Antarctica: February 2008

2-February-2008

Welcome home, Steffen! He's returning from a short, but well-deserved, vacation in order to babysit our telescope for the second winter in a row.

Home sweet dome... The tracks up the side mark a path for climbing to the top. Unfortunately, it's off limits.

Later in the evening...Mardi Gras party in summer camp, the last big social event of the summer. The SPT crew is all decked out in beads.

Beads all around, flashing under the disco ball. Who would have thought that the station would have such a large supply?

People's glittery attire also flashing under the disco ball.

About 5 carpenters dressed up (well, technically down) in diapers and safety harnesses for the party.

How to party like a Polie. Note the heart-covered bubble butt of the guy in the purple hat.

Some people decided to dress in very colorful outfits, and other people decided to remove excess clothing for the occasion.

The bubble butt is getting some action.

Brad grabbed Yuki when he saw that I was about to take a picture. I'm not sure what Brennan's trying to grab. Also note the, err, hat in the background.

I guess Brad saw the yellow sticker and found that more interesting than Yuki...

4-February-2008

Another productive day in the lab. Steffen is opening up his box of "granola bars and gadgets."

Yuki is sleepy. Or perhaps thinking about his top three...

An essential item in Steffen's packages: 9 sets of gnarly teeth, including "Clem."

5-February-2008

This season's German lesson: a DIP switch is a Mausklavier, or "mouse piano." That's too cute.

6-February-2008

During a period of slow telescope activity today, Yuki busted out his stretchy green thing for practicing his superhero skills.

He thought it would be fitting to use BICEP to help him exercise.

Practicing flying...

Later in the evening, Superbowl party in the galley. Carla, Michelle, Erik, Yuki, and Jude are waiting for the game to start.

I'm not much of a football fan, but I do enjoy the roast pigs that James the Hunter brings in every year.

Note the evil red eyes. These heads will probably eventually wind up somewhere in the ice tunnels.

7-February-2008

Today there was a solar eclipse! Shortly after 3pm, Steffen excitedly announced that the eclipse was starting, and he immediately ran downstairs and started shoveling snow. Hey, people have been known to do stranger things.

Yuki scrounged around in the lab for anything vaguely resembling a filter, and he dug up a sextant, of all things. Fortunately, we also had a pair of cheap eclipse glasses sitting around.

Yuki and gizmo/filter overload: goggles, sextant, and eclipse glasses.

Steffen finally stopped playing in the snow and joined us with his massive camera and tripod (one of several that he brought here, I think).

Steffen and his pimped-out mylar-covered ski goggles.

The BICEP sungazers.

Meanwhile, the SPT people have mounted a precision pinhole near a window and are staying indoors.

A closer view of the image projected from the SPT pinhole.

Yuki decided to make his own pinhole using the BICEP focal plane cheat sheet. The sun is bright spot on his forehead.

Steve is taking advantage of the good view from the BICEP side of the lab. Steffen has glowing goggles of death.

Steve is using the eclipse goggles to take a picture (and you can see the sun on his camera screen). :-)

Yuki found a better "pinhole," one of BICEP's aperture plates.

This particular plate has a couple of extra through-holes that make a funny sunny face.

Yuki, continuing on his mission to find any lab object with holes, finds the mounting ring for BICEP's window cover.

He looks like some sort of deity.

Me and the eclipse glasses.

Steffen and the eclipse glasses.

Yuki continues doing strange things with pinholes outside, and he soon acquires a couple of stalkers.

Everyone likes to take pictures of Yuki.

He's blowing fog at the pinhole to illuminate the beam of light...

...and trying to take a photo of himself at the same time.

The sun was only about 80% covered, so it didn't become very dark outside. Note the crescent-shaped reflection in my camera.

The temperature, however, dropped about 5 degrees, and it dipped below -50F. Very painful to take pictures outside.

Random photo of the day: a lizard lounging on the ceiling near the telescope.

Some of the sun photos that I got today with my dinky PHD camera and eclipse goggles...

8-February-2008

After yesterday's eclipse, the sky gave us another beautiful sight today.

There wasn't a complete halo around the sun, but there were small streaks of light coming out of the bright spots.

Steffen's taking pictures of the sun too, having just finished his photos of the outhouse. He's using Yuki's head to block the light.

An update on our constantly evolving whiteboard...

9-February-2008

Someone's working hard. :-) Photos and a book about a "4-hour work week"...

We took a break to visit our friends in SPT this afternoon. An elf named Tom lives up in the receiver cabin.

The electronics are shiny and colorful, and the pulse tube coolers provide a nice techno background soundtrack.

The receiver cabin docks to the lab ceiling, and it's accessed via a manlift. Yuki and Steffen are very excited to try it out too.

Clarence is not only an ideas man, but also a tour guide and ride operator.

Yuki and Steffen in the manlift, on their way up...

The next group of tourists have arrived. The receiver cabin is only about as large as the rooms in the elevated station, but there's enough space for all of us to squeeze in.

