Antarctica 2005-2006


Where are you going?
The Amundsen-Scott South Pole station.

How do you get to the Pole?
We begin by taking commercial flights from Los Angeles to Christchurch, New Zealand. At Christchurch, we pick up extreme cold weather (ECW) gear from the US Antarctic Program office, and we take military aircraft into McMurdo, a station on the coast of Antarctica. We take a second flight on military aircraft to continue from McMurdo to the Pole.

How long does the trip take?
The trip from Los Angeles to Christchurch takes about 14 hours of total flying time. The Christchurch-McMurdo flight ranges between 5 and 11 hours depending on which plane you get, and the McMurdo-Pole flight takes about 3 hours. With nights spent in Christchurch and McMurdo, the minimum time for the full journey is about 3 days. Most of the time the trip takes longer due to delays on the Antarctic flights.

What time is it at the Pole?
We're on New Zealand time, which is -3 hours, +1 day from Pacific time.

Where else can I find cool pictures?
Kiwon and Denis also have photo repositories going. I've also dumped some video clips here (local Pole residents go here instead). Lydia has pictures of the dry valleys in McMurdo, and Bill has a very comprehensive website.


At 4:30 pm, I start my journey away from the strange civilization that is Los Angeles (see photo for two of the weirdos who live there). Several hours and several terminals later, I'm on my way to Auckland, dragging a 35-kg monster-sized computer named bicep0.


The flight to Auckland was long (12 hours) and uneventful. I passed through customs in a sleepy daze, and got on the plane to Christchurch.

Apparently, Qantas specifically forbids Furby usage.

New Zealand is beautiful from the air ... green as far as the eye can see on a sunny day.

Waves coming in parallel to the shore (calculate that with your physics).

Experiencing the greeniness up close in Christchurch. That's the Avon river, and it snakes through the city.

More green. Cute bridges like this one are scattered everywhere over the river.

A view of Cathedral Square, the center of Christchurch.

The city center features a giant waffle cone, ...

... and a giant chess board. I spent about an hour watching some old men battle it out.

The art center. They have an awesome exhibit, Alchemy of Daily Life, that features contemporary Korean artists.

The art center from the inside.

Later on, I had dinner with a handful of fellow travelers at Hay's, a place that specializes in New Zealand lamb. I also experienced Speight's, fine New Zealand beer ... the taste is all right, but I mainly like it for its name.

A bunch of biologists (Jenny, Lydia, and Tina) outside of the Windsor bed and breakfast.

A strange sticker we saw along the way. Thanks to Fish for this and the previous photo.


Today I'm scheduled to pick up my extreme cold weather (ECW) gear at the clothing distribution center. There were a few hours to kill in the morning, so I spent them wandering around the botanical gardens.

Lots of duckies live in the gardens. And lots of people like to feed them.

Mysterious duck alignment. The smaller black ducks (one is on the lower right) are very pretty.

A sunny path in the gardens.

Some intense green.

A cute duckie family.

Waiting for instructions at the clothing distribution center. Kiwon looks awake. Jenny, Bobcat, and Lydia are on the other end of the bench.


Our flight to McMurdo, the station on the coast of Antarctica, is scheduled for today. After a few-hour delay, we make it over to the clothing distribution center to swap our normal clothes for the ECW gear.

Bobcat, Lydia, Fish, and Jenny waiting for the information session to start.

Lots of orange bags and red coats.

The Antarctic Center. (I'm trying to catch a final bit of moist air and the smell of vegetation.)

The terminal for Christchurch-McMurdo flights.

Me in all the ECW gear except for the parka, hat, and gloves. Here I'm wearing three layers of pants, two shirts, and socks + boot liners.

The boots! They're more comfortable than they look, although the padding makes you feel like you're wading through sand. I get a couple extra inches of height from these. :-)

Back in the terminal, with the parka...

Bobcat's ready to go.

A bus takes us over to our plane.

The plane: a Hercules C-130. We're unloading our bags and picking up sack lunches for the 8-hour flight.

Ready to go! That's Jenny, Bobcat, me, Fish, and Kiwon.

Fish and the plane.

The plane interior. The red nets are the seat backs, and we sit in two rows facing each other.

It's cramped, the engines are loud, and the bathroom is suboptimal. Several McMurdo/Pole-veterans recommended dehydration.

I escaped from the passenger area and hopped up to the cockpit to hang out with the kiwi flight crew. Steve, one of the air force guys, was kind enough to give me a tour of the controls. The buttons and dials are actually less complicated than they look -- most of them come in sets of four, corresponding to the four engines. Steve also told me about his job, loading the cargo in a manner that keeps the plane balanced. That, in contrast to the flight controls, is more complicated than it sounds. He actually uses a slide rule for his job -- one that's specifically designed for balancing the weight of a C-130! The most remarkable thing he told me is that the center of gravity has to fit within a 24-inch margin along the length of the plane. (I.e. if all the passengers move to the back, the plane goes belly up.) Running the plane seems to be a demanding job, but the air force guys were all pretty relaxed. They were constantly pulling out big boxes of sandwiches and muffins, and brewing cups of coffee and tea.

The flight crew told me that this guy was the most photogenic one among them. I'm guessing he thinks otherwise.

That's Steve, my tourguide.

They didn't let me fly the plane...

...but they loaned me this cool headset so I could talk to them above all the engine rumble.

We're not the only ones who use KF fittings.

That's the radar guy. He checks the opacity of clouds and determines whether or not to fly around them.

He's also a fellow fan of the Garden State soundtrack (which was playing in the cockpit). Apparently I'm the first one to say something positive about his music choice.

After an hour of chatting with the crew, back in the passenger area.

Bits of ice started appearing in the ocean...

...and then more ice appeared...

...and bits of land too.

Steve's seen this all before, so he reads some magazine with girls in it while the rest of us take photos of the ice.

Approaching our landing site!

