Monday, February 25, 2008

The Adventure Continues & a New Blog Gets Created

I have been off the ice now for almost two weeks. It was great to be back in civilization again. After 4 months of sensory deprivation (same landscape, same food, common weather patterns, etc.), it was exciting to see and experience the world with my new post-Antarctic eyes and post-Antarctic perspective.

However, the adventure is not over. On March 19th, I head back down to the ice for Palmer station. This time, I'll deploy through Chile and take a boat from Punta Arenas for a crossing of the Drake Passage to get to my new winter home.

For future postings, check out

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Time to Say Goodbye

Time to Say Goodbye

At 5:00 p.m. tonight, we found out the station is closing a day early due to weather forecasts. It was a crazy time, as it only left us 2 hours at most to pack, and I still had work left to do.

It now seems weird, but after 4 months, it is time to say farewell to the South Pole and my new Antarctic friends. My bags are packed and palletized in cargo, making my time here seem final. Parting will be bittersweet. It's exciting to think of civilization, a long shower, nighttime and stars, but who knows if I'll ever return here and when I'll see some of my closer friends again.

Good memories I'll never forget...

Stepping off the plane and looking around at Antarctica for the first time, and then later, stepping off my mini-Indiana-Jones-type plane and hearing "Welcome to the South Pole".

Unexpectedly seeing Emperor Penguins who were curious and unafraid of us (so happy I was crying).

Learning how to breakdance with Yuki at Ladies Night at the South Pole Telescope.

Screaming and then laughing uncontrollably after sledding down a steep hill, catching air, and then settling with a sigh of contentment in a pile of snow at the bottom.

Dancing without intent, purpose or thought during the best party of the year, Mardi Gras....just letting go!

Laughing when boxing for the first time with Jeri on my Wii.

Driving a snowmobile for the first time and catching air over the sustrugis.

Watching the IT Crowd with my fellow IT members and laughing hysterically in our homemade Comms Shop Theater.

Getting mooned at the drive-in (held in our gym). I wish I had been on the other end (of course).

Camping outside in the cold with 11 other Polies. Glad I did it, but really, what was I thinking?

Playing ultimate frisbee outside (even though my lungs hated me after).

Having wine dinners and scotch girls nights with my best friend on station, Michele. I will really, really miss her.

Click here for a random smattering of photos

Monday, February 11, 2008

Science Projects

Two of the bigger science projects going on down here at the Pole are Ice Cube and the 10 Meter South Pole telescope.

Ice Cube is a project that drills down into the ice anywhere from 1,450 and 2,450 meters using hot water from a Rodriguez well. Once the hole is drilled, they drop down multiple doms to detect neutrinos in the ice. It takes about 5600 gallons of fuel to drill one hole with a price of over $10 per gallon. For more information, see this website

The South Pole Telescope (SPT) is a 10 meter diameter microwave telescope that studies the microwave radiation/light left over from the Big Bang, the event that formed the Universe as we know it. SPT is the largest telescope in the world exclusively dedicated to this research, for which the South Pole is particularly well-suited due to its extremely dry air, high altitude, and desert like conditions (because water absorbs microwaves, which is also how a microwave oven works). It was built in one summer season and started collecting data for the first time last winter. For more information, see this website:

I’ve been fortunate enough to visit both places. I went to Icecube with a friend of mine who is a driller, and I went to SPT for Ladies Night (a slow dance where I danced with cosmologists and ended up learning how to breakdance…random, eh?).

Click here for some photos

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Solar Eclipse

Yesterday, there was an 82% solar eclipse here at the Pole. The moon blocked enough energy that the temperature dropped a little over 3 degrees to a new record of -47.8 (previous record low was -46.1 in 1962). However, as our met department eloquently put, this record is a little special as it "was definitely set by atmospheric conditions on steroids".

With two pieces of mylar taped over my goggles, I was able to view this spectacular event. The moon blocked enough sun that it darkened our surroundings, taking away the glare from the snow and from inside the station, making it look like either night or a storm was approaching.

Friday, February 1, 2008

NGA Tours

Every year, the South Pole gets visitors that are not part of station support or science. These visitors can range from rich tourists who fly in and out on the same day (costs $30,000 per person) or skiers who either ski in from the last degree (89 to 90) or ski in from the coast and then camp until they are picked up by plane.

Early in the season I volunteered to give NGA (Non-Government Activity) tours, and since my last name starts with "A", I gave the first one of the season. The tour basically consists of showing people around the station and trying to answer their questions.

On the day of the tour, when the two Twin Otters carrying the tourists got close, I went out to their runway to meet them. There were a lot of tourists plus personnel from the tour company. As soon as the passengers were out, it seemed like mayhem at first. I was supposed to try to keep the tourists together and keep them from wandering off too much. However, from the start, they all had different demands. Two guys wanted to stay outside and take pictures with their 19th century photography equipment for a project. One guy made it very clear that he hated traveling, didn't want to see the station and wanted to go to the store right away so he could go back outside by himself. Then 3 people from Kazakhstan had their video camera out interviewing me and asking if we could fly the flag of Kazakhstan permanently at the pole.

To be hit with that all at once was a little overwhelming, especially since I didn't 100% know what I was doing. It all worked out in the end, though. The people stayed outside and took pictures. I took everyone else to the galley for tea/coffee and cookies, and while they were resting, I took the cranky tourist to the store by himself, and told him to not wander into construction zones when he was outside. I also explained to the people from Kazakhstan that they could fly their flag for the day, but not permanently, as the flags around the pole represented the original 12 signers of the Antarctic Treaty.

The funniest part about the day that still makes me laugh was when the translator from Kazakhstan asked me if I had ever heard of her country. I almost replied, "Of course, I've seen Borat", but I caught myself in time to just answer with a simple, "Yes".

They have since started having two tour guides when there are that many tourists.

Click here for some photos