South Pole is Spook Country

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Originally posted by CuspTech:
Well, once you've been down here a while you get somewhat used to the temperatures and can shed some layers. It was about -25F with 14-knot winds when I got these pics taken on Sunday, which put the windchill at around -50F. It wasn't the most comfortable temperature/clothing combination, but I was only outside for 20 minutes or so.

The shiny globe, with a dent in it, is the ceremonial pole marker. If you look in the first picture there is a small pole with a brass top just to my left. That's the actual geographical pole marker.

I definitely had other motivations to come here for 13 months besides taking these pictures, but wanted to read the book and didn't have time before I deployed. You have to make your own entertainment down here, and this seemed like it would be an interesting way to spend a half-hour!

The week before some Star Wars fans, including me, got together and took photos in a jedi robe and wielding a lightsaber. The pics all got photoshopped together, and the organizer is going to try and get it sent in to Star Wars Insider (or some such fan mag).
Okay, one more time with feeling now. Can you tell it's my first day? I love these photos. What a pleasant surprise. So what was your motivation to spend 13 months at the pole? Is Al Gore right -- is it time to buy beach front property there? And 20 minutes in jeans in that weather is pretty impressive. Long undies I hope, at least. otherwise we'll have to think you're one of the lizard people.
quote:
Originally posted by Rivka Tadjer:
quote:
Originally posted by CuspTech:
Well, once you've been down here a while you get somewhat used to the temperatures and can shed some layers. It was about -25F with 14-knot winds when I got these pics taken on Sunday, which put the windchill at around -50F. It wasn't the most comfortable temperature/clothing combination, but I was only outside for 20 minutes or so.

The shiny globe, with a dent in it, is the ceremonial pole marker. If you look in the first picture there is a small pole with a brass top just to my left. That's the actual geographical pole marker.

I definitely had other motivations to come here for 13 months besides taking these pictures, but wanted to read the book and didn't have time before I deployed. You have to make your own entertainment down here, and this seemed like it would be an interesting way to spend a half-hour!

The week before some Star Wars fans, including me, got together and took photos in a jedi robe and wielding a lightsaber. The pics all got photoshopped together, and the organizer is going to try and get it sent in to Star Wars Insider (or some such fan mag).
Hey all,

Sorry again for the big gap in posting here. It has most definitely not been due to a plethora of "getting busy", rather just the usual busy of a 90-hour work week. I'm not on day 160 since my last day off, so there's a little bit of a Groundhog Day Effect going on here.

We did have a good time for the solstice (mid-winter down here), and a big concert was thrown in the gymnasium. We're a lot different this winter than last when it comes to music talent on station. Last year they couldn't field a single band, but winter 2008 has five bands. Go figure... Anyhow, I play in The Re-Tardis(shown in pic below, I'm on the far right), which plays all cover music of classic and contemporary rock. Check out my blog for some more pics (and links to more) from the concert. I really just started playing guitar in February, and haven't done any singing like this ever. It has been a total blast, and we hope to culminate the season with a huge bash once some more people get here when the station opens in October/November.

The word on the street for our weather forecast is for -100F tomorrow, so we might actually get to do the 300 club. For those not in the know, you crank the sauna up to +200F and run outside for a little while at a temperature 300 degrees Fahrenheit colder than you just left. This is naturally done in various states of undress.



Current weather at SP:
Temperature: -84.8F/-64.9C
Wind Chill: -118.6F/-83.7C
Wind: 7.5 knots
Barometer: 671.5 mb (10,950 ft)

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quote:
Originally posted by CuspTech:
For those not in the know, you crank the sauna up to +200F and run outside for a little while at a temperature 300 degrees Fahrenheit colder than you just left. This is naturally done in various states of undress.
And then what?! You go straight to the infirmary? Wouldn't this be like spacewalking without a helmet? Can you tell my mind has just been shattered?!
Hello there CT. Greetings from the contiguous 48!
I've been reading Heidi's blog and she said that your July emergency response training drill got on well.
Apparently, she and Michael are going to tie the knot. Please tell her that a small contingent of blogging supporters on the West Coast send her a big hug, congrats, and best wishes for her future.
How is she doing? Please let us know! Cheers.
Sorry for consolidating answers into one posting:

Well, we'll hopefully hit -100F so I can get to do this crazy tradition. Why come here if not to participate in stuff you can't do anywhere else? After all, only just over 1,200 people have spent a winter down here at Pole.