Finally we land, and we're quickly herded into a bus.

Bye bye plane...

Hello McMurdo!

It's bright outside!! (The plane landed at around 8:00 pm local time.) By the time I went to bed at 11:30 pm, the sun was still blazing. Coming to Antarctica for the first time is like landing on an alien planet -- the whiteness, desolation, and silence are completely overwhelming.


Our flight to the Pole was scheduled for this morning, but it got canceled and bumped to Monday. Took the opportunity to catch up on some sleep and get better acquainted with McMurdo.

The room I'm staying in. It was empty when I moved in, and now I have one roommate.

I love these boots.

Trash bins right outside the dorm corridors. We have to sort everything we throw out. Food waste gets shipped back to the US.

The charm of McMurdo wears off pretty quickly once you realize there isn't much to do (apart from checking email and drinking). Most people here spend their time on the latter. There are 3 bars at the station, and Gallagher's seems to be the most popular one among the non-smokers.

Fish likes his foosball.

An action shot. You can't tell from the picture, but the pub is pretty dead compared to last night. I guess everyone's saving their strength for tomorrow.

Gallagher's closed early (11 pm) tonight, so we relocated to Kiwon's room. That's Dolores in the bottom center. (The cushion, yep.)

The other side of the room.

More people, and someone groping Dolores.

Damon is getting friendly with Dolores...

...maybe a little too friendly. The fire house called shortly afterwards and brought the party to its conclusion.


This morning's project: get outside and climb up Observation Hill.

Fish and I tried to drag Kiwon along, but he was busy eating breakfast.

A view of the path up to the hill.

The hill is covered with funky rocks like this one. The loose rocks make it hard to climb up, especially in the giant boots.

Me struggling to keep my balance. Thanks to Fish for the pic.

A closer view of the peak.

McMurdo from above...

...and planes that land next door.

If you squint, you can just barely see roads going across the snow.

Fuel lines run all over the place.

Me and the memorial cross to Robert Scott et al.

Fish and the cross.

At the top!

Time to head back... The view of the station and the surrounding mountains is beautiful on the way down.

Fish walks faster than I do.

The station again.

The cross and two people in the distance.

One last look up at the top.

The smell of Antarctica = the smell of diesel.

For the final part of the descent, Fish proposes sliding down.

We should have stolen the sleds that we saw sitting at the station. We both got a buttload of snow. Literally.

A cool snow vehicle that we walked past on the way back. Check out those wheels!

Don't know if it's a good or a bad thing that this building exists.

Thanksgiving dinner is served today in the cafeteria. Actually, there are three rounds (3:00, 5:00, and 7:00 pm) because the crowds are so big. Fish, Kiwon, and I catch the 5:00 dinner (with Kiwon planning to come back for seconds at 7:00).

Although you can't tell in this photo, a ton of people are carrying bottles of wine...and some have already started drinking in the hallway.

Kiwon and Fish waiting in line.*grunt*. Lots of people are dressed up for the occasion too.

Kiwon and his first tray of food. Fish got a massive drumstick.

A shot of the cafeteria in building 155. How many wine bottles can you count?

Which one of the trash bins is different?


(Hopefully) the last day in McMurdo. I spent the afternoon stalking out the resident metalsmith, Harry, who showed me how to extract Erebus crystals from a volcanic bomb and how to melt rock. In the evening, several of us checked out the local coffee house.

Kiwon, Lydia, Carrie, and Jenny playing Trivial Pursuit.

I'm sure this seems funnier after a few glasses of wine.

The coffee house just closed...time to go home. Note how bright it is even though it's 11:00 at night.

Fish likes getting his picture taken.


Today we fly to the Pole! Our plane left bright and early in the morning -- another C-130, but this one's more upscale than the previous one (more leg room, normal seat belts), and it's flown by an American crew. I managed to get onto the flight deck again. :-)

The engineer and his controls (the upper panels).

A beautiful view out the window shortly after takeoff.

A better view of the mountains outside.

Some strange ice and rock formations that we flew over.

The pilot is on the left, the copilot is on the right, and the engineer sits behind them.

The navigator sits behind all of them, manning the radar.

The shiny buttons and knobs are simply irresistible.

The windows look funny when you look through polarized glasses.

The windows up close, looking through polarized glasses.

The passenger area is pretty classy; look at all the leg room! Note the guy sleeping on the very top of the cargo...

After a short flight (3 hours), we land and get out of the's friggin' cold here! (So cold that I didn't dare to take my camera out.) The first sensation I had was the inside of my nostrils freezing; every breath taken stings. Today it's about -36 C outside. The second thing I noticed, after the biting cold, was the building for our telescope in the distance. After looking only at photos for three years, I feel like I'm finally home. :-)

The elevation here is about 9000 feet -- I have yet to feel any serious effects from the altitude, although occasionally I feel a bit dizzy. It's also considerably drier here than in McMurdo -- I get zapped every time I touch a metal surface. After a brief orientation session, we wandered off to find our rooms. Most of us lucked out and are staying in the new station (as opposed to the jamesways and hypertats, i.e. fancy tents).

A view of my room. It's small, but there's lots of space under the bed.

Someone left a penguin in the room for me. Awww.

Looking from the other side.

...and the most important part, the stash of junk food I dragged from Pasadena. :-)

The view straight out my window. Note that the station is raised up on stilts.

Looking out from my window, away from the station.

The station has the feel of a giant something straight out of 2001: A Space Odyssey. The architecture is very rugged and industrial, and most of the doors are giant freezer-style doors.


After a sleepless night (due to the light and the dry air), I got up at 5:00 am to catch the satellite connection, which provides our internet and phone connections to the outside world. The satellites are visible for only about 12 hours a day, and the window of time shifts a few minutes earlier every day. Right now they're up between 2:00 am and 2:00 pm local time.

