Thursday, February 28, 2013

My new room and a few outside pictures

My winter room.

A room with a view! It is a very nice and quiet room on the last wing's 2nd floor and at the end.

An unobstructed view of the South Pole.

The sun is still circling the Pole at around 8 degrees elevation now. This picture was taken at 5 pm.

The USAP flag beneath a metal cutout of the continent.

My new room is the closest wing, 2nd floor, end. (middle of picture)

Cargo berms.

A Christmas tree stacked on a cargo berm.

Jamesway Huts at Summer Camp

A Jamesway Hut is the Korean War version of a Quonset Hut. About 200 people can be housed in 16 Jamesways during the summer.

Hey...I didn't know we were in East LA!

A cool van.

Pisten Bully.

A nice selection of snowmobiles. During the winter three are kept warm in the garage.

More Jamesways.

Summer Camp restroom - called the Ice Palace.

Solar heated Jamesways.

The Ice Palace - restrooms.

In the event of a station emergency part of a wing can be isolated from the rest of the station. This wing has it's own (from the left) fuel tank, generator, and ice melter (enclosed in wood).

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

McMurdo's new ice pier and scenes around the station

Two ships currently in Winter Quarters Bay, McMurdo.

The annual fueling ship along with the Nathaniel B. Palmer research vessel. That's the new ice pier that I made several postings on last winter from McMurdo.

US Post Office’s Southernmost Branch at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station


Through sleet and snow, rain and ice, we deliver the Geo Quiz.
The US Postal Service has announced it plans to stop delivering mail on Saturdays. The financially struggling agency says the move could help it save as much as $2 billion a year.
But it could delay letters a bit. Of course that delay might not matter all that much if you’re sending a letter to one of the country’s most remote neighborhoods: for instance, the South Pole.
Yes, there is a US Post office at the South Pole. It’s located at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.
Letters sent there go by way of New Zealand where they’re loaded onto US military cargo planes bound for Antarctica.
And believe it or not, the place has its own zip code.
For Wednesday’s Geo Quiz, what’s the zip code for the South Pole?

The zip code we’re looking for is not 90210.
That of course is reserved for ritzy Beverly Hills.
Nor is it 12345 which belongs to General Electric, in Schenectady, New York.
Then there’s ours here at The World newsroom in Boston, 02135.
Nope, the one we’re looking for is at 90-degrees latitude South, at the southernmost post office in the world.
The zip code for the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station is an undistinguished 96598.
Duffel bags of letters to 96598 travel to the South Pole via New Zealand on US military cargo planes usually stuffed in between scientific gear and vital supplies.
Of course deliveries can be unpredictable. Depending on the weather and logistics, packages can take up to six weeks. We haven’t heard yet on whether the ending of Saturday deliveries will be enforced at the South Pole.
One more thing.
Do not use foam peanuts. Styrofoam is banned on the frozen continent.
These two planes left recently. The DeHavilland Twin Otter in the foreground returned to Calgary, Canada - a long trip for a plane with a top speed of 160 knots and an unpressurized cabin. The range is 9 hours at 120 knots and it takes four days. But what an adventurous trip - fly from South Pole to the Antarctic Peninsula then across the Drake Passage, then up South and North America. This plane will then be put into North Pole service.

A cool looking British plane. This Twin Otter just left too. They spend a more leisurely time of 12 days to fly north of Calgary. 
What an adventure - flying from the South Pole to Canada!

Flying under 10,000 feet gives quite the world view.

Huge sledges.

The world's most southern airport - NPX. I wonder if there were an airport at the North Pole if the designation would be SPX. I don't know what the FAA was thinking.

On my return from the radomes this afternoon my goggles fogged so I lifted them just enough to see. Once back at the station I saw that the exhaust fan on top had frozen solid even though I had the fan on the high setting. Um - that's cold!

This CAT tractor stands by during flight operations hitched to the two sledges containing fire fighting foam.

The name of the CAT is "Elephant Man".

My wife would be proud. I volunteered to work in the dishpit for a few hours.

It was lasagna night so you can imagine the pan scrubbing.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The South Pole Station has officially closed for the winter

Thursday February 14th was not only Valentine's Day but it was also the official closing of the South Pole station. The selected 44 winterovers will survive on our own. We are more than ready to get started on our long winter tasks. I feel like we are on a spaceship getting ready to blast off to another galaxy next month when darkness settles upon us for six months. The station will reopen early November. 

My camera froze so I was unable to take pictures of this event. I normally do not like to post pictures that I didn't take but this was a special event. Photo credit for all these LC-130 pictures go to Robert Schwarz. He is a long time Pole winterover and accomplished photographer of the Southern Lights. 

The final summer LC-130 landing. There were two winter passengers. Photo credit for all LC-130 pictures: Robert Schwarz.

Off-loading fuel for station use. Plane stays running while on the ground to prevent fuel and hydraulic lines from freezing.

Usually about 2,000 - 3,000 gallons are off-loaded. The planes are left with enough fuel for the McMurdo return.

Final dozen outgoing passengers. Their summer is complete.

South Pole International Terminal.

Once the plane lands the skis must be retracted or they will freeze to the ice surface.

The final passenger loading. On my flight to the Pole from McMurdo I sat up in the cockpit. During most of the flight I stood next to the co-pilot on the left side of picture. What a view of the Antarctic!

The pilot did a terrific low flyby. What a moment! 

When we returned to the station the rock song "Welcome to the Jungle" was blaring throughout the station. Winter has officially started.
The South Pole drive-in movie theater - excellent audio and video. Getting ready for "The Thing" marathon.

Complete with a real popcorn machine.

Full HD equipment.

Standing by. I counted about 30 of the 44 winterovers present. It is a Pole tradition to show "The Thing" after the last plane leaves.

Fresh popcorn and a Speight's Dark Ale. What a combo!

"The Thing" marathon begins. All three movies were shown.

Freshies in the galley!

After "The Thing" marathon a nice midnight snack (carrot cake) then to bed.