian Novolazarevskaya Station. Starting from Novo, they headed southeast towards the Pole of Inaccessibility (POI, 82°58'S-54°40'E; 12,226' altitude) by skiing and kiting when possible. They left Novo on 3 Dececmber and completed the trip to the POI on 20 January...surprised to find the rumored statue of Lenin that supposedly had been there for 48 years, mounted on the chimney of the IGY-era Soviet hut. They proceeded to dig out the hut entrance looking for the guestbook, not to mention cigarettes and vodka (!) but they could not get the door open! They were flown north to Russian base Progress and then were to go on to Molodezhnaya...perhaps in 2 weeks they were back in Cape Town.
Polar Quest 2006
was a Royal Navy (UK) joint venture to the magnetic North Pole and the geographic South Pole during 2006. The Antarctic trip was a 4-man 1500-mile round trip--the "longest ever journey undertaken on foot in Antarctica by a British expedition." They showed up at PH on 12 November and started south from there almost immediately. They arrived at Pole on 27 December, the halfway point of their trip. They held a memorial service at the site of Scott's January 1912 camp. On 1 January they attended the annual Pole marker surveying ceremony, they then moved their camp 2 miles away in hopes of finding better winds to help them sail north (their camp at Pole) (photo from Glenn Grant). They left Pole on 2 January and kited 70 miles the first day. They made it back to PH on 21 January after a final day of kiting 86 miles.
Called off! Southern Reach
Not to be outdone, the Royal Air Force also planned an unsupported trip from Hercules Inlet. The four-man ice team, led by Warrant Officer Alan Sylvester, trained in Iceland and with David Hempleman-Adams. They were on the first flight to PH on 12 November, and made good progress until their team was medevaced by ALE only 101 miles short of the destination due to aggravation of severe frostbite injuries that two members of the team incurred at the beginning of the trip. But they did make it to Pole...their ALE flight refueled at Pole before taking them back to PH.
"Last-Degree" guided trips
--some of these are being run by Polar Explorers--including a "last-degree" trip by Sara Kameswaran (an Indian living in California) guided by Annie Aggens, and a "last-two-degree" trip by Laurie and Richard Goldsmith (from California) and Ajeet Bajaj (video) (from India), guided by Keith Heger. Both teams flew south to PH on 8 January and were dropped off for their walks on 11 January. Sara and Annie reached Pole on 21 January, while the 2-degree team (which had actually started from 88°-17' S due to poor landing conditions at the 88th parallel) reached Pole on 26 January.
Another "last degrees team"
was to be led south from Shackleton's furthest point by Fiona and Mike Thornewill...guiding Cedric DeSousa from NYC, Veronica Shaw from the UK, Lorraine Kelly, Dick Durance, Danusia Derben, Polly Hatcher, and Wincent Kordula. But, four members of this group were hit by food poisoning in PA. As a result, some of the group dropped out, and guide Mike had to be medevaced en route. Eventually the resulting trip included only the women. When they got to Pole on 1 January, Polly Hatchard (a Royal Navy officer) posed in a bikini.
Yet another team
included Chinese guy Jin Fei Bao (who summited Everest in 2006 and had also bagged Vinson on this Antarctic trip), German Norbert Kern, Richard Laronde from Boston, and Alex from Moscow, guided by David. They left 89°S on 11 January and reached the glass ball on the 19th.
Alpine Ascents
another mountain guiding organization, earlier led yet another Last Degree group of as many as ten including two guides and Canadian Claude Boisvenue of Montreal. One of the guides was Patricia Sotos, the only Chilean to have summitted Everest. They left 89° on 14 December and reached Pole a week later.
The Indian Navy
yet another Commonwealth military group, announced a planned 10-person ski trip to Pole in 2006-07, led by CDR Satyabrata Dam. The group trained in Greenland and Iceland, and a PR firm was hired to promote the event. This was a 125-mile "last-two-degree" trip, with an ALE guide making a team of 11. They arrived at PH on 12 December, flew on south to their starting point, and arrived at Pole on 28 December (campsite photo by Glenn Grant).