We're allowed only two showers per week, with two minutes of running water per shower. It's pretty gross, especially since you get kind of toasty walking around in the ECW gear. I ventured outside this morning and walked over to the Dark Sector Lab (DSL), the home for our telescope.

The inside of the lab. We're still moving in, and there's still construction in the area. The cardboard box in the center is the monster computer I dragged with me from Pasadena.

Phil, the electrician, working on wiring up the lab. The telescope will sit on the wooden platform and look through the giant hole in the ceiling.

The view from one of the windows. The closer building is MAPO, home to the QUaD and ACBAR telescopes. The building in the distance is the station I'm staying in (the mothership).

Another view. Except for the roads and the tanks in the middle, the landscape is completely flat and completely white.

Photos don't do justice to the Antarctic landscape. The feeling of being outside is similar to being in a plane, high above the clouds, so that you see pure blue above and an infinite expanse of white below. Indescribable, and awe-inspiring.

Yuki, hard at work. The metal can behind him is the drinking water supply for the lab. (No running water yet...don't ask about bathrooms.)

Kiwon and the "packing material" (a.k.a. unpacking incentives) that we stuffed into the telescope crates. $160 of chocolate and cookies...

Kiwon's custom-made vacuum attachment. The lab is filthy from the construction work.

An important telescope component that we forgot to pack in the crate.

The crate for our cryostat...the monolith. Now we just need a bunch of screaming apes dancing around it.

The beginnings of a clean working area for the telescope receiver.

The telescope insert, the heart of our instrument. It survived the shipping process!

A CMB photon's view of the focal plane.

John and Yuki starting to unpack the cryostat from its huge crate.

Yuki, John, and Evan extracting the inner crate. The packing foam makes excellent sleeping surfaces (we bought it from a furniture store).

I went back to the mothership after a relatively short day...the high altitude and dehydration are giving me a bit of a headache.

The hallway I live in (in Pod B of the station). My room is at the end of the hallway on the left.

The main hallway along Pod B.

Did I mention this place reminds me of a spaceship?

The residents of the growth chamber. I keep expecting the lettuce to develop a set of pointy teeth.

Another view outside from one of the hallway windows.

The stairs leading to the berthings.


Kiwon opened up our 4He/3He/3He refrigerator to remove the shipping constraints.

A thing of cryogenic beauty, eh?

Today's major project was to crane the telescope mount into the building.

The mount beginning to emerge through the hole in the ceiling.

Catching the mount..

...and lowering it further...

...and positioning the feet.

Finished! The lowering process was remarkably fast.

Some aliens left a message in the snow for us.

Next project: finish unpacking the cryostat.

(Almost) finished after a long day of work! From left to right: Pete, Evan, Kiwon, John, me, and Yuki.

After dinner, Kiwon and Yuki went to the dome (the old station) to sign up for snow school. I'm too much of a pansy for snow school, but I went exploring with them.

The entrance to the old station.

The spooky tunnel leading into the dome.

Emerging into the dome...

The inside is stunning -- the air is completely still, and there's dead silence except for the occasional tinkle of an icicle tumbling down from the ceiling.

Lots of random freezable stuff is stored in the dome. I found a shelf piled full with boxes of cookie, pizza, and fillo dough.

Looking back towards the entrance.

We hung out in the library for awhile, and Yuki killed everyone in a couple rounds of pool.

Kiwon, Yuki, and I made an obligatory visit to the ceremonial south pole.

Me and the pole! (You can't tell it's me except for the name tag.)

...and a closeup view. The pole is shiny. :-)

A short trip over to the geographic south pole (as of January 1, 2005).

90 degrees south!!

It was a particularly windy day...time to head back to the mothership.


When I walked to the lab this morning, the stairs were gone.

MAPO, the building next door to DSL. The black box is the only bathroom (outhouse) serving both buildings.

The toilet inside the black box. Yep, that's a foam seat.

Post-it poetry covers the left wall.

The urinal in the black box. This picture is for you, mom.


The highlight of my day: I got to take a shower.

I unpacked the telescope optics today...

...and opened up the cryostat.

The cryostat looks pretty cool from the top.

The construction workers gave our staircase back today, but took away the penthouse.

Typical freezer doors on the outside of the buildings here.

Even the windows on the buildings are weird.


I keep thinking I'm running out of photos to take, but then I saw this today.

A particularly beautiful halo, with double rings. Too bad my camera couldn't capture the whole thing.

This may be the last photo of Yuki while he's alive. This brave soul is attending snow school tonight. He made the nose guard himself.

I believe this is the building that houses AST/RO. Apparently it's been taken over by pirates.

Later in the the jamesways...

Extreme disco party!

Ok, maybe not so extreme. Most of the time this guy was dancing by himself.

...and this guy doesn't seem to be a fan of such music.


This morning I went out to watch Fish launch a weather balloon. This one is carrying instruments to measure ozone levels as a function of altitude.

Preparing the payload (the white styrofoam box). Inside there's a pump, two bottles of chemicals that react with ozone, and a radio transmitter.

Stephanie calibrating the instrument with known ozone levels. The whole thing is powered by a wet cell battery, which also provides heat.

Fish unfurling the weather balloon. The balloon first needs to be heated in an oven so that it doesn't pop when it's inflated.

Attaching the balloon to the compressed helium source. Stephanie thinks it's obscene.

Starting to fill the balloon with helium...

...and even more helium. Kind of looks like a beached whale.

Fish says that you have to be careful not to hit the lights with the balloon.

The gas is turned off when the balloon starts to lift the weights off the table.

Finished inflating! Stephanie is preparing precision balloon ties (pieces of string).

The doors are opened and the payload is attached. The orange plastic is the parachute that carries the payload back to earth after the balloon pops at a height of 35 km.

Preparing for launch against the Antarctic sun.

A successful launch! There's still a residual halo around the sun from yesterday...


Today I visited QUaD, our sister experiment, and borrowed their instrument to measure the transmission of our zotefoam windows...

