2020...hindsight and the future

Winter 2020 

Manager: Wayne White; population 42 (list and photos).

Wayne in front of the final flight of the 2019-20 summer season A couple of "firsts" for the station and for Wayne! He is the first to hold the manager's position 3 times (2017, 2019, and 2020). In previous years Katie Hess and Bill Henriksen held this position twice. Another first: he's the WSM for 2 winters in a row. Alas, the position no longer includes a corner office with windows as it did in the dome, but Wayne has a window looking north with a view of the Ceremonial Pole. He's seen here with the last flight of the season, wearing his custom-made anorak, made in Russia from wolf skins, similar to what Roald Amundsen wore when he stopped by more than a few years ago. I had dinner with Wayne in Denver in 2016 before his first winter and can attest that he's a good guy! This photo is by friend and 2006 and 2020 winterover Jeff DeRosa.

Construction of a new ice pier at McMurdo was well underway at the end of June.

ice pier construction in July 2020 Methods have evolved since the first one was created in the 1973 winter out of necessity...engineered by then UT1 James Wallace. After the sea ice has frozen to more than 3', a 1' berm of snow and ice is built around the edges, and pumps drilled into the ice will flood the surface with sea water several inches at a time. This is repeated, and after the ice is perhaps 12' thick, old salvaged steel cable is laid across the ice as reinforcement. More cables are added added as the ice thickens. In spring, an insulating layer of gravel is spread on the surface. in January 2004, the pier built during the 1999 winter was 20' thick. The gravel is removed after ship operations. This photo from Joe Miller was shared by the NZ-based mostly-on-Facebook The Antarctic Report.

A new Vostok Station has been preconstructed in Russia and will be shipped south this season!

the Vostok II station
Amazingly, the initial design contract was conceived in April 2019, and by now the station has been built, preconstructed, and will be shipped south in the 2021 summer season!! Lots of info and photos here!

Icebreaker Healy suffers a fire on 18 August in the Arctic and is in drydock for major repairs.

Healy in drydock This story isn't completely irrelevant here. Now that the Polar Star is not traveling south this season, it will be doing an Arctic science cruise instead. Here's the initial 29 October Coast Guard press release about the Polar Star's Arctic deployment, as well as a 4 December press release announcing the departure from Seattle. The specific route has not been revealed, but Polar Star will detect and deter illegal foreign fishing in U.S. waters and patrol the maritime boundary between US and Russian waters.
Here is my updated coverage of Healy's travails and the repair effort, including a video of the motor swapout. As of Christmas, Healy was still in drydock, but after some time at a San Francisco pier, she returned to Seattle in mid-February.

Summer 2020-21 

SARS-CoV-2 wreaks havoc on the US Antarctic Program as well as the rest of the world.

opening Pole flight in November 2020 Left: the 18 November first flight...the second latest opening flight in station history (photo by Yuya Makino). The latest opening was on 20 November 1958...with an R4-D (the Navy version of a DC-3...note that the Basler is a massively upgraded DC-3). Originally, no LC-130s were to travel to the ice unless needed for a SAR or medevac...and the sealift cargo vessel was also canceled. Most science and station projects have been canceled or severely cut back, A4 was converted into a COVID-19 isolation area (hopefully not needed), and folks traveling to the ice endured several to many weeks of quarantine in the US and NZ. Eventually, four NYANG ski LC-130 aircraft did fly to Christchurch, and in January and early February they did make flights to Williams Field, as the Phoenix Runway was too soft for landings by wheeled aircraft. The first C-17 flights happened in mid-February.

Winter 2021 

Manager: Ryan Betters; population 39 (the smallest winter group since 1998 when there were 28 wo's!) (photos).