Saturday, February 18, 2017

The South Pole is closed for the Winter

Sunday February 19, 2017

The last of the summer crew left the South Pole Wednesday on a C-130 Hercules. At McMurdo, they landed and returned to New Zealand on the C-17 I flew to McMurdo on. They then scattered to home and parts unknown. People who work in Antarctica are a different breed as they thrive for adventure and exploration and not the typical 8-5 jobs in the U.S. Southeast Asia is a very popular spot to explore after the ice along with various South Pacific islands. Then when duty calls again they return to the ice. The summer people (the South Pole summer starts November 1 and ends February 14) come year after year whereas most winterovers have had enough after just one winter. This is my third winter and I wish I had found about this adventure years ago. My neighbor said it best, “Mike you were born a few hundred years too late when all the great world exploration was happening”. You just can’t beat exploring the world by riding a bicycle in between three Antarctic winters.

Aerial pictures of Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. These are my three work areas 3/4 mile from the main station. It can be a brutal walk especially with the upcoming six months of total dark.

The science "Dark Sector" is to the upper left. 
The main station with the ceremonial South Pole marker in front. I live in the last wing on the left. The "beer can" to the left connects the station to the underground storage areas along with the power plant. It is a constant -50F there. 

The Dark Sector labs and telescopes.

The last flight out.

There are now 46 souls on station until November 1. Notice the finial on top of the flag pole. All points north.

Game of Thrones is very popular here.

South Pole library.

A fine place to donate our book.

The round winterover picture from 2013.
My name is 9th on the left.

The 100 year anniversary (2011) of Norway's Roald Amundsen first at the South Pole.

Laundry room. The summer bedding still needs to be stored.

The South Pole Greenhouse.

In 2013 we had fresh salads several times a week along with cantaloupes, strawberries and tomatoes. 

A nice place to sit and read.

Looking outside the station passageway.

My dorm.

My room.

The view from the end of my hall. The power plant is 50 feet under the ice. There are four generators' exhausts.

A view of the geographic South Pole marker from my room. The polar ice sheet of approximately two miles thick moves about 30 feet per year. This marker, sign and flag are moved each January 1st. 

We track three satellites that give us 12 hours of internet (mostly science uploads) and telephone coverage each day.

My office.

A South Pole closing tradition - watch all three "The Thing" movies after station closing in the South Pole Drive-in Theater. Pretty creepy. 

Real popcorn too!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

I have returned to the South Pole!

Tuesday February 14, 2017

This morning there were 15 of us heading south to the ice, 3 for the South Pole and 12 for McMurdo. We arrived at the United States Antarctic Program (USAP) Terminal at 7am where we dressed in our extreme cold weather gear. The flight was delayed several hours due to an ice storm between Christchurch and Antarctica. We finally arrived in McMurdo late Monday then had a one hour truck ride to the town. Once there us three polies checked in our baggage for next day’s early morning flight. 

The C-130 Hercules flight was delayed due to mechanical problems but finally arrived at the beautiful and stunning South Pole at 1:30. My good friend Matt from Montana was working the satellite communications engineer summer job and I was his relief. We served together in McMurdo for the winter of 2012. The turnover was a quick 10 minutes before he had to board the C-130 Hercules for a return to McMurdo.

I quickly settled in and met several old friends and lots of new ones. The first few days will be very quiet as I acclimate myself to the 10,000 feet here. In fact, the physiological altitude changes daily from 10,000 to sometimes 13,000 feet due to differences in air pressure. Many people do get altitude sickness – it is very debilitating.

I was able to call and talk with my wife Andee at home in Florida. The time difference is 18 hours. I spent 6 days travelling to get here. It feels really good to be back. This is an incredible experience that few people in this world will ever live. 

Cool New Zealand bills.

USAP Antarctic Terminal

Nice and warm polar boots.

Looking forward in a C-17.


Removing pallets at McMurdo.

In McMurdo I used to work on this 30 foot NASA McMurdo Ground Station antenna.

The ski-way at McMurdo.

My chariot to the South Pole  C-130 Hercules.

Looking aft.


Crossing the Trans-Antarctic Mountain Range.

The flight deck of the C-130.

Relieving my friend Matt so he can go home to Montana. 

Flags surrounding the ceremonial South Pole marker taken. Picture taken from the galley.

My room with a view!