The kludged setup. This is precision cosmology, folks.

Ed, a QUaD grad student, who helped me find the precision shims for the chopper wheel.

Removing the window from the back. The white thing on top is a cooler filled with liquid nitrogen.


My first overcast day at the Pole...the sky and the snow blend together. A plane that flew in from McMurdo today circled around and attempted to land four times, but ended up boomeranging back.

The mothership is just beginning to emerge out of the fog, but the horizon is still invisible.

Closing the cryostat insert for the final time. Kiwon is making one last fix to the focal plane.

Closed and RF-taped, and ready to observe CMB photons.

The refractive optics bolted to the top of our focal plane. For those of you who read fine print, the bit that says "ape" at the bottom is actually the last part of "RF-tape!" (Our second slogan, in addition to "Light goes in, signal comes out!")

Meanwhile, in the other room, John and Yuki are installing the roof brush seal on the telescope. Yuki is using a riveting tool for the first time. :-)

Yuki and the tree house.

Next door to DSL, the foundations for the South Pole Telescope (SPT) are starting to take shape.

No, I did not verify the contents of this container.

A beautiful sky on my walk back to the mothership this evening.

A friendly flag along the plane skiway.

The upper edge of a huge (artificial) snow drift right outside the new station.


Our telescope got a hat today -- an accordion-like environmental enclosure to protect the portion of the instrument that sticks above the roof.

The view from indoors as the crane continues to lower the environmental enclosure.

Today we're closing the cryostat for (hopefully) the last time for a year!

Kiwon below the cryostat...

...and above the cryostat.

Preparing to raise the cryostat in order to install the optics and insert from below.

How did it get up there? There's about half an inch of space between the top of the cryostat and the ceiling.

Obligatory documentation of the old vacuum valve. The classy white paint is Sinful Colors white nail polish, courtesy of our postdoc.

Kiwon, Evan, Yuki, and John preparing to lower the cryostat onto the optics. We had to chop a few inches off the stool in order to get enough vertical clearance. :-)

Kiwon and Evan lowering the hoists the last few inches.

The cryostat closeup went remarkably smoothly except for one snag...


Kiwon and Yuki stealing a sled and a leak checker from MAPO.

Yet another hidden talent of Yuki: grad student by day, superhero by night.

Yuki in action on the roof of DSL!

A productive evening spent away from the lab, playing Settlers with Pete, Ed, Robert, and Ben.


The cargo folks usually have Hawaiian shirt Fridays, but they decided to wear BICEP shirts today instead. They stopped by to visit us this afternoon. :-)

Not the sort of people you want to mess with... Especially Amanda (upper left).

Our picture isn't nearly as cool as theirs.


Tonight was bingo night in the galley.

Some people buy lots of bingo boards. :-)

Dehlia won $153 in cash, and I won some sort of wildlife cruise in Christchurch.

Ben is upset that he didn't win anything...

...and is quickly driven to insanity.

Pete can tie a knot in a cherry stem with his tongue. The final product is the little lump at the bottom, next to Ben's nail polish.

Tyler also wants to demonstrate his skills, and he proceeds to dent his forehead with a beer can.

Jill, Tyler, Dan, Pete, Ed, Caesar, and Liz at our table. Pete's taking photos of goldfish swimming in maraschino cherry syrup.


The Ice Cube experiment had an open house today. This is one of their huge garden hoses.

Lots of cable reels like this one are scattered all over the snow in the drill camps.

The drilling station itself. The whole thing is mounted on skis and can be towed to different hole locations.

A giant carrot inside the drill tower.

No, it's not a toilet, it's a pilot hole for the strings of detectors. The cage-like object is a device for measuring the hole size.

One of the digital optical modules up close. Inside there's a photomultiplier tube and associated electronics, and the device looks downwards into the ice.

This nice man with a Darth Vader mask was kind enough to drive us back to DSL after the tour. Snowmobiles are awesome. :-)

Meanwhile, back in the lab...we've finished the first round of cooling, and Jamie is sucking the liquid nitrogen out of the cryostat.

Cryo heaven, baby! A family photo of the dozen dewars in the lab.

First liquid helium transfer! We're watching the dewar weight slowly drop.

The vent port of the cryostat gets so cold that it starts condensing and dripping liquid air.

...and next door, SPT continues to grow. On the bottom right, Steve demonstrates that you, too, can scrape ice off steel work when you get your PhD.


Trying to show off that I can lift the dewars too...thanks to Evan for the pic. (It's a bit of a cheat; the dewars here are aluminum and much lighter than the ones at Caltech.) In other news, the outside temperature got up to a whopping +5F. That's within a couple degrees of the record high here!


No pictures today kids, but one fun trivia fact for you: the airport code for the Pole is NPX. Why "N," you ask? Apparently when the airport codes were first introduced, the navy took all the three letter codes beginning with N (so NPX stands for Naval something or another). Not even Newark has a code that starts with N...


A model helicopter that I put together today.

Where does the path lead to?

Evan is testing out his bungee cord.

...well, actually it's a safety harness for working on the roof.

The Ice Challenger drove in a couple days ago, and the drivers have been camping out.


This pack of beer cost $1.

This is the reason why.


It snowed today...a rare event around here. Pretty, but I miss proper snowflakes and clumpy snow.

The groundshield got installed last night -- BICEP is starting to look like a real telescope. :-)

Snow was coming in through the hole in the ceiling, so we draped this tarp over the telescope mount. A nice blue glow...


Tonight was open mic night in the galley. This is one of the classy window shades that got put up.

Victoria, playing her recorder.

I think these guys are about to perform a song that Tom wrote.

That's Ella, a mechanical engineer. Tomorrow she's going to drill one of the holes for Ice Cube.

Randi, a flight attendant from Alaska. She wanted to come here so much that she offered to take any job available.

