Monday, August 26, 2013

Two videos and a geography lesson

I was checking the weather for a Sunday afternoon hike.

In a few months we will be seeing this scene again!

The land beneath the ice

The Russian Vostok Station is 860 miles from the South Pole and 11,400 feet (2,000 more than South Pole) in elevation. They are in the process of deep core drilling to reach Lake Vostok which lies some 13,000 feet below the ice surface. The lowest temperature ever recorded on earth was at Vostok Station in 1983 at -128 F whereas the lowest at the South Pole was -117.
The arrows point towards the 30 feet a year of glacial ice movement.

Vostok Station

The bedrock beneath the ice.

More than 170 million years ago, Antarctica was part of the supercontinent Gondwana. Over time, Gondwana gradually broke apart and Antarctica as we know it today was formed around 25 million years ago. Antarctica was not always cold, dry and covered in ice sheets. At a number of points in its long history it was farther north, experienced a tropical or temperate climate, was covered in forests, and inhabited by various ancient life-forms.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Party at the Pole

Wednesday August 21st 0430 - A beautiful day with a hint of sunlight! We are now in nautical twilight with the sun at -11.4 degrees. The sun will be at 0 degrees on September 21st. The bright spot is the planet Venus at 1 degree above the horizon. I have never seen Venus so bright. I took this without a tripod so it is a little blurry but a sight to behold after months of darkness! The ambient temperature is -87 F with a windchill of -123 degrees. 

A recent Saturday night. Good food, drink, friends, music and games...and even a bit of dancing. It was -90 F outside but warm inside.

"Let's pretend we don't exist, let's pretend we're in Antarctica."

This is the refrain from a song by The Sunlandic Twins of Montreal. For a Winter Polie this can not be more appropriate. 

Chicken taquitos.

Stuffed burgers.

Beer and bacon.

Freshly fried tortilla chips and dips.

Shrimp on the left along with spicy chicken wings.

Potato wedges on the right.

I haven't had a beer in several weeks.

If you like burgers this looks like a good one.

My drink of choice.

Almond cookies.

We set our own weather.

The South Pole gets all the Antarctic weather.

A typical Winter Polie!

Monday, August 12, 2013

It's a jungle inside!

A recent picture of the South Pole ceremonial marker. What a beautiful world! Photo Credit: Andrew  
This picture from the 2nd floor Observation Deck shows how cold it is. Photo Credit: Andrew
I have completed my exercise round trip running, biking, and rowing to McMurdo and back. As soon as daylight appears I will be back running the LC-130 skiway!

Penciled on the way to McMurdo and covered by red marker on the return. 
I left the Pole on February 18 and arrived in McMurdo May 14th.
The return was complete August 1st. 1,680 miles total. I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge. 

We have been eating a fresh salad almost everyday along with a large variety of delicious homemade dressings. Not only is it delicious with many types of lettuce, including kale, and other vegetables cut up in it but it is a great morale booster. McMurdo Greenhouse was condemned and is out of operation. Last year we ate a salad about once a week but that was for 150 people. 

It's a real jungle inside!

Sometimes it seems like we are eating weeds but it sure beats regular lettuce from the store.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The first South Pole Station

I just finished reading "The South Pole" by Roald Amundsen. He gives an excellent account of the first 200 years of early Antarctic exploration and how ships sailed further and further south until they sighted the continent of Antarctica. Amundsen was originally focused on the North Pole with the proven polar exploration ship Fram. But in 1909 the rival American explorers Frederick Cook and Robert E. Peary each claimed to have reached the North Pole. Amundsen changed his plan and began the conquest of the South Pole.

After setting up quarters in the Bay of Whales and burying several food and supply depots south to 88 degrees, Amundsen and four others began their trek to the South Pole in October of 1911. 

Excellent book.
Roald Amundsen

The Fram was built for polar exploration.
Bay of whales on the Great Ice Barrier was the expedition's Antarctic base.

Amundsen had this cabin built at his home in Norway. Then it was dismantled, numbered and rebuilt on the ice.

They brought 96 Greenland husky sleddogs.
Seal meat was the steady diet for all.

Before the actual push to the Pole teams set up food and supply depots. This was the last one at 88 degrees south.

Typical polar wear.
The route from the Fram Winter Quarters to the South Pole was 60 miles closer than Scott's quarters. 400 miles to the east was Shackleton's earlier attempted route from McMurdo Sound. Shackleton was 112 miles from the Pole when he was forced to retreat. Robert Scott followed this route and achieved the South Pole on January 17, 1912. 

"The Pole...Great God! this is an awful place and terrible enough for us to have laboured to it without the reward of priority. Well, it is something to have got here, and the wind may be our friend to-morrow. Now for the run home and a desperate struggle. I wonder if we can do it. "

These words are from British explorer Scott's diary of 17 January 1912 on the subject of the Antarctic South Pole. They had just arrived at the South Pole, only to find that the Norwegian explorer Amundsen had got there a month before them. Already in bad shape, the British team were bitterly disappointed, and had to face the long journey back in the knowledge that they were not the victors. Technically, these were not Scott's last words, since he did not die for another 2 months. But they mark an absolute turning point in his fortunes, and resonate with the desperation the team must have felt and their foreboding of death on the return journey, during which all of the five-man team perished.

Two of the members perished on the return before Scott and the other two succumbed in their tent 11 miles from a food cache.

Scott's party at the South Pole January 17, 1912. Two died while walking and the other three perished in a tent on their return during a brutal storm just a few miles from a food and supply cache.

The South Pole achieved and the first South Pole Station. December 14, 1911. At first they were actually 2 miles from the real geographic South Pole. They spent several days boxing in the coordinates then corrected to within 1 mile of the real Pole. Not bad for instruments of 100 years ago. Today this tent is estimated to be a mile from the station and buried under 60 feet of ice.