Wednesday, April 19, 2017


The Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station Spaceship has now launched and we are travelling through the darkness and cold of the solar system...

A few days ago we were receiving many cold temperature alarms and walked the 3/4 mile out to the radomes.  Inside the larger dome is the Skynet and DSCS antennas with a heated RF shed for each. These RF sheds contained the associated tracking electronics equipment. As we opened each shed door it was very eerie as there was only system power - no utility power. It was like a scene out of Aliens hearing the hum of equipment inside the frozen iced racks and walls. The lights and heater power was off in the minus 70F sheds. Fortunately the equipment was still running as evidenced by the tiny red power lamps and humming. We contacted the station electrician who restored power. It took a few days to bring it all back to normal temperature. The antennas have individual heaters but inside the dome is the same temperature as outside.


Beer is $6 a six pack. Wine about $12 per bottle.

Post Office only open in the summer - November to February.

A fine South Pole day.

Full moon.

A sequence of pictures of the daily balloon launch. Photo credit: Robert Schwarz.

Two of my sunset pictures from 2013.

I am presenting our world bicycle ride at the South Pole for the next four Sundays.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Cooking on station and a 2013 re-post about South Pole water

My first Antarctic winter was in 2012. My blog for that season is:  or click South Pole Mike to the top left.

It is now totally dark and the South Pole sky is alive. The barometric pressure has been very low. This affects the altitude. As pressure decreases the body feels a higher altitude. The physical altitude of the South Pole is 9,300 feet. This week the physiological altitude has been well above 11,000 feet which sometimes make simple tasks harder.

A few weekends ago was our sunset dinner and a two day weekend. Since the cooks worked the extra day for the dinner they had their two day weekend later. On Saturday three groups volunteered for Saturday meals. My group cooked lunch. My co-worker and I work seven days a week to support satellite schedule. 

I heated tomato soup...

along with grilled cheese sandwiches.

French fries.

Lunch time.

Sky sightings!
Many station activities.

61 years of South Pole winter-over pictures on the station hall of fame. 

Posters on the station wall.

We recently covered all windows with cardboard to eliminate outside white light which is detrimental to dark science. This window is across from the electronics office. I added the picture of my family.

A fantastic sunset picture. Photo Credit: Martin Wolf

Once again I am re-posting from 2013 about South Pole water as it has not changed.

For many years water at the South Pole was obtained by various energy and labor intensive approaches for gathering and melting snow. Until 1995 heavy machinery was used to gather snow and dump it into a mechanical ice melter. US Army Engineer Corps Raul Rodriquez developed a new approach to the ice melters. A well shaft is sunk 250 feet beneath the surface where heat is used to create a bulb shaped pool of warm water. Steam is generated in a sub-surface compartment and piped down to the well pocket. Water in the well cavity is always kept above zero degrees with the use of steam and thus the well cavity and reservoir expand over time to provide drinking water. 

A typical "Rodwell" lasts 7 years or until the well becomes too deep   and becomes energy intensive to extract the water. A new well is then developed. A Rodwell can provide up to 1 million gallons of fresh water before it becomes to deep to economically extract water. The South Pole is currently using Rodwell 3. This well provides the purest and oldest drinking water on earth as the current glacial ice is hundreds of years old.

The outside structure.

Ice tunnel leading to the well.

The well.
Human waste is the only refuse not flown out from the South Pole. Sewage is pumped down the hole of the last Rodwell that was in use - it is essentially buried in the ice.

A drawing of Scott's Expedition.

The autographed book of Amundsen's expedition.

The gym.

Overlooks the big gym.

It is confusing to tell time in the Antarctic. Each country that has a station and "claims" territory uses their own time zone. The U.S. stations at the South Pole and McMurdo uses New Zealand time. The U.S. Palmer Station on the peninsula uses South American time.

My wife sent this space view of the Antarctic and surrounding winter sea-ice. The tip of South America points towards the
Antarctic peninsula. New Zealand and Australia are to the right.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

A tour of the Dark Sector part 2

Sunset dinner. I'm the fourth on the left. Photo credit: Robert Schwarz

South Pole Telescope/Dark Science Lab on the left and the Martin A. Pomerantz Observatory on the right.
Ice Cube Lab

Neutrino action on the monitor.

The view from the top of Ice Cube.

Ice Cube Lab

A fine day for the open house. -86 degrees F ambient and -118 degrees F wind chill. The 10 meter South Pole Telescope.

The Dark Sector Lab.

To open the South Pole Telescope door a high tech rope pulley system is employed! To close the door is much more difficult due to the leaning of the telescope foundation in the ice.

I climbed to the SPT dish!
That's me with my arms out in front of the 10 meter South Pole Telescope.

The Dark Sector Lab and the Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization (BICEP) telescope.

Inside the South Pole Telescope.

Dark Sector Lab (DSL)

Climbing into the SPUD/KECK Array...

for a telescope ride! It was moving back and forth scanning for cosmic microwaves.

Sastrugi: Windblown ice in the polar regions.

Sastrugi art from my 2013 winter.

Two weeks after this picture it is now dark.

Hello darkness my old friend...
I've come to talk with you again...
Sound of Silence

A friend took this picture of me walking back to the station. The South Pole...a very lonely place.