Me and Tom -- he wants to write songs when he grows up. Ella's playing with my camera.

Ella doesn't like photos...

...but Tom does.

Sometimes they play well together...

...and sometimes not so much.

(A note to fellow BICEPers: like our telescope, the optics in my camera seem to feature a lil' buddy.)


We raised the cryostat onto its high stand today in preparation for loading it into the mount tomorrow.

The view from above.

And a view of the electronics below.


An exciting day for we loaded the cryostat into the mount (the last high-risk procedure for this season). It's a real telescope now :-)

Kiwon removing the cryogen transfer lines from the top of the cryostat...

...and handing them to Yuki.

Meanwhile, Denis prepares the cryoloader.

After the cryoloader is assembled, the rest of the group sacrifices it to the temple of Kiwon.

The cryostat is positioned above the loader.

Both Yuki and the cryostat wonder what's up there.

Looking down the cryoloader...

...and looking back into the light.

We took a break to give a tour to these guys. The guy wearing black is James Clash; he works for Forbes magazine and writes adventure articles.

He's telling us about how they skied in from the 89th parallel and how he's going to write an article about it.

A brief visit to the roof after the indoor tour.

They say BICEP might get mentioned in their Forbes article. I'll take that over Science or Nature any day.

Back to work. The loader is raised using the (well-placed) chain hoists. Kind of looks like a torture device.

Jamie as hoist operator.

BICEP is starting to poke its head above the mount...

One last view from the roof before the hole gets sealed up for the rest of the year.

The light at the end of the tunnel.

As the cryostat gets raised on the loader, Kiwon and Denis make precision adjustments to the loader position.

Kiwon perched in the treehouse.

Denis raising the cryostat -- almost there!

Some trolls that live in the ceiling...

Finally finished and looking at the sky!

A new use for the chain hoists.


Lab cleaning day...Denis and his badass screwdriver organizing skills.

We disassembled the swing set in favor of Denis's hammock.

Kiwon got frosted up on the walk back to the station.

We stopped to visit this lonely Christmas tree.

The vegetation here is rather strange.

...and we couldn't resist visiting the pole again. It's shiny.


Happy summer solstice!

A bunch of us helped make pies tonight for Christmas dinner. Pete's ready to go.

So are Derek and Jodi.

This is Yuki's first time making pies.

Yuki, me, and Pete with our first pie crusts.

Yuki is embarrassed by his first attempt, and (cruelly) I'm making fun of him. :-)

Pete claims he's an experienced piemaker.

A small fraction of the final products (minus the filling). That's a lot of pies. Yuki made the center one with a penguin poking out of the middle.

Kiwon took a break from taking photos to give it a try.

Over at the other table, Derek is making double-crusted pies. I don't know what Pete's doing in the background.

Liz and the giant bowl of apple pie filling.

Kiwon made an Antarctica pie.

Inspired by last night's game of Loot, we made not one...

...but two pirate pies.

This pie had a bit of an accident.


Yuki is spying on people in the other building using the optical camera.


The snow has been glittering recently. Tom thinks that the snow looks like it's full of diamonds.

A Christmas present for BICEP, a calibration tower mast.

Tom likes the swing too.


The station celebrated Christmas tonight, even though it's the day before. Lots of people gathered in the hallway before dinner begins.

A handful of people decide to bust out the Christmas carols.

Most people are dressed up for the occasion, in one way or another. Like me, Jill is also a big fan of the blue boots.

Everyone sitting in the galley for the start of Christmas dinner.

Pete got rid of his beard and glasses, and now everyone thinks he looks naked.

The kitchen staff, who prepared the most excellent dinner.

Adam, in his classy uniform, as a wine server.

Cameron and Dainella sitting across from me at the table.

The tables at the opposite end of the room. The folks who just arrived from the traverse are sitting on the left.

James Brown, bingo leader and master of the beef wellington.

A view from the opposite end.

James decided to abandon the beef for awhile and come hang out with us.

Pete made this pie crust!

I think this wine server had a little too much to drink (note the cup around his neck). He was advertising that the chocolate pecan pie was an aphrodisiac.

Me and Pete, without the beard.

It's George! One of the kitchen staff members, and owner of a pretty awesome laptop.

After dinner, the senior group members engage in an intense ping-pong match.

And Yuki pulls out his phenomenal pool skills again, this time against Leonard.

Denis's turn at ping-pong.

After the ping-pong and the pool, several rounds of Loot. Kiwon is demonstrating proper pirate technique. Yar!

Pete's kilt, which everyone else thinks is a skirt.

Several of us wandered over to the galley afterwards and discovered this kicking post-dinner party.

Lots of people dancing to classic 80's music...

Me and Adam. He's a construction worker who visits DSL once in awhile to play on the swing set.

The guy in the elf hat has some pretty good dance moves.

So does Derek.

Sara's trying to do a back flip off this guy's shoulders. (She succeeded.)


Merry Christmas! The station started off the day with the annual race around the world. All transportation modes are allowed...

Runners, walkers, skiers, etc to the left, and monster trucks to the right.

Lots of snowmobiles are decorated with random stuff.

I don't think this guy actually ran.

I found Santa! :-) Y'all just thought he didn't exist because you've been looking in the wrong place...

More people and vehicles gathering around the ceremonial pole for the start of the race.

Denis is ready to go.

Runners gathered at the starting line.

Team BICEP at the front of the crowd.

And they're off! (Adam's not off to a particularly good start.)

Running, biking, skiing, driving past the pole.

Bill's catching up to the Caterpillar vehicle.

Just like yesterday, lots of people are dressed up for the occasion.

Three modes of transportation going at about the same pace.

Jamie, leading the BICEP runners, trying to go faster than the Santa sled.

Most people survived the two laps around the world in one piece.

Cameron running with a massive globe in hand.

The BICEP runners!

The plumbers went all out and made this float that they attached to a snowmobile.