Jesus College, Oxford
had a group of six alumni who are planning a 2006-07 trip from Hercules Inlet, guided by the Northwinds folks...but their link has disappeared with no further news.
Postponed! Extreme South
is Robert Conway, a Type I diabetic who plans to be the first diabetic on insulin to reach Pole unsupported, and Toby Williams, another medical student from St. George's Hospital in SW London (a third team member, Doug Orr, backed out). Their trip to recreate part of the Scott/Shackleton route has been postponed until 2008-9 for financial reasons. By then they'll be doctors. They plan to use kites to help the otherwise unsupported trip from the top of the Beardmore to Pole and thence to Patriot Hills.
Postponed! Icebird Expedition
is three Australians, Ben Deacon, Andrew McAuley and Patrick Spiers, they plan to use a newly designed steerable "kitesled" created by NZ designer Peter Lynn to cross the continent to Patriot Hills. They recently announced that they've postponed things again until 2007-08. Their route to Pole is to be "a new route" which the team still isn't announcing. In April 2006 they were testing their kitesleds in Greenland. Earlier in 2006 Andrew was part of a 3-person kayak venture south from Trinity Peninsula (63°37'S-58°20'W) along the west side of the Antarctic Peninsula. This, the John Rymill Memorial kayak expedition, retraced portions of Rymill's seminal British Graham Land Expedition of 1934-37, The team's yacht stopped at Palmer Station on the way north after the venture.

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)...it 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 Association...an 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.

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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 usap.gov 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 normal...in 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. But...now 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 successfully...as 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 elswhere...as 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 ThePoles.com).

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 www.usap.gov 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 usap.gov 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 list of adventures for 2005-06 included some rather unusual ones. Now we know what actually happened: [check out the poles.com for more detail than I can keep up with]
Postponed! Wave Vidmar
had originally planned to come last year, but that didn't happen. This year the 41-year-old had planned to attempt the first American unsupported solo expedition from the McMurdo side (!). How's he getting to McMurdo and which glacier will he come up? We'll see maybe next year...Wave tried for the North Pole in 2004 but had to quit because of logistics problems.
Postponed! Icebird Expedition
is three Australians, Ben Deacon, Andrew McAuley and Patrick Spiers, they planned to use a newly designed steerable "kitesled" created by NZ designer Peter Lynn to cross the continent to Patriot Hills. The route to Pole was to be "a new route" which the team did not announce until they had full financial backing, which they did not get. They plan to test their sled next boreal spring and head for the Antarctic next season.
Postponed! Gus McLeod
who crossed the Drake twice on the way to Pole before turning around in February 2004, was trying again. He left Montgomery, MD Sunday 16 October in his retooled Firefly aircraft...and had to land 30 miles away with landing gear problems. And in early November he found contamination in the fuel systems...too difficult to clean out and still make it over Pole this summer. He'll think about heading north over the North Pole in the boreal spring and head south later. His single-engine Firefly now has a new turbocharger to give him the lift he needed last time when he hit icing conditions south of Marambio. No coverage of the current venture on his web site; here's a 3 November PRweb press release with more information.
Unsupported to the South Pole 2005
was two separate Norwegian teams of five and six which started from 82°S on opposite sides of the Foundation Ice Stream (60°W), south of the Ronne Ice Shelf. The five-person team was led by Rolf Bae, who visited Pole on the famed 2000-01 Norwegian Antarctic crossing, and included Norwegian Per Henrik Knudson, Austrian Wolfgang Melchor, German Ronald Krueger, and Britisher Cecile Krog. The route was about 140 miles shorter than the one from Hercules Inlet. Both groups arrived at Pole--the 5-man team on 28 December after 33 days, and the other team on the 31st. Rolf's team did a restart after the leader had to be evacuated with serious back injuries after a fall. After being flown out of Pole, several members of the groups headed off to climb Mt, Vinson.
Wang Yongfeng (CRI news article)
led an unofficial Chinese 7-person group that did a "last 120km" trip taking 9 days and arriving on 16 December. Here's an earlier 30 November embassy press release. A second Chinese group of six left on xx and arrived on 28 December (Xinhua press release).
