This is only a test.
Also, click on the picture to the left of the blog to view the picture I took of my GPS. :) It's not on my picasa web album yet, so you can only view it here. Here is a link directly to it if you wish to share it:
It's been a busy few days. The flight from McMurdo to Christchurch was fairly tight. 8 hours on a military transport flying almost like cargo, is not fun. I know it could have been much worse, but that still didn't make it enjoyable. Anyway, all of my stuff made it ok. My co-worker had motor oil spilled on one of her bags, so at least that didn't happen to me. The transition from near zero humidity, no trees, no smells, no darkness and very cold to a very warm, humid, fragrant, and green New Zealand has been strange. You really don't realize how many outdoor scents there are here until you been without them for a bit. It's been nice having darkness and I've been sleeping pretty good. We've been eating at a bunch of different places, but my favorite so far was an Indian place called Two Fat Indians. It was great. I almost had to be rolled out.
I'm now in the surreal stage of travel where you start having to force yourself to remember where you've been. Maybe it just happens to me, but the recent trip is already starting to fade into the memories of my past travels. They are still fresh, but it requires a bit of effort to look back and think that a week ago I was standing at the South Pole! It was a great journey and something that I never figured I do. My whole life I've been hoping to just make it to edge somewhere on a cruise or something. The dream of just getting there was fulfilled last May. To think that I made it to the place that the heroes of my youth strove to reach and some did is amazing. The effort it takes with today's technology and actually seeing it first hand, makes their achievements even more impressive. It's been a good trip, but I'm ready to hang up the exploring hat for a little while.
The first leg of my journey from home starts at 3pm today and it will take me 22 hours of flying and layovers to get me home. I'm really looking forward to getting back, but hope to make it back someday, but not anytime soon.
For those interested, my flight from LA to Denver is AA1458 which is scheduled to arrive at 1645 MST.
I'll upload the remaining pictures when I get back home and look forward to seeing you all.
I was supposed to fly out today on a C-17 back to New Zealand today, but I was bumped to a LC-130 flight. I have some more things I can do here before I leave. The bad part is my flight time goes from 5 hours on fairly big jet to 8 hours on a 4 prop plane. I guess it is also good that I'm not leaving today because:
Those crazy kiwis...
Oh, and this will NOT delay me getting back to the states, but does cut into my weekend off in New Zealand to explore.
Monday wasn't too exciting as I spent the entire day working, watched a movie in the Comm Shop Theater and went to bed.
Tuesday was an interesting day. It started off with a shower! That may not be a big deal for most of you, but here you get 2 2-minute showers per week. At 2 minutes, they say that they are the most expensive shower you'll ever take. Planning is key and it is pretty straight forward. However, the shower valve works backwards from what I remember and I first thought all we got was a 2-minute COLD shower. It wasn't until after I got wet (brrr), turned off the water, lathered up, and turned the water back on that I realized there was hot water. Boy, did it feel good!
We took a break from paperwork in the afternoon to go tour the backup data center, satellite facility, and help the network admin remove a wireless access point from one of the buildings in the Dark Sector (which isn't so dark this time of year :). The area around the South Pole is divided into four sectors: Downwind, Quiet, Clean Air, and Dark. The Downwind Sector is for balloon launches and such. The Quiet Sector is for seismology and vibration-sensitive research. The Clean Air Sector is for air and snow sampling activities and is upwind from the station to prevent pollution from the generators, aircraft, and machinery.
After we were done removing the wireless access point, we went over to see the South Pole Telescope (SPT) and BICEP telescope. Clarence gave us a tour of SPT and Cynthia(?) gave us a tour of BICEP. The tours were very interesting and they did an excellent job explaining how and what they were doing in a way that we could understand. I won't insult their intelligence and pretend I can explain it. Click on the above links for details. I found it all to be very interesting and definitely the intellectual highlight of the trip so far.
One of the things that happen on station is that you pretty much always have to clean a bathroom at some point. Tuesday was my scheduled day. All in all not too bad. I think that this is a good strategy because people tend to take care of a bathroom they may be cleaning later.
Wednesday. After finishing up on some work, several of us made filters for our cameras out of some mylar from the greenhouse. This is prep for the solar eclipse on Thursday! I then I tried to get caught up on work email and pack my bags for the trip to McMurdo. At 2030, the showed the Super Bowl in the galley. I had to leave before the end because I wanted to help launch a weather balloon at 2200. That was pretty neat too. I'm going to finish writing some postcards and then go to bed.
My plane is leaving tomorrow around 1130. Before that I plan to get a tour of the ARO facility in the Clean Air Sector and go to the webcam to wave to anyone watching. If you want to see me, go to this link at 1200 MST: http://www.usap.gov/videoclipsandmaps/spwebcam.cfm. The web cam refreshes about every 30 seconds and I'll try and hang out there for 5-10 minutes.
I'll upload pictures once I get back to McMurdo where there is a bit more bandwidth. If you want to watch the progress of my flight tomorrow, you can follow it using Google Earth! Install Google Earth, if you don't have it installed. Then click on this link: https://sopp.spawar.navy.mil/feed/flightFollowing.kml
I'm supposed to be on Skier 41. It should leave McMurdo about 1230 MST and arrive at Pole at 1530. It'll probably head north about 1600 MST, hopefully with me on it. If my flight changes, I'll send out an email, if the satellite is still up.
I'm a bit behind on the blog. What do you get when you mix a bunch of people who've spent 4 months in the coldest summer on the planet with a bunch preparing for the coldest winter on a Saturday night? The South Pole Mardi Gras. Billed as the "The world’s shortest coldest driest highest windiest Mardi Gras parade", there is definitely nothing like it on the planet. It was about -45F (-68F with the wind chill) and that didn't keep anyone interested from coming out. After the parade, there was a party in the Summer Camp lounge. I'm pretty sure a good time was had by all as it was still going when I left at almost 3am and the station was a ghost town the next morning. It was a much needed release for many ready to go home and a great idea to keep morale going. I uploaded some pictures but left out a bunch. Just as with Vegas, "What happens on the Ice, stays on the Ice."