The urinals, bathtub, and drinking fountain are on the backside.

Cameron and his globe.

Everyone got covered in fluffy frost.

After the awards ceremony in the galley, I saw this advertisement for another holiday event.

Here are the race results for your enjoyment. Later in the afternoon, Yuki, Denis, Jamie, and I went to visit the land traverse team who just arrived from McMurdo (after 1.5 months of traveling).

We found a giant snow hill on the way; there's a nice view from the top.

Some of the jamesways next door to the elevated station.

Denis tried to climb up the steepest side of the hill.

We also found a sled at the top. :-) Yuki and I are the guinea pigs...

We survived the ride, but it was a pretty scary one.

Jamie and Denis decide to try it too.

For our last trip down the hill, we went down without the sled and got covered in snow. Yuki went belly-first like a penguin.

Mary Lou, a D8 that the traverse team is leaving behind as a Christmas present to the station.

They drag everything behind them, including a power generator, living quarters, food storage, fuel, etc.

Russell showing Jamie and Denis around the living area. It's a cute place, but a bit tight for eight people.

The crevasse detector -- a radar unit is mounted off the end of the mast.

Denis pretending to drive the elephant man.

BICEPers squeezed into the back seats.

The accelerator lever, which lets you go between turtle and rabbit speeds.

I'm riding shotgun.

Yuki as a snow sculpture.


Back to normal lab life...I put this contraption together today.

This took way too much time.

On my way back from DSL, I ran across Mary Lou in action. This thing can move a lot of snow!


A friendly face in the stairwell of MAPO. (Mike and Sherry, this photo is for you guys.)


Denis hiding in the groundshield for shelter from the wind.

Someone sabotaging the calibration mast...

This is the coolest thing I've ever seen: a portable bandsaw.

After amputating part of the mast, we attached the thermal source on the end.


On my walk to DSL, I crossed the skiway just as this plane was about to take off.

Zipping past the elevated station and starting to take off...


Denis, envious of Yuki's superhero costume, decides to get his own.

Yuki as superhero apprentice to Denis.

All suited up in the fire gear.

The beginnings of a moat surrounding DSL.


New year's eve at the south pole! Tonight's party was in the vehicle maintenance's the opening band playing.

Parachutes and lights are draped over the entire room, and they even made a cage.

The first guy to enter the cage, a head banger.

A crowd of polies and the stage in the distance.

The dancing crowd.


I actually have no idea who these guys are, but they seemed to enjoy posing for my camera.

Kiwon trying some of the punch in the back room. Note the "infectious substance" sticker.

Who is this man???

Victoria, Nate, and John in action.

Lots of people wearing funny hats. (That's Pete's natural hair though.) :-)

Cameron's expecting! And Yuki's trying to avoid being blinded by the flash.

Chris and the sign that he made himself.

Cameron and the ladies.

Caesar likes his Speight's.

This was mildly disturbing.

The beard and wig migrated over to Bill.

Denis and Kiwon representing BICEP in the cage.

The cargo crew decides to follow suit...

...and so does Matt.

Derek, not to be outdone...

...decides to start removing clothing as well...

...and Jill decides to join him.

Everyone's exhausted after a late night of dancing.

Aaack, what are they doing?!

Happy new year from 90 degrees south! :-) Gelukkig nieuwjaar!


Everyone's outside to watch the placement of the new geographic south pole marker. The auger is a red herring.

BK and Dehlia standing by the 2005 pole location.

First the sign gets moved...

And then the new marker is placed. (Dehlia designed last year's marker, so she gets the honor of unveiling the new one.)

Everyone likes this new shiny object.

The crowd around the new pole marker lasts for a long time.

Me and the new pole! (I kind of feel like one of those 419 scammers holding up that sign.)

The new marker shows a model of the elevated station. The 2005 marker is visible in the upper left of the photo.


Not only is our winterover already going insane, but he's also spreading the insanity to other decent members of the group.


Yuki is getting yet another superhero costume with help from Alison.

Kiwon as triangle man...

...a movie star in the making.

Yuki in his latest superhero incarnation, as universe man. (He's got a watch with a minute hand, a millenium hand, and an eon hand.)

The BICEP rendition of "Particle Man" will premier at the South Pole International Film Festival (SPIFF) on January 21, 2006. Be there!


Denis, leader of the Dowell reception committee, is going to be a Walmart greeter when he grows up.

There's Dr. Dowell on the right, waving at us...

...and bundled up in quite a lot of ECW gear for such a warm day. :-)

Darren and Denis, just a few minutes before the limousine arrived.


BICEP's last do-not-freeze box got delivered today. Kiwon is holding up a critical piece of scientific equipment that arrived in this shipment. (Darren looks confused.)


Two C-130s on deck today.

Admiral Darren. (This picture is for Greg. Yup, we're still getting plenty of mileage out of Loot.)

Denis as a pirate. Arrrr.


The admiral, hard at work.

A bunch of distinguished visitors came through today. John and Denis are entertaining the crowd.

This group of visitors was small, so they got shirts...and they were very happy about it.

The last group included John McCain and a bunch of other senators and congress folks.

Gazing out at the DASI groundshield.

Dr. Barkats explaining what's inside the cryostat.

Denis and the distinguished visitors.

Sarah giving an electronic virtual tour of QUaD.

The delivery of a critical piece of scientific equipment.

The senators and congressmen were looking at this photo on my laptop...I noticed later on that the neighboring tab on my web browser was a libertarian website.

The return of James Brown bingo! Yuki is playing using a "subtractive" technique (eating the chocolate chips as the numbers are called).

The BICEP bingo players.

Denis is thinking hard about his bingo strategy.


Just another lazy Sunday...


Chao-Lin vs Denis, each equipped with their favorite tool from the "desperate measures" drawer.


We found a dead body in the lab today.

...but turns out it was just a sleepy Yuki.

A windy, windy day.


