Sunday, August 13, 2017

Nautical Twilight is near

All continues to go well at the South Pole. My daughter Jocelyn and I completed our new book draft from our world bicycle ride with thanks to my wife Andee with editing. This book is much larger than our first and contains over 120,000 words and I recently sent it to our professional editor. We are really excited about this one as it is very different than our first book with many more stories without sticking to a day to day journal. I started writing when I arrived here last February and it took almost six months. Speaking of six months I have been here six months today with three more to go.

During the winter darkness it is difficult to walk the 3/4 mile from the station (right) to my work antennas (white domes on the far left). It doesn't snow at the South Pole (the driest desert in the world) but the snow blows in with winter storms from hundreds of miles away and stops at the first resistance it meets on the polar plateau, the South Pole station and surrounding buildings. Negotiating the large snow drifts during the 40 minute walk with just a red headlamp can be quite the challenge.

As in my 2013 South Pole winter I exercised my way to McMurdo Station on the coast 835 miles away by jogging the station passageways and stairs, riding the stationary bike and rowing. It took five months.

On the bottom right I have started the return trip to the Pole. Soon there will be light and I will be jogging outside on the skiway!

Mail! Not really but my wife had several cards hidden in my duffel bag that I have enjoyed this season. This is our 5th anniversary in a row apart. Maybe I will be home for our next one. 

Various cards and pictures in my room. 

On station in the Satcom office working the overnight satellite coverage. 

The small green screen on the right monitor shows our signal from here uplinked to a Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS) satellite then downlinked to an similar antenna in Christchurch, New Zealand. From there the data is relayed and processed in Denver, Colorado. 

More awesome pictures by Hunter Davis. This one showing our Milky Way galaxy along with a few other distant ones. 

South Pole aurora storms by Hunter Davis.


The ceremonial pole.

I am looking forward to the sun but will really miss the incredible night sky views such as this. 

Nautical twilight occurs on the 21st of August. The sun will then be 12 degrees below the horizon. It is called nautical twilight because there will be enough light on the horizon to navigate with a sextant. Sunrise occurs on September 22nd. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

More pictures from the RF domes and a few videos




Outstanding panoramic picture of the ceremonial South Pole flags along with the Milky Way galaxy and aurora. Photo credit: Martin Wolf

The following two pictures of the RF domes by Matt Smith.

An LMC tracked vehicle that I drove while the sun was still up. We have taken many trips to RF in the last few weeks. On one of the trips the wind was blowing directly in our face at over 25 mph. This was very dangerous to walk back to the station with so I called a friend Les on my radio who drove out and picked us up. The vehicles do not operate at under -73 but fortunately it was a bit warmer than that. When the wind blows the temperature increases. The following two videos show the ride back to the station. 



video

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During a South Pole winter Christmas is celebrated in July!

The galley is decorated for Christmas.


Even the dishpit is decorated. 
Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in July with our Milky Way galaxy as a backdrop. Photo credit: Matt Smith

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Working on a Satellite modem and the 4th of July

We walked out (about 3/4 mile) to the Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS) RF shed  a few days this week for testing with our Christchurch, New Zealand end terminal.  

DSCS and Skynet RF equipment.

DSCS antenna. Minus 90F inside the dome. It's nice to be inside the dome out of the wind.

Fully geared for the South Pole. Unfortunately goggles can not be used as they immediately fog. I do have a goggle with an exhaust fan but within a minute the fan freezes and stops.


A South Pole all American barbecue.

For the two vegetarians on station we had black bean burgers and tofu hot dogs.


A huge and delicious Independence Day cake. Thanks to Chef Zack.

We even had fresh greens - a real treat!

A fine dinner on the 4th - with black bean burger and tofu hot dog.

I added two of my past dogs Tobi (red collar) and Snugz towards the bottom sitting side by side. Directly to the right is my daughter Jocelyn with her dog Yaki on top of her.

I don't think my wife would do this!
We have been out to RF several times in the last two weeks for satellite link testing. 

The stairway up to the GOES dome.

When I wintered here in 2013 this Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) antenna was used to to track the GOES satellite as a South Pole communications system. A Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS) replaced this system. Eventually DSCS will use this 30 foot dish antenna.
We walked out to RF again the last two days. Often the weather is warmer like this screenshot shows but the wind is up. 23 knots (27 mph) of wind doesn't seem like much in most of the world but at the South Pole it makes a walk quite miserable as the wind works its way through your layers of cold weather gear. 

When the wind is up the snow blows and visibility can drop to almost nothing. It makes finding the station red lights difficult. We've learned how to find our way back by the stars when visible. Even with the snow on the ground blowing by looking up you can occasionally track by the stars. 

There are two main entrances to the station. The "front" door is designated as Destination Alpha (DA). This side door/cargo door is Destination Zulu (DZ).

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Anthony Bourdain Visited Antarctica last Summer and South Pole Winter Games

Anthony Bourdain and his crew from "Parts Unknown" visited McMurdo Station on the coast and also the South Pole last summer. He posted several articles and videos on CNN. Here's what he had to say about Antarctica:

Bourdain’s Field Notes
There’s been some whiskey drinking. The blue-tinged ice cubes in our glasses—older, we are told, than the very idea of whiskey. It’s warm tonight by local standards, which can see temperatures drop to 50 below and beyond. So, as one does in the Dry Valleys of Antarctica, at the bottom of the world, I go to the beach and play Frisbee.
I pick my way across the ice-covered lake, unsteady on my crampons, and flop gratefully down on soft sand, staring up at a midnight sun that never sets. Behind me a few yards away, looming overhead, is the massive, 200-foot-high wall of a glacier. In the other direction, what looks very much like Mars.
Rarely, if ever, has an episode of “Parts Unknown” so descriptively lived up to its title. Antarctica is the last un-fucked-up place on Earth. Chances are you can’t go there. Certainly not the way we did.
We were extremely fortunate to have been invited by the National Science Foundation. Which meant that, along with incredible access and logistical support, there were rules and requirements.
All of us on the crew had to get rigorous medical exams, full labs, dental—the works. You break your hip at the South Pole, it’s going to be difficult and expensive to get you out. If your helicopter or your C-130 plane has to ditch, requiring an overnight stay on the ice, you better be physically up to it and fully briefed on procedure.

As unbelievably beautiful and unspoiled as Antarctica is, it’s no joke if things go wrong.

My daughter Jocelyn and I met Bourdain and chef Jose Andres in Washington D.C. November 2016 during the last leg of our around the world bicycle ride (fatherdaughtercyclingadventures.com). 


Anthony Bourdain standing at the ceremonial South Pole marker last summer.

I am training for the vertical tower sprint (upper left).


Inside the beer can (vertical tower) is very cold.
The beer can provides access from the station to the underground utilities, power plant, logistics and other facilities about 50 feet below the ice surface. 

Looking down from the top level of the beer can. The tower gives access to utilities, the power plant and logistics.

There is a double set of these doors for access to the main station.

I have been practicing for the beer can sprint, a race up 92 steps and 46 feet wearing full Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) gear (about 45 pounds). It is has been really difficult to run this every other day for two weeks. I run 10 cycles up and down. I'm not fast running the icy metal steps as I hold on to the railing the entire way. Don't want to slip on these steps. 
The "old guy" finished last at 42 seconds. I have never been fast. Plus most of the other competitors were less than half my age. 

Station second deck flooring is being replaced. 

Since my satellite schedule is moving backwards I am off at 1pm. I then volunteer to help the carpenters until 5pm. 

I drill and screw the new concrete decking. I like doing different things on station.