Cancelled! Malaysia's Antarctic Expedition
twice postponed, was to consist of duo M Kamaruddin Md Isa and Encik Suhardi Alias. Their planned venture was to cross the continent from Blue One to Pole via Troll Station, then on to McMurdo, a total of 120 days, starting in November with resupply at Pole. Didn't happen.
Proyecto Cumbre (Summit Project)
was the Venezuelan team of five: Carlos Calderas, Marcus Tobia, Carlos Castillo, Martín Echevarría, and Marco Cayuso that wanted to be the first Venezuelans to ski to Pole, doing so unsupported from Hercules Inlet. The group's original goal was the Seven Summits; they have one more to go after the Pole venture. The team did a "last degree" North Pole trip in 2004 (Spanish language website). They started on 21 November; as of 13 January they were less than 2 degrees from Pole, but Carlos Castillo was evacuated with frostbite, thus ending the "unsupported" status for the remaining members of the team. The rest of the group reached Pole on the 27th.
is a 1996 7.3 liter diesel 14-passenger Ford E-series van, heavily modified into a 6x6 with solar panels and a 110-gallon fuel tank. This vehicle was flown to PH aboard a Russian cargo aircraft in November. There the 6-member team loaded up and headed for Pole. They actually arrived at Pole on 13 December after a nonstop 69-hour drive, they then planned a quick return drive. Here's a site with more about the vehicle. Hmmm, last year's Invesco Challenge wasn't able to get their wheeled vehicles much out of PH much less to Pole...but these guys did. No photos on their web site yet (or reports on their return trip).
Cancelled! Rob Porcaro
an Australian, originally planned this trip for 2003-04. He said he'd try this year--a solo trek along the traditional route from Hercules Inlet to Pole, and although he did a training trip in 2005 from Borneo to the North Pole, there was no word of his Antarctic venture. The purpose of the trek was, among other things, to raise awareness of depression (!) Rob, a former ad man and marketer, had a unique fundraising plan--he proposed to shoot the first TV commercial here. "Products such as whiskey or cleaning powder could make creative use of the icy location," he said.
A Norwegian kiting team,
Staale Samuelsen and Sverre Hollie 62, did a 19-day kite-assisted trip from Pole to PH, arriving on 18 December. 62-year-old Sverre has an artificial hip.
The Spanish (Tierras Polares) Transantarctic Expedition 
was a twice-postponed 3-man Spanish venture led by Ramón Larramendi, this year with Ignacio Oficialdegui, and Juanma Viu, to cross eastern Antarctica using a kite-powered sled. On 3 November 2005 they were landed at the Russian Novolasarevskaja station on the coast of Queen Maud Land, and they to started the following week for the Pole of Inaccessibility and the Geomagnetic Pole. The sled was a 17x10-foot catamaran, towed by a triangular "NASA" kite-sail (they have several up to 650 SF!), with a tent platform to allow the group to sleep in shifts en route. Apparently they did well with those high altitude wind conditions that have frustrated other ventures...as of 13 January they were done, having traveled 2800 miles in 63 days (they did not visit Pole). They were picked up by helicopter from the plateau and flown to an icebreaker offshore of Mirny. They had been heading "downhill" toward Mirny, but logistics prevented their completion of the venture on land. Here's another link (in Spanish); their expedition page with dispatches is no longer available.
Cancelled! SP1 South Pole Solo
was actually to be 2 separate Australian unassisted solo treks from Hercules Inlet--one by Rob Porcaro (above) and the other by Matt McFadyen. Matt went with Rob to the North Pole in April. Nothing heard since...
Cancelled! Eric Philips
veteran of the original 1988-89 Icetrek expedition, in December 2004 proposed a traverse from Pole across Dome A (Argus) to the Avery Ice Shelf--the first traverse of Australian Antarctic Territory. Nothing else ever was announced...
Postponed! Pole to Pole 2005
is a proposal by Martyn Williams to travel from the South Pole across several continents to the North Pole now planned to begin in December 2006. The Antarctic route is from Pole to the coast north of PH, where the group is to be picked up by boat for a trip to Cape Town. The team is "an international team of young adults" which has not yet been announced.