Yuki and I went to visit Robert in the RF building today. Lots of racks of computers and electronics, and lots of colorful blinky lights.

Robert is the only person who works out here (!!), and he's responsible for all three satellites that connect the Pole to the outside world. I don't think he sleeps much.

The front of the giant dish that talks to the MARISAT and GOES satellites. The whole dish is enclosed in a sphere (to reduce wind loading).

Yuki and Robert climbing the stairs to the back of the dish. There's a little hut that contains the azimuth and elevation drive motors.

The back side of the dish. Cool eh? The echo effect in the sphere is amazing. :-)

Yuki and the entrance to the sphere.

A last look at the back side...this thing is really big.

The RF building is quite a walk from the station -- past the end of the berms.

Me and the sphere. It looks smaller from the outside than it does from the inside.

On our way back to the station, we found this guy's head in the snow.

He's experiencing mild discomfort...

...because he's missing a chunk from the back of his head.


White trash party in the summer camp lounge tonight... Paul went all out on his costume and even found a mullet wig.

Claire found some impressive stuff in the skua shack too.

Patrick says that the matching shirt and hat are his fancy Sunday clothing. Now that's class.

More people dressed up for the occasion.

...and a group photo.


The "South Pole Annuel Speling Beee" was held today. The contestants, from left to right: Bobby Da-veet-da, the symbol formerly known as Prince, Sugar, MasterBaker, and SPAM.

This picture is for Crystal -- you, too, could be in this position.


BICEP got another visitor today; Rick Feinberg, the editor in chief of Sky and Telescope magazine.

Denis is explaining all about BICEP, inflation, quantum fluctuations, and you.


We lost our clear blue sky today, but got a beautiful halo in exchange...unfortunately it didn't last very long.

The best one I've seen so far -- two rings, an inverted upper arc, and rays of light coming from the center encircling the entire sky parallel to the horizon.


After an extremely busy day in the lab...

SOUTH POLE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2006! Dr. Bahls and Patrick are setting up the equipment.

The kitchen went all out for this event and passed out cups of popcorn.

Checking the sound levels while the crowd grows.

In addition to popcorn, people even set up palm trees. Now that's classy.

Hien's taking a photo of the BICEP crowd.

When he's not busy being Admiral Dowell, Darren does product endorsements for fine foreign beers.

A crowd of general assistants clustered at the front of the galley...they're leaving us on Monday! :-(

Tyler, Jill, and Tony.

I got to sit next to one of the directors! (Apparently he was refusing to sign autographs though...)

Caesar being his usual self.

This is the most number of people I've ever seen packed into the galley.

I guess they got jealous of Denis's outfit.

The start of SPIFF! The films were outstanding. :-) (I hope to bring a dvd of them back to Pasadena...)

After the festival ended, the GAs went off to celebrate their last weekend on station. Naturally, after I saw Liz with her box of jello shots, I joined them.

...and ended up in the summer camp lounge.

Dancing to the fine selection of disco and other music that Derek provided.

Straight out of Garden State. (Poor Tyler!) The evening ended with a handful of people passed out on the sofas.

While the sharpie was being passed around, I contemplated adding some artwork to the jamesway walls...but I couldn't top this one.


No photos today, but a new record for people here with interesting jobs... I met a guy here who got offered a job to go scuba diving to look for about 1 billion dollars of gold on a sunken treasure ship. (He says the pay isn't so good.)


I found a platypus trying to squeeze into the calibration source today.


Ice Cube was deploying a detector string today, and a bunch of us went over to watch the excitement.

Unfortunately the detectors were long gone down the hole, but watching the cable descend was still fascinating.

Two kilometers down...pretty scary. Freezing cold air was flowing out of the hole.

The cable is fed from outside and drops down through a hole in the ceiling.

The platypus got tired of hanging out with BICEP and waddled over to the Ice Cube drill bits instead.

Checking the status of the string...

John, Hien, Andrew, and the platypus.

...standing a safe distance away from the hole. The Ice Cubers say that stuff has accidentally fallen in before.

The cable reel slowly unwinding outside the drill tower.


The third and final installment of James Brown bingo! (Hien's excited.) We're warming up with a game of speed Scrabble.

The second prize of the evening, a bag of fine coffee. One step above the first prize of the evening, a fanny pack.

Last one standing gets the coffee...

Kiwon and his Froot Loops. (This game is X marks the spot. We requested "pi" for the next game...a beaker special.)

Denis is trying to get ahead in the game while Kiwon's grabbing a cup of tea.

Despite Denis's efforts, Kiwon walked away with the $130 cash prize. There was much rejoycing.

A strange but peaceful scene on the bookshelf in the game room.


So that's what's in the emergency laundry room...a dryer with a Pete inside.


The last Pole party for the summer season...

Caesar was polling people on what country they thought this flag is from. (He didn't know, and I still don't know. But if you do, email me!) [05-Feb-2006 update: a friendly websurfer tells me it's the Armenian flag]

Lots of people celebrating the end of the season.

It's Robert!!

Blurry red lights in the summer camp lounge.

A ton of people hanging out at the bar.

Shiny green lights near the entrance of the jamesway.

Caesar's going crazy.

This is the most number of people I've ever seen packed in here.

A nice warm glow in the tent...


Misty and Kyle...not fighting :-)

Dainella's showing some embarrassing video footage from last year.

Pete wants to see too.

Pete spelled this all by himself!

Dr. Bahls.

Misty casually picking Pete's nose...

Spelling out more useful things with the Scrabble letters.

Misty and Nathan being friendly...

...or not.

Some sort of human pretzel.

I think Nathan conceded defeat at this point.


For tonight's Superbowl party, the kitchen roasted this pig.

(Luc, wil je een varken koken, of heb je liever nog vis?)

Lots of people gathered in the galley to watch the game.

Pete's leaving tomorrow, so we decided to pick up a radio from comms and explore the ice tunnels.

