Friday, January 18, 2008

Basler Crash & Camping for Real in Antarctica

Last month, a Basler (the type of plane I flew in from McMurdo to Pole) crashed during takeoff on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. No one was seriously hurt, but the plane didn't end up so well. The passengers, pilots, and crew had to break out the survival bags and camp for about 18 hours until some Twin Otters sent from here at Pole reached them.

Someone on the plane has blogged about the incident and shared pictures.

Click here to see his blog

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

C-17 South Pole Air Drop

The C-17 is the larger aircraft that I flew from Christchurch to McMurdo. Since this is a wheeled aircraft, they cannot land at Pole (only planes with skis can land). However, they annually conduct a C-17 airdrop to keep the pilots and loadmasters certified, to practice in case it becomes a necessity in winter, and to deliver supplies.

For this airdrop, I skied out to the viewing area which happened to be near our RF building, so all the IT staff got on top of the building to watch. It was really cool to see the drop. The plane did two loops in the drop zone to drop cargo and then flew over again to verify where the cargo fell. After that, it flew the length of our skiway twice. Once at around 1000 feet and the last time at 300 feet. On the last run, as the plane reached the station, the pilot tipped its wing to us before turning and heading back to McMurdo and Christchurch.

Compared to the C130's that normally fly in here and land, the C-17 seemed huge. We actually had a C130 in at the same time so we could compare in real time. I've heard talk about trying to get a permanent runway in here so wheeled aircraft could land. C-17's can carry a lot more cargo, and during a year like this one when we're behind on fuel supplies, that could make a huge difference.

I have a complete powerpoint presentation of the mission. If anyone wants a copy, just email me.

Click here for some photos

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Station Dedication (from the eyes of a Polie)

On Saturday, January 12th, a pretty historic event happened here at the South Pole. We all participated in dedicating the brand new elevated station. For us residents, this meant our workday was a little different than normal and it thankfully ended up being cut a little short.

The day started with the whole station going out in front of the old dome for a final group shot with the dome. After the picture taking, the flag was lowered on the dome and we all formed a chain to pass the flag up to the geographic south pole marker where it was folded properly. Then, the flags of the original 12 nations of the Antarctic treaty and the ceremonial pole were moved to their new resting place directly in front of the middle of the elevated station and we took another group photo. At this point, I was getting pretty cold from being outside for a long period of time and couldn’t wait to join everyone else in the galley for coffee.

Later that day, the distinguished visitors flew in for a few hours and gave some speeches. We then raised the flag from the dome over the new station for the first time and cut a ribbon. There was some concern that the dv’s weren’t going to be able to make it in since there had been bad weather in McMurdo and no flights for a few days. However, everything worked out and the dedication happened as planned.

As far as dv’s go, I didn’t recognize anyone and actually kind of feel sorry for New Jersey residents as their congressman gave a speech in which he referenced polar bears in Antarctica and called McMurdo, McCurdo, even though he had just spend some time there.

After all the ceremony, we had an awesome dinner of filet mignon and lobster, and then, once the dv’s left, we had our own party with some South Pole bands and some good dj’ing.

I would have to say overall it was a great day, and I’m happy that I got a chance to be part of Antarctic history.

Click here for some photos

Friday, January 4, 2008

ARO: Atmospheric Research Observatory

During the season, the outlying science buildings will have open houses to give a chance for the station population to tour the facilities. A few weeks after I arrived here, ARO opened it's doors for us non-science folks to come visit.

Some basic information about ARO...
Some of the focuses of research here at the South Pole are air quality, solar radiation/reflection, and of course, the ozone hole. All of this is done at ARO, a modular building that lies about 500 meters upwind of the main station and downwind of the Clean Air Sector. The Clean Air Sector is a section of Antarctica with access via vehicles and by foot being strictly limited and airplanes are discouraged from entering it. You can actually get vials of the "cleanest air on Earth" from the Clean Air Sector while you are visiting.

For more detailed information, check out these links.

Also, the scientists that work over there are really nice, so if you have any questions, I can forward them on to them.

Click here for some photos

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year - Pole Moving Ceremony

As most of you know, we here at the South Pole are sitting on a glacier that moves approximately 30 feet a year. Therefore, every year on New Years Day, the Pole Marker is moved so it is back at 90 degrees South latitude and the new pole marker is unveiled.

The new 2008 pole marker was designed by the winter-over staff of 2007. The basic form is the bottom of the globe, and the six legs are lines of longitude with Antarctica sitting underneath. Around the edge are 54 grooves for each of the 2007 winter-over staff.

Click here for some photos

To all my friends and family, I hope you have a great 2008!!