Summer Camp - About a dozen Jamesways (see web album for a picture) used in the summer for housing the additional staff required to support all of the summer activity.
The temperature outside dropped a lot the past couple of days. Currently it is -44F. Yesterday we broke the record for that date set in 1974. I thought I'd post an email sent out about it:
Naturally, late-season cold snaps generate temperature related questions. Here are some answers:
Did we break any temperature records this week?
For February 1st, 2008 (Zulu Time) the minimum temperature of -42.4°C/-44.3°F broke the previous record low of -41.7°C /-43.1°F set in 1974.
How far below the historical average are our temperatures?
Yesterday's average Temp = -40.6°C / -41.1°F
Historical average Temperature for date = -33.3°C / -27.9°F
Why is it so cold?
Clear skies with light winds from the "cold" direction (Grid East) have persisted for the past several days creating the perfect environment for extremely low temperatures.
Are we going to hit minus -50.0°C / -58.0°F before February 15th?
I have no idea, however, I can tell you that the earliest we've ever touched -50.0°C / -58.0°F was on February 10th, 1982 and when I say, “touched” I mean this in the same way that a twelve year old would touch a dead squirrel on a dare from his/her friends. Very brief.
The second earliest?
February 14th, 1993.
When do daily average temps reach the -50.0°C / -58.0°F mark?
March 5th, however, averages are derived from a series of highs and lows and lingering cold periods of -50.0°C / -58.0°F have occurred many times before this date and after February 15th with 1995 being the earliest period where the temp dipped below -50.0°C / -58.0°F for five straight days (Feb 15 – Feb 19). However, this scenario has never occurred before February 15th.
That's it for today. I uploaded the pictures from the flight down too.
I am at the South Pole!!! Woohoo!! The flight down here was amazing. The plane was an LC-130 which was LOUD. We had ear plugs and the plane was not full, so we were able to get up and walk around a lot. The landscape of Antarctica is amazing. Picture the Rockies buried in 10,000ft of snow and ice and glaciers flowing to the horizon. I took some pictures from the plane and some of them turned out pretty good. I'll upload them soon. They let me sit in the cockpit for the landing which was awesome! The landing was smooth and we parked fairly close to the station. They hurried us off the plane so that they could load up again and head south. The didn't even turn off the engines.
When we landed, it was about -35F. Not as bad as I thought. We walked up the stairs and into the station. The new station is amazing! I've heard that it was like a space station and they were right! It is really cool. I'll take some pictures and upload them. Right now, the coolest thing is that I have my own room. The bathroom is down the hall, but I'd prefer that to having a roommate. Not that mine was bad, but it just felt like I was living in someone else's house and I always had to tiptoe around.
Currently it is -42F and -58F with the wind chill, in summer. I can't even imagine winter. It take more pictures and upload them as I can. The Internet is a bit slow from here, go figure. :)
It is hard to believe that I've been here nearly a month now. Again, I am ready to go home. As interesting as this place is, it is a bit too long to be away from home. However, even if my manager said I could go home tomorrow, I can't turn back from the South Pole being this close. Besides there's work for me to do and too late to get someone else to do it. Two weeks and I'm home.
Before any flight north, south, or otherwise off station, you have to turn in your bags the night before so they can be weighed and palletized for the journey. This ritual is known as Bag Drag. I'm sure that it is intended to have the dual meaning. Mine is at 7pm tonight, so I need to go back to my room and pack. Also, before I can checkout on the way to New Zealand, my room has to be inspected. I'm going to clean it now so I don't have to worry about it on the way back. My remaining schedule is as follows (dates are in NZ time):
1 Feb - Fly to the South Pole
2-6 Feb - Work
7 Feb - Fly back to McMurdo
8 Feb - Fly back to Christchurch, NZ
9-10 Feb - Days Off
11-12 Feb - Work in Christchurch Office
13 Feb - Fly back to Denver
Unless the weather delays us, my next post will be from the South Pole! At the Pole, Internet access is only 12 hours per day, so I'm not sure how it will work out in Denver time yet, but I think it will be from about 0130 to 1330 MST. If any of you want a post card from the South Pole, email me your mailing address. They may be blank depending upon how many requests I get and how much time I have.
I saw a penguin in the wild for the first time two nights ago! It was just hanging out near the ice pier. I didn't get to see him walk around. He just stood there messing with his feathers for a bit and the laid down. I never knew that they did that. I know they do to slide around on the snow, but not to just rest. I thought they slept standing up.
I did a tour of Scott s Discovery Hut last night and it was really cool on the inside. It is in pretty good shape for being out there in this climate for 105 years. It is amazing the conditions that they lived in such a harsh environment.
After the hut tour we went to Gallagher's for a few pints and Burger Bar! Good stuff. I spent some time talking to many of the people that I have met. One person that I talked to a lot was a guy named Charlie who was last here in 1957! He was down here when they built the original station 50 years ago. What a great guy. He was also in our Happy Camper School training. He then flew out to the WAIS (West Antarctic Ice Sheet) Divide field camp where they are drilling ice cores. They drill 24x7 and he would get up at 8am to drink beer with the people just getting off the night shift. All at 74. I've spent as much time as I could talking to him and it's been great. Most of the people I've got to know are leaving tomorrow and so we are going to Scott Base again. Nothing crazy tonight, but I want to have one last hurrah before they go.
I've uploaded more pictures.