Lots of shiny blinky lights!

A view of one of the tunnels. You can't tell because I used the flash here, but it was pitch black where we were standing.

Perhaps this was leftover from a previous Superbowl party? A relic from the 2003 winterover team.

Another hidden artifact in the tunnels.

It's cold in the tunnels...we found a thermometer that read -55 C.

I got frosted up too.

The tunnels are reminiscent of a particle accelerator, except there's no curvature and there's a faint smell of sewage.

One of the pipes carries water, and the other carries waste. One last look back...


I woke up to the sound of the C-130 outside, and I dashed outside to say goodbye to Pete and Hien.

The outgoing passengers waiting to board the plane.

Today's flight is packed full, and I think my flight on the 15th has even more people.

Bob and Hien!

John and Hien in the crowd of people.

It's funny, after awhile you find it normal for people to dress like this around here. :-)

The outgoing passengers waiting just outside the elevated station.

Bright noontime sun on a beautiful day.

Denis, Hien, and John. This is the first time I've seen Hien wear the big blue boots during his entire time here.

The South Pole station international terminal. A bunch of us went inside the black box to warm up.

Hien got sucked into a Pole tourist trap at the last minute.

Finally people start boarding the plane...

A second plane landed shortly before. I'm not sure how they're going to squeeze everyone in there.

It's sad to see everyone go...

The second plane in the distance.


Two days left... The platypus left a long time ago, but its sign is still here.

A streak of light outlining the horizon.

Looking up inside the beer can. Industrial heaven.

A very chilly hallway.

...and a ladder that wanted to be climbed.

A spotlight at the top of the ladder.

A maze of heating pipes. It's pretty warm up here...

...but there are still lots of scary looking ice formations.

More holes in the roof.

This place reminds me of the guts of an alien. (Not that I have experience with these sorts of things.)

A giant mutant worm.

No, this place isn't scary at all.

Beam me up!

Looking down, off the edge of the roof.


Less than 24 hours left... Bag drag was a zoo because of the crowded flight tomorrow.

Alison and Greg weighing bags and people.

I finally made it over to Tom's jamesway and took a photo of the pee jug. (Mom, this picture is also for you.)

A message on the jamesway wall.


My last day at the Pole... My flight out is a straight-through flight, i.e. I don't spend the night in McMurdo, and I arrive in Christchurch about 12 hours after leaving the Pole. In those 12 hours: the ambient temperature rises by 100 degrees, humidity goes from zero to something that makes me feel like I'm going to turn into a prune, and day becomes night...for the first time in 83 days.

A last view of Skylab and the dome. Skylab was gutted and turned off this season, and will be gone next year. The dome was used for the last time this summer and is going to go cold for the winter.

I cheated and went into the greenhouse today. The smell was amazing...I touched a plant and could smell it on my fingers for hours afterwards.

Lane and his babies.

I finally solved the mystery of where the good music was coming from in the hallway.

My last few minutes in my room: a record of the weather conditions two days before the soft close of the station.

Waiting out on the flight deck, I got sucked into the same tourist trap that Hien visited before.

We're waiting for them to unload cargo from the plane.

In the meantime, lots of people are saying goodbye.

The shadows are getting pretty long these days.

A last look at the dark sector. Goodbye BICEP!

Robert is going to spend the winter here playing with his satellites.

This guy from National Geographic is filming us.

Another view of the crowd. Chris is clearly appropriately dressed in ECW gear.

Still waiting for the plane...

I got ambushed by Joey outside the South Pole international terminal.

Joey's happy to be returning to civilization.

Lots of big orange bags piled up outside.

Denis also wants his picture taken with the girl and the penguin.

Kiwon and John are amused.

Joey wants a turn too.

George looks like he's staring longingly at the plane. Yet another brave soul who's wintering.

Finally, it's time to go.

Slowly, we pile into the plane...

...and take off shortly afterwards. Just watching the station pass out of view from the window.

The plane isn't nearly as packed as I thought it would be. There was actually quite a bit of room to move around.

Looking forward to ditching these heavy orange bags.

A tangle of Carhartts.

We arrive at McMurdo after a short flight. The back hatch is open for combat offload of the cargo (the pallet is pushed out onto the snow while the plane is still moving). Pretty cool.

Exiting the C-130 at Willy field. McMurdo is nice and toasty in comparison to the Pole; it felt like a warm summer day.

We're all amazed by the features on the horizon. A view of Mount Erebus in the distance.

The beginning of a long wait for the next plane. We're all pretty hungry at this point...and were fed some fabulous sack lunches consisting of expired fruit juice and not-quite-peanut-butter sandwiches. Yummy!

Finally, after a few hours, our ride arrives: a monster C-17 plane.

Enjoying my last few minutes on this continent.

While we're all busy taking photos of the plane, a curious skua stops by to check out somebody's bags. (Whoa, wildlife!!)

I hope it enjoys the sack lunch more than the rest of us did.

After offloading the cargo and refueling, Ivan the Terrabus takes us over to board the plane.

The inside of the plane is ridiculously huge. This is a view looking towards the front from where I was sitting.

Unlike the C130s, C-17s have real seats (and a real bathroom!). Joey's happy about his comfy chair.

Looking towards the back of the plane where the cargo is stored.

The parkas make pretty decent sleeping bags.

The full length of the C17 interior. Wow.

By random luck, I ran into Harry again -- the metalsmith who I briefly visited when I first passed through McMurdo.

Another view of the plane interior.

All of our checked bags are palletized and strapped together into a monolithic cube at the back of the plane.

The view of the clouds outside the window is beautiful.

Something strange happened -- the light outside began to fade.

Everyone was thrilled to see the first sunset in months.

After a 5-hour flight, we arrive in the warmth, humidity, and dark. It all seems like a surreal dream.

And now for something completely different...

What to do after getting off the ice...? Immerse yourself in green.