If you are an American, or think you can navigate the paperwork maze as a foreign national, you'll have the best luck applying to Raytheon Polar Services. They contract operations support to the National Science Foundation's U.S. Antarctic Program. They have online applications for the jobs, as well as job fairs around the U.S. that you can attend. Actually, the best way to get down here is to be friends/relatives with somebody with influence in the program. Unfortunately, I'm not one of those people, so best of luck. It definitely takes persistence. I had to come down here as a dishwasher my first time, and this was just a few months after I finished a Master's degree in aerospace engineering! Luck of the draw, I guess.

Finally, I relayed the good wishes to Heidi, and she replied: "How sweet! Thanks for passing this along and please tell them thanks for the well wishes and for checking out the blog!"

Anyhow, thanks for writing everybody. I'll do my best to keep on top of updates and answering questions as I have time. If you want a more constant feed of info from this end of things then check out my blog. Happy trails!
Hi Cusp Tech.
Managed to watch Herzog's "Encounter..." film tonight and was just thoroughly enjoying it, to see the landscape, & meet the folks I think in `06.

My pal, a fellow movie viewer who once worked on computer research that seguaed into military [which is when he quit] muttered on some of the expiraments being done down there.

Sorry about the spelling errors. Getting use to a whole new Mac system...corralling pc mail files, new spell check, downloading archived stuff while trying to do it without fucking up my refs.

McMurdo does look a little over-trod in the daylight. Still, I watched to see where you are.
Well, the sky is beginning to light up again. There is a bit of melancholy at the departure of the fully dark night sky, but it has to get light (and a lot warmer) before we get to redeploy. A couple nights ago we hit -99.9F, so -100F isn't out of the question totally before the end of winter.

This is the beginnings of twilight glowing on the horizon. Definitely bittersweet...

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Great pictures Cusp, and probably my most minimalist wallpaper ever.

I've been bothered by a question lately and I wonder if anybody down South knows the answer - who was the first man to reach the South Pole?

Well, obviously it was Amundsen but, as I've seen from Cusp's pictures, there's now an official South Pole marker at the geographical pole, which I'm assuming is the point at which the lines of longitude converge. I believe that it get's shifted a few metres once a year to allow for the movement of the glacier upon which A-S base sits, but it is the official South Pole (capital letters). So who was it that first stood upon the spot of the shiny stick?

I've been doing a bit of research...

Amundsen and his team reached the pole on December the 14th 1911 and set up a tent base, which they named Polheim. They'd broken their theodolite on the journey and their primary concern, understandably, was getting home alive so they had little time and inadequate equipment to identify where the pole actually was. What they decided to do was to 'box' the pole: they marked a 10 mile square around where they believed the pole was and skied grid lines across it. After this they spent a few days taking readings, moving forward to their newly calculated pole position and skiing more grids.

It turns out that Polheim was, at the time, about 5.5 miles from the actual pole and that one of Amundsen's team members, Helmer Hanssen, was the one who skied closest, getting to a couple of hundred yards of the geographic pole. Amunden himself probably never got closer than a kilometer.

Scott and his team got as far as the Polheim tent and, as they now realised that they had been beaten and were in poor shape, turned round and started for home.

Nobody returned to the pole for about 45 years until Admiral Byrd led an airbourne expedition in 1955. His flight landed in the general vicinity of the pole to scout for the setting up of a permanent base the following year - the International Geophysical Year. The IGY base was intended to do science but was mostly to beat the Russians.

So who got to stand on the official, geographical pole first? Well, you could make a case for it being an American, Lt. Dick Bowers (I don't think that he was any relation to Scott's Bowers), who on November the 20th 1956 led the airdropped team that was tasked with identifying 90 degrees South with modern instruments. He may have been the man who erected the first marker, which seems to have been a bamboo cane. Paul Siple, the expedition's chief scientist, apparently took the first silver globe (originally a photographic lens for taking atmospheric pictures).

Does anyone down there have an opinion about any of this (or a copy of Siple's book about the IGY expedition)? I don't think that we ought to re-write the history books or anything but it is, er, quite interesting.

Nice article on the IGY base.
Hey there, sorry for being absent for so long. The satellites have been going down before the end of the work day, work days have been busy, and everyday is a work day for me.