Børge Ousland
a Norwegian who has ventured to Pole privately twice in the past, was soliciting 4-6 participants for a "last 2 degree" ski trip in November/December. He actually found one taker, Fredrick Syberg, of Norway, and they arrived on 8 December after doing the 200 km in 9 days.
Rune Gjeldnes
a Norwegian, successfully completed the longest trans-Antarctic crossing--2988 miles. On 3 November he was landed at the Russian Novolasarevskaja station on the coast of Queen Maud Land, and he set out on the sixth. He's crossing the continent via Troll and Pole, to Terra Nova Bay--descending the Priestley Glacier. He arrived at Pole early on 21 December and only rested one day before continuing on. He reached Terra Nova on 3 February after a struggle with crevasse fields--he is now the first person to cross both poles unsupported (he did an Arctic crossing in 2000).
Cancelled? Sky Odyssey
is a 2-part Russian venture--the first part was an international youth expedition, flown to KGI by the Chilean Air Force in March, where they participated in games (to promote Moscow's bid for the 2012 Olympics) and communicated with the ISS. The second phase was supposed to be an IL-76 flight from Moscow via Libya and Cape Verde, Chile, to the South Pole, where the participants were to do flights by ultralight and hot-air balloon, skydive, and drive ATV's around the place, test new cosmonaut emergency suits and gear, etc. Note that this may be one of those groups that considers the "South Pole" to be anywhere south of PA, and that I have yet to see an IL-76 aircraft with skis. Hmmmmm...
Numis Polar Challenge
was a 5-man British team led by Antarctic veteran Geoff Somers--they plan a 170-mile walk to Pole along Scott's route. They were flown from PH to the starting point (where the last of Scott's supporting party turned around in 1911)...and the venture was a recreation of Scott's trip--clothing, food, sledge, navigational techniques, etc. (well, they had a GPS for backup). The team arrived at Pole on 14 January after a 17-day trip.
Doug Stoup
had planned a November 2005 ascent of the south face of Mt. Tyree (the second highest Antarctic mountain at 15,918 feet) but that may have been postponed. In February/March he's heading for Bellingshausen on KGI with a robot from Stanford. Hmmm, someday perhaps!?

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,...watch 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 Dicks...here'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 2004-05 expedition list...another fairly successful year, but with some surprising postponements and cancellations...

ABANDONED Ice Maidens
is an Australian female team--Sandra Floate, Michele Bloomcamp, and Noelene Weightman, planning an unsupported trip from Hercules Inlet. Like some of the other groups, they were in PA at the end of October, but they had to wait for lost baggage (including their unique kayak-style sleds), so they missed the ALE flight to Patriot Hills on 1 November. They finally started on 20 November, they gave up on the 27th because their bodies didn't adapt well to the cold...
Antarctica Solo Expedition 2004
is Datin Paduka Sharifah Mazlina S. A Kadir, a 38-year-old sports lecturer and the former third member of the now-postponed Malaysian expedition. On 9 December she began her ski-sailing trip from Pole to PH, with ALE's Mike Sharp. They averaged 10 miles/day for the first 5 days, and completed the trip to Hercules Inlet on 31 December SP time.
PARTIALLY ABANDONED "expedition trans-antarctica" (now renamed the Invesco Perpetual Challenge),
a British group, planned a 2-team supported approach--a 4-man ski team started from the Ross Ice Shelf at the base of the Axel Heiberg Glacier--completing the first successful ascent since Amundsen's in 1911. The second team was to have started for Pole from Hercules Inlet driving two 4x4 Land Rovers towing sleds. Unfortunately, this group was unable to configure their wheeled equipment (!) and sleds to keep them from sinking into the soft snow, so after 3 weeks at PH, on 30 November they abandoned their portion of the venture. The ski team continued on to a resupply at Pole, arriving safely on 22 December. They continued to Hercules Inlet, ariving successfully (and quickly) on 11 January. Ski team leader Patrick Woodhead and Canadian Northwinds guide Paul Landry came to Pole as part of the White Desert venture in 2002-03. The team also included Alastair Vere Nicoll and David de Rothschild. The vehicle team spent time near PH testing equipment.
