John (Johan) Booth

Robert and Johan at McMurdo
Johan with Robert Schwarz at McMurdo
Robert and Adam
Johan with fellow Pole wo Adam Jones in 2016

Johan left us at about 1:20 pm Pacific time on Wednesday, 29 June 2022. Friends were present. He had been diagnosed with brain cancer in 2021.


Lost another teammate from the South Pole. We all knew him as Johan. One of only a handful of people who have spent 20 winters in Antarctica, 14 at the South Pole and 6 at Palmer Station. He was a unique person. Usually wore a tie-dyed shirt and a Boston Red Sox cap. He was dedicated to science. I [George Wortley] helped him launch multiple weather balloons to measure the ozone hole over the South Pole. Ate his meals out of a bowl rather than a plate, a habit that many of us picked up on. An intense badminton and volleyball competitor. Had a unique sense if humor. Always a highly valued teammate that we all could depend upon for help and advice about how to make it through the long Antarctic winter. While his life was cut short, he lived it to the fullest on his terms.

John Booth was born in Carlisle, PA, in 1965. He studied computer science and astronomy at Wesleyan University and UC Santa Cruz. He found his life's work in the U.S. Antarctic program where he came to be called Johan. He worked at Palmer and South Pole Stations as a science technician. He loved the social life of the South Pole, where a small staff community would fend for itself during the long isolation of dark months. He loved the physical beauty of the South Pole, where the aurora danced overhead. He loved the varied science conducted at the Pole, where his intelligence, meticulousness, and curiosity found purpose. He loved mentoring others in that science. He loved sharing about Antarctica through countless visits and slide-shows in schools and community settings, and through a celebrated email correspondence chronicling both the social and the scientific aspects of life on the ice. By the time his Antarctic career concluded he was among a short list of the people who had wintered-over the most seasons. In the northern hemisphere he cultivated a community of companions from every chapter of his life. He loved the mountain West with its vistas, its histories, and its opportunities for hiking and biking. and slide-shows in schools and community settings, and through a celebrated email correspondence chronicling both the social and the scientific aspects of life on the ice. By the time his Antarctic career concluded he was among a short list of the people who had wintered-over the most seasons. In the northern hemisphere he cultivated a community of companions from every chapter of his life. He loved the mountain West with its vistas, its histories, and its opportunities for hiking and biking. He loved reasoned arguments. He respected statistics and probability. He applied his intelligence happily to baseball, the economy, politics, human behavior. He was a faithful and generous friend who gave freely of his attention and his resources. He was great at helping you puzzle out a life problem. He died on his own terms in Washington state in accord with that state's enlightened Death with Dignity Act. He is missed by parents, siblings, step-siblings, nieces, a nephew, and cousins. He is also missed by the grand community of his friends and colleagues.


The above two paragraphs were written by George Wortley, who wintered with Johan at Pole in 2019...his second paragraph was based on the funeral home obituary which was not available online. I first met Johan during my 2008 Pole winter with him, although we'd been in touch for years before, and we met up in Boulder, CO a couple of times later. Needless to say, I have no photos of him, but the two photos above are from Robert Schwarz (left) undated at McMurdo, and from Adam Jones (right) who wintered with Johan at Pole in 2016.

The statistics...Johan's 14 Pole winters were in 1995, 1998, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2019, and 2020. His winters at Palmer were in 1994, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2002, and 2004. I think he is in second place for the total number of Antarctic winters (after Rex Cotten, all of whose winters were at McMurdo) and he is certainly in first place for the total number of winters not at McMurdo.

Mount Booth (5170'/1575m), in the Dry Valleys area of Antarctica, was named for him in January 2004 per this Wikipedia article...alas, the original USGS reference is offline.

Johan's brother David has created this tribute page to Johan, where many friends have posted their stories and memories. I highly recommend a visit.