'Dekka, that's indeed an interesting bit of polar history you found. I think uncertainty about actually finding the exact Pole (be it north or south) is pretty commonplace. If I recall correctly, there is also some contention about whether Byrd actually found the North Pole when he (allegedly) flew over it for the first time. It's naturally a mainly astronomic observation that determines whether you've reached +/-90 degrees latitude, and anybody who has done any sort of non-GPS-supported navigation knows how much uncertainty can be introduced by the smallest of measurement or computational errors.

Probably one of the best resources for Antarctic history, since he was there for it as of the 70s, is Bill Spindler-the guy that runs southpolestation.com. He's actually here at Pole right now, and I'm sure would be glad to discuss this (with a whole lot more knowledge than I have) with you.

Anyhow, there's a lot more light in the sky, behind some heavy overcast right now, and I'll try to get some photos posted once that clears.
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Probably one of the best resources for Antarctic history, since he was there for it as of the 70s, is Bill Spindler-the guy that runs southpolestation.com. He's actually here at Pole right now, and I'm sure would be glad to discuss this (with a whole lot more knowledge than I have) with you.


Thanks, I shall certainly do that - looks like a very interesting board. I'll read it up tomorrow though - if I start now I just know I'll be up all night.

I'd forgotten that (presumably geostationary) comsats dip below the horizon down there. The dishes must be pretty much horizontal.
Alright, I've been delinquent in keeping up posting here, but not without reason.

I am in fact not in Antarctica anymore. In mid-November I completed my contract and turned over the reins of my positions to my three replacements. I got in about 7 weeks of travel in New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Cambodia then winged back across 13 time zones to the States. I put up some pictures on my blog if you're interested. I'm currently unemployed, living in my parents' barn, and looking for employment. The job hunt is going pretty slowly, which isn't a surprise, but I do have an interview out on the east coast in a couple weeks.

Your Man in Antarctica is no more. I'm sorry, but I have no idea now how the inauguration day celebration went or what the end of the Amundsen Race was like. There are undoubtedly folks blogging at Pole right now that wrote about the events. Believe me, I'm not a small bit sorry that this chapter of my life came to an end, but it really was high time I got a break. By the time I left I'd worked for just shy of 300 consecutive days, and I was getting quite fatigued.

Will I ever go back? I don't know; I'd like to, but I don't know exactly how to work it into the arc of my aerospace career right now. There definitely are little voices telling me not to worry about that, that things will sort themselves out somehow if you're doing something you love, but the practical side of me knows that I probably shouldn't remain unemployed until Pole opens back up in October. Plus, I've got this MS in Aerospace Engineering that I got in Dec. 2005 and haven't worked with yet directly in my field. That's all mundane worry on my part about a life that isn't shining quite as brightly now as it was for a while there on the Ice.

On a lighter note, in the course of my trip home I did have a reminder of Mr. Gibson. The Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Australia had this on display in their section on computing technology:

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Hey, thanks (all) for your interest and support. I will get things figured out at some point. In the last few days I have been really considering returning to Pole to do the work again. It actually is a much more financially viable option when compared to some of the full-time positions I have looked into since getting home. If I do decide to go back down then I will be seriously considering working on another degree over distance learning or trying to do some consulting work. That latter was floated as an idea last time, but being a FNG to science support at Pole I needed to spend too much time climbing the learning curve for my projects.

Uberdog, thanks for the offer to put me in contact with your friend at Raytheon in El Segundo, but I am interested in keeping my employment in the civilian end of the spectrum. I do appreciate the sentiment, though! Smile Know anybody in NASA's astronaut selection office?

Anyhow, that's enough about this stranger in a strange land.
Life is so circular. I ultimately made the decision to return to Pole after a full year's job hunting without any other offers. I've been on the Ice since mid-October, and at Pole ever since. Due to a variety of reasons, R&R didn't happen for me, which was a bummer since folks staying for the winter got shipped all the way back to New Zealand, instead of just McMurdo Station, this year. So, I'll end up working that whole span of time from October 2009 to November 2010 without a day off, but at least I'm employed and doing something productive with myself.

What comes next after this? I have ideas, but know how hard it can be to make them materialize into legitimate options.

Anyhow, I'll try to check in reasonably regularly, despite a very abbreviated satellite connection compared to last time I was down here.

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