Kites on Ice"
is Paul's wife Matty McNair, two of their children, and British couple Hilary and Conrad Dickinson. On 2 November they underway on a planned 72-day outing, skiing unsupported to Pole and returning with kite assistance. After some food rationing, they arrived at Pole on 24 December. They headed back north the next day, with the kites pulling them an incredible 52 miles on the 25th. They finished the return trip successfully around New Years.
Another Northwinds-guided group was led by Denise Martin,
also part of the ALE team. Denise went to the North Pole in 1997 with Matty McNair and the McVitie's Penguin Polar Relay. The group received one resupply in the Thiel Mountains and a second late in the journey. Her group arrived on the ice 1 November. The four original members were...
...the Scot100 adventure
accountants Craig Mathieson and his colleague Fiona Taylor announced in January that they planned a £1 million charity walk from Hercules Inlet to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition of explorer William Spiers Bruce. After a fine start Fiona was forced to quit on 8 November due to "chronic hypothermia." Craig continued south.
...ABANDONED Owen Jones
an investment banker working in Japan, decided to out of the group on 8 December due to serious Achilles' tendon problems.
...and Hannah McKeand,
a British adventurer who was a third of the way through her planned adventure year--Afghanistan, Pole, and a round-the-world sailing race.

There was another 3-person team underway, Northwinds guide Devon McDiarmid with clients Stewart Smith, an attorney (and 7-summiter) from Waco, Texas, and Linda Beilharz, who became the first Australian woman to trek to Pole. But after Devon badly cut his hand on 12 November, he was forced to withdraw...Stewart and Linda joined Denise Martin's group. All reached Pole on 29 December.
 
ABANDONED Ole Martin Martinsen (Norwegian language site)
a 57-year-old Norwegian, departed on a solo unsupported trip from PH, but he also gave up due to Achilles' tendon issues--he was taken back to PH on the same plane as Owen. He'd been planning to go a year earlier, but Borge Ousland and Liv Arnesen suggested he not wait...(another Norwegian news site with more detail)
Anoushka Kachelo
age 23, wanted to be the youngest woman, as well as the first Pakistani, to trek to Pole. Earlier in 2004 she completed a last degree trip to the North Pole. She had planned to travel as part of an ALE-guided trip from Hercules Inlet, but there was no recent word of her venture.
Polar Challenge 2004
is actually a British "last degree" walk sponsored by West Nottinghamshire College. They arrived at Pole on 12 December after meeting up with the northbound Chilean scientific traverse.
Marek Kaminski,
no stranger to Pole, is bringing 15-year-old Jasiek Mela (who lost an arm and a leg in an electric shock) and filmer Wojciech Ostrowski on a "last 100 nm" trip from 88°-20'S. They started on 16 December and finished up around the 28th. Jasiek visited the North Pole earlier in 2004.
Doug Stoup
was to be back on the ice in November, but that apparently didn't happen. In October he was climbing in the Everest region. Hmmm. Someday perhaps!?
POSTPONED Strive South
Briton Caroline Wilton, also 23, had the same "youngest woman" ambition to walk to Pole from Hercules Inlet; she was to go with a guided group.
POSTPONED The Spanish (Tierras Polares) Transantarctic Expedition
led by Ramón Larramendi, with Francisco Soria and Sebastian Alvaro, was another venture postponed from last year, to cross the continent from the former Belgian King Baudouin station site (70°S-24°E) to Dumont D'Urville via the Pole of Inaccessibility, passing perhaps 700 miles east of Pole. They planned to use a unique 17x10-foot catamaran sled, towed by a triangular "NASA" kite-sail (up to 375 SF!), with a tent platform to allow the group to sleep in shifts en route (!). Based on tests on the Greenland plateau, they expected to average 150+ miles per day. Hmmm, the altitude there is over 12,000 feet, oh well.
POSTPONED South Pole Solo
Wave Vidmar, who successfully reached the North Pole unsupported earlier in 2004, was in training to be the first American to solo unsupported from Hercules Inlet to Pole. The 2004-05 trip didn't happen...he plans to try again in 2005-06.
