Monday, May 20, 2013

I joined the 300 club and now going into hibernation

A South Pole winter activity is the 300 Club. When the temperature drops to -100 degF those wishing to participate go to the sauna where the temperature is set at 200 degF - hence the 300 which is the temperature difference. Once that temperature is reached you put on your boots and neck gaiter only (or more if you desire) and walk down the beercan stairway, which is -60 degF, outside the door then to the Geographic South Pole marker.  

While in the sauna we receive temperature reports every few minutes. If the temperature goes above -100 it doesn't count. When I learned that I took off.  I heard "Go for it Mike, you are the first for Winter 2013!"  With my towel around my waist I took off down the beercan, removed the towel and went outside and walked to the Geographic South Pole maker and sign. Once at the marker I took a picture and walked back to the station, up the beercan and back to the sauna to recover. It really wasn't that bad at all. I'm glad I joined this exclusive club. 

The temperature was -101.7 when we left - like it really makes a difference. It seems like it only takes a puff of wind to really chill it down.

Another special moment at the South Pole.

What does one do after walking naked to the South Pole marker in the winter - have an ice cold beer of course.
Last winter at Scott Base I participated in the Polar Plunge. The ocean water temperature was 28 degF, while the air was -40. 
Surf and turf at the South Pole! Filet Mignon.

Grilled lobster tail.

Freshly made garlic toast, salad, croutons, and poppy seed dressing.

My plate.

As of this point I have now been at the Pole for four months with six months left to go. Unless an interesting event occurs I will not be posting weekly. We are in the middle of winter, it is extremely dark, and the temperature is routinely in the -80's degF with windchill in the -120's. The posts will be occasional now.  It seems like it is time to hibernate. To those of you in the northern hemisphere - have a great summer! Enjoy the sun, trees, plants, animals, fresh fruits and vegetables and the beautiful ocean. It is indeed a wonderful world!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Food pull and Austral Auroras

On a previous post I included several pictures of the food storage area I called Costco. Everything is frozen at the natural temperature of -60 degF. The materials person collects food, per the week's menu, and moves it into the station for the cooks. It is a tough job.
Collecting food and taking it to a large cart which is then pushed to an elevator. 

Now where is that case of beans?

Easy storage on the galley deck.

A pre-winter picture of the South Pole Telescope. Photo credit:Jason.
A cool picture of Antarctica. South America on the upper right.
It is time for the Southern Lights! An aurora is a natural light display in the sky particularly in the high latitude (Arctic and Antarctic) regions, caused by the collision of energetic charged particles with atoms in the high altitude atmosphere. The charged particles originate in the magnetosphere and solar wind and, on earthare directed by the earth's magnetic field into the atmosphere.

I took these pictures at noon on May 2nd.

This one looks like a swan.

The flagpole on the left with all points north. The Southern Cross in the middle.

It appears as though the aurora is going through our flag.

Someone walking out to the Dark Sector. Only red lights are permitted because white lights interfere with the dark sector telescopes.
A group of us got together at the Pole marker for this picture. I'm on the far right. We moved. Photo credit: Felipe
Capturing the beautiful South Pole sky. I'm kneeling on the far right. Photo credit: Felipe

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A non South Pole post

A few posts ago I mentioned that I was planning an around the world bicycle journey for my daughter and I. While looking at the demographics of this blog I see that it is read by people all over the world. In fact page views by country shows that it is very European and Russian read along with a smaller number in South America. What follows is my first cut at an itinerary  I would welcome comments/suggestions from those who live in the countries we plan to visit or anyone who has biked, hiked, driven, or just visited the various countries. I would  really appreciate comments to Thank you.

World Tour 2014

Eurasia Bicycle Route

Lisbon, Portugal (April 1, 2014)
North to Santiago de Compostela, Spain (336 miles). Ride the “Way of St. James” in reverse to France (462 miles)
Over the Pyrenees through France, Switzerland, and Austria skirting the Alps
Drop down to Budapest, Hungary (from France 1300 miles)
Bucharest, Romania
Burgas, Bulgaria (Black Sea)
Istanbul, Turkey (end of Europe and the beginning of Asia) (from Budapest 830 miles)

Istanbul – Erzurum – Dogubayazit (Turkey)
Tabriz – Tehran – Mashhad (Iran)
Mary - Turkmenabat (Turkmenistan)
Bukhara – Samarqand - Tashkent (Uzbekistan)
Shymkent – Taraz (Kazakhstan)
Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan)
Almaty (Kazakhstan)
Istanbul to Sharkent (Chinese border) (3,000 miles)
China (Sharkent to Shanghai) (2900 miles)

Approximately 9000 miles.
At 40 miles per day = 225 days = 7 ½ months
Add 30 days off = 8 ½ months in Eurasia.
April through November/December 2014

After China possibility:

Ferry to southern Japan and ride to northern Japan
Fly to Patagonia, Argentina and ride to Vancouver, Canada, east to New Brunswick, Canada, south to Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Under the South Pole

Last week I fell and broke my right foot. I spent most of the day in medical where the x-rays showed multiple fractures. The USAP medical contractor (where the x-ray scans were sent) listed 3 fractures near the base of my toes. So I am hobbling along on crutches.

I am back in the gym biking and rowing. The South Pole inside the station 5k run is in two weeks. I hope to jog that.

My friend from last winter in McMurdo, Will, gave me a tour of the South Pole Ice Tunnels. His job as a Utility Technician takes him to various unique places during his daily rounds. These ice tunnels were carved by huge machines over a three year summer period starting in 1999. A large area was dug out of the ice to the depth of 80 feet. An ice mining machine and team from Australia were then employed to dig the various tunnels that are used to carry water, sewer, and electrical lines. The main tunnel extends 1,850 feet. There are also five cross tunnels up to 200 feet each. It can be a bit claustrophobic and it reeks of sewage gas.

The ice tunnels entrance.

The approximately 3000 feet of ice tunnels are 60-80 feet under the South Pole.

These tunnels are cut out of solid polar ice and act as utility corridors for sewage, water, power and heat.

At one point raw sewage is literally dumped into an old Rodwell cavern. 

The tunnels are about 5-6 feet wide and 8 feet tall depending on the ceiling bow.

There are a few warming huts with a small electric heater and cold  cookies.

I tagged it!

Ice block storage whenever something new is added and space cut away.

There are also a number of shrines commemorating various groups and events at the South Pole.

If the tunnels ever collapsed and you were nowhere near an escape exit it would be a long and painful death.

Climbing 80 feet out of this in total darkness could be tough. There are four of these emergency exits.

There must be a story here somewhere.

I didn't know that liquor froze but it does. That is three shots of frozen scotch.

A fish from McMurdo permanently resides in the tunnel.

Some parts appear to be bowed in.

At a constant -53 degF this is the warmest place at the South Pole at 80 feet under. So far this winter the surface has averaged in the -60's degF ambient. The lowest has been -98.9 degF ambient.

A very unique Valentine's card.

I asked my tour guide Will to turn the lights off. It would be really hard to make it out with this head lamp. And when the battery froze even harder. Fortunately we all carry excellent radios so a simple call would bring in the rescue troops.

A sculpture of Roald Amundsen of Norway. His team first reached the South Pole in December 1911.
At first look it seemed like we were having a sunrise already. But this is the full moon rising with a unique glow about it. We are now in astronomical twilight with the sun 15 degrees below the horizon.

The Southern Cross (Crux-Latin for cross) as seen from the station is now visible 24 hours a day as it moves 15 degrees every hour with two pointer stars on the right. Crux is the smallest of 88 modern constellations.