POSTPONED Malaysia's Antarctic Expedition
now consisting of duo M Kamaruddin Md Isa and Encik Suhardi Alias, were to try their postponed venture across the continent from Blue One to Pole via Troll Station, then on to McMurdo, a total of 120 days with resupply at Pole. They were scheduled to fly south to PH and Blue One in mid-November.
POSTPONED Scott's Challenge
was Pete Goss and Alan Chambers, two ex-Royal Marines planned an unsupported round trip from the McMurdo side...this would have been the first venture in a few years to follow the "footsteps." This venture was postponed from last year (BBC article).
Gus McLeod
announced in mid-2004 that he'd try his circumnavigation again in his Firefly aircraft, reworked with a new turbo and auxiliary fuel tanks. This time he's heading across the North Pole first, then down to Australia, from where he'll head east across the Pacific. His Pole flight will be a round trip from Marambio. Mothing new on the web site, who knows if it will happen. Here's the July 2004 news 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 thepoles.com 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 day...construction 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'd...next 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!

Expeditions for 2003-04...it actually turned out to be a fairly successful year for NGA's and tourists, although some treks were announced with fanfare but didn't happen. ANI (Adventure Networks International) announced on July 24 that they were canceling all Antarctic operations for the 2003-04 season. This was from the departing former owner and operator Anne Kershaw, who has since dropped out of sight. This disrupted plans of this year's tourists and adventurers.

After the demise of ANI's operations, two organizations stepped into the breach, struggling to line up aircraft, environmental permits, employees, and customers. Antarctica Logistics and Expeditions LTD comprised of many ANI veterans (August 15 press release, a MS Word document), and Cerpolex (Polar Circle). Cerpolex has previously supported nongovernmental and program activity including activities at Borneo (the floating camp near the North Pole) and the original abortive 2002 Antonov-3 flight to Pole (the 2002 Antonov-3 story from Scott Smith). In September 2003, Cerpolex announced that they had been tasked by the Russians to recover that aircraft in 2003-04, along with support of skiing and climbing expeditions. They were to use an updated model of the Snow Buggies. In mid-October Cerpolex announced they were pulling out of the business for this season, so the aircraft will spend another season on the berm where it has been since January 2002. Here are details of their 2004-05 plans including tourist support, the aircraft recovery, and more info on the Snow Buggies.

AL&E, meanwhile had a busy schedule of climbers and skiers. On 13 November 2003 they announced the purchase of the Antarctic support assets, equipment, and logistics operations of ANI from Grand Expeditions (press release). AL&E opened Patriot Hills with two Twin Otters in mid November, but their first Ilyushin-76 flight to PH wasn't scheduled until November 25, (and didn't make it until the 30th). This was later than some of the trekkers had originally planned start their journeys. AL&E has retained the ANI name and web site, which has been freshly updated with the 2004-05 program as well as a roster of all customers they've ever taken to Pole or the Vinson Massif.

Gus Mcleod
another private pilot with a small single-engined experimental aircraft, set out from Baltimore in January 2004 with plans to fly across Antarctica over the pole to McMurdo and on to NZ. Since he couldn't get landing rights at McM, he later revised his plans to head back to Ushuaia. He headed south across the Drake Lake twice, once ending up at Rothera and once at Marambio, but icing problems and weather made him give up.
Jon Johanson
landed his RV-4 on the McM ice runway on 8 December. Outa gas. Oops. Outa there a week later.
Malaysia's Antarctic Expedition
was a 3-man team planning to cross the continent from Blue One blue ice runway (5°E 70°S) to Scott Base with resupply at Pole. To be on schedule they should have started in mid-October...they've postponed until next year.
pole2pole
is Michael McGrath's quest to be the first disabled person to reach both Poles. He got to PH 9 January, was flown to within 3 miles of Pole on the 13th, and was pulled on a sledge in a wheelchair until he walked the last 1000' to the Pole on the 14th (he made it to the North Pole in similar fashion in 2002).
Doug Stoup
had scheduled a climbing/eclipse expedition to Queen Maud Land, but he is still planning a bike ride to Pole someday. He tested his equipment during 2002-03 near Patriot Hills. He missed the eclipse. They made it to Novolazarevskaya from South Africa, repaired a Stanford weather station, did some climbing, and headed back from the ice at the end of January.
Park Young-Seok
the Korean adventurer, led a 5-person expedition unsupported trip to Pole from Hercules Inlet...the other four members of the team were Lee Chi-SAng, Oh He-Joon, Kang Chel-Won, and Lee Hyun-Jo (in Korean the surnames precede the given names). They started their venture on 30 November and reached Pole on 14 January. At the time Park had only one more venture to complete before claiming the "Adventure Grand Slam"--a trip to the North Pole planned for the following season.
Polar First
British pilot Jennifer Murray and copilot Colin Bodill were underway south from New York flying a Bell 407 helicopter around the world via both poles to benefit the World Wildlife Federation. They made it to Pole on 17 December but crashed 3 days later north of Patriot Hills Both Jennifer and Colin were injured and were medevaced by AL&E to Punta Arenas, where they are recovering. Here's my page with more information and photos.
Matty McNair
that experienced female polar guide, is leading 4 male AL&E clients to Pole...this group picked up a resupply at the Thiel Mountains and arrived at Pole on 21 January.
Snickers South Pole Solo Challenge
is British woman Rosie Stancer who planned a solo 700-mile unsupported trip from Hercules Inlet with an Ipod full of music and (presumably) lots of candy bars for energy. She made it to the ice on 30 November to Pole on 14 January (SP time) in 44 days, the second fastest trip.
Fiona Thornewill
did the same trip unsupported, but not without controversy. She set a record of 42 days for the trek from Hercules Inlet, and was without satphone comms for most of the trip. She made it to the Hercules Inlet starting point on 11/30. Both Fiona and Rosie were involved in previous treks to both poles...her husband Mike, who accompanied her to Pole in 1299-2000, will led a group of novices on the uncompleted portion of Shackleton's 1907 route. They arrived at Pole on 27 January to meet Fiona, who'd been camped out since her arrival.
Pen Hadow
Arctic veteran and organizer of several female polar treks...he and Simon Murray did an unsupported trip from Hercules Inlet, arriving on 29 January Pole time. That makes Simon Murray the oldest person to make the trek. Their web site has updated details and a diary...
Polly Vacher
is on a round-the-world flight in a single-engined Piper Dakota aircraft, via (or at least flying over) Pole. This is a going event...after a month-long wait in Ushuaia, she flew to Rothera on 12/1. She started her 16-hour flight to McMurdo on 12/5 but had to turn back because of strong headwinds. Now because of the fuel shortage she's cancelled the rest of her Antarctic leg. Last summer the Russian tourist icebreaker Kapitan Khlebnikov depoted fuel for her at Rothera and Scott Base.
Rob Porcaro
an Australian, announced a solo trek along the traditional route from Berkner Island to Pole. The purpose of the trek is, among other things, to raise awareness of depression (!) He didn't go, now he proposes doing it in 2005-06.
Over Both Poles
was to be a planned commercial aircraft (747-451) flight by Concorde Spirit Tours, around the world over both poles. Hmmm, looks like they're still thinking about it. This would have been only the fourth commercial flight over Pole, the last went overhead while I was there in October 1977. Book now (!?)
South Pole Marathon
sponsored by ANI, is now scheduled to be repeated in December 2004 . The first one was in January 2002, with 5 full, half, and ultramarathon participants. Here's a diary and the 70South page on the first event, with some interesting links. ANI's web page has been updated to reflect their other 2004-05 travel options.
Ice maidens
is a group of 3 Australian women planning an unsupported trip from PH to Pole...here is their web site with recent info. Their trip has been postponed until 2004-05.
Scott's Challenge
is Pete Goss and Alan Chambers, two ex-Royal Marines who plan an unsupported round trip from the McMurdo side...this would be the first venture in a few years to follow the "footsteps"...they trained in Greenland but they didn't raise enough funds so their trip is off at least for this year.

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 2003...at 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 complete