Yuki and Steffen are admiring the shiny electronics and the cozy receiver cabin space.

Meanwhile, Tom is trying to get some real work done.

If you climb up the white supports in the previous photo, you can get to the receiver and optics cryostats. Here's a view of the window.

Looking back down from the space up near the cryostats. Steffen, Tom, and Brad are at the bottom of the receiver cabin, while Yuki and Clarence are on the floor of the lab below.

Yuki's turn to visit and admire the cryostats.

Me and Zak hanging out in the cryostat area.

A waterfall of cables cascades down below us.

Yuki and Zak.

One last view of the cables and shiny electronics before heading back down.

Steffen, putting the "badass" in BICEP.

Looking back up into the receiver cabin, where Brad and Tom are back at work.

The base of the telescope looks like a spaceship, and there are ports that lead to the inside.

Clarence, SPT's idea man.

11-February-2008

The third-to-last major outgoing flight for the summer left this morning. The weather is getting a bit chilly, and the planes are starting to leave contrails on the flight deck.

Slowly, people with big parkas and orange bags start emerging from the station to catch their flight back home.

Bye, James Brown!

Time to board the plane. Steffen's at the front, taking pictures, as usual.

The plane starts leaving the flight deck...

...and soon there's nothing but smoke.

Meanwhile, back in the lab, Yuki has cannibalized an orange.

And he's attached some new hardware to the telescope.

In honor of Yuki's last day on station, we went to ARO in the afternoon to tour the clean air sector. Steffen looks like a typical ARO tourist.

Team BICEP, ready for action at all times. We made a quick stop at the ladies' powder room.

Amy, our tour guide, is showing off the shiny instruments for monitoring CO2, ozone, etc...including this precision tin can.

The coolest room in ARO houses the Dobson, which measures the column density of ozone. We got to collect our own clean air samples here to take back home! :-)

Later in the evening, more celebration in honor of Yuki's upcoming departure. We had two bottles of wine, but failed to find a corkscrew after nearly half an hour of searching. Clarence, SPT's ideas man, decided to tackle the problem with two steak knives.

Twenty minutes later, success! ...although the cork ended up inside the bottle.

Steffen, BICEP's ideas man, opted for a screw/screwdriver method instead.

Success in twenty seconds. It's clear that our telescope is in good hands for the winter.

Yuki's final sauna night at the Pole.

We all watched from the galley windows as he got his last hero shot for the season...

13-February-2008

I was supposed to bag drag yesterday and fly out today, but yesterday morning I got a call asking me if I wanted to stay a couple extra days. How could I refuse the offer? :-) It made my day.

I visited the upper part of SPT today. The telescope was docked, and it was the last opportunity for the summer crowd to get their hero shots.

Tom and Zak on the telescope, strapped in and ready for the carnival ride.

Erik's turn for a hero shot too.

BICEP looks small from the SPT side. It's really scary walking on top of the wooden walkway.

DSL, MAPO, and the station in the distance.

A closeup view of SPT's primary mirror.

Brad was also lying down and trying to get a good picture of the mirror.

The mirror is assembled from many panels, and the little black squares are photogrammetry targets.

Erik is a hardcore polie...

...and can stand -45F weather in socks and sandals.

The shields surrounding the mirror have hatches that open so that snow can be pushed out. It's a long way down.

Dana, one of the SPT winterovers, is already hard at work cleaning snow from the telescope.


South Pole flights are as predictable as the weather, and an announcement was made this afternoon that the station is closing tomorrow instead of Friday:

Hello South Pole,

If you haven't heard yet, the station is CLOSING TOMORROW!  Please
have your checked bags at Destination Zulu or Altie Meadows by 7pm
tonight!  There is no need to go to Cargo for bag drag, regardless of
which flights you are on.

There will be three flights, with passengers on the first and third
flights.  See the lists below so that you know which flight you are
on.

Flights may launch much earlier than currently posted on the scroll,
so be ready for an early departure in the morning!

Contact Comms if you have any questions, and keep in mind that we
close at midnight tonight and re-open at 6am.
I dashed back to the station from the lab to pack my bags. There are two pax out flights tomorrow, and I didn't find my name listed on either of them. Guess that means I'm spending the winter here...

Naturally, we celebrated our last day on station. I'm trying to learn Steffen's beer opening technique. (I failed.)

Tom is also documenting the alcohol-filled table in the quiet reading room.

Brad is taking a short break from last-minute telescope work to hang out and update us on the latest Pole gossip.

Steffen's tired. It's hard work, partying with the SPT crowd after an early morning telecon.

Clarence is also tired.

Eventually the party ended at 5am, and we all went for breakfast.

Most of the summer people have cleared out by now, and the population is down to 114. The last three flights are listed on the scroll in the empty galley.

14-February-2008

All good things come to an end, and my ride home arrived at Pole on time despite my hopes for bad weather.

People start emerging from the station. There are fewer people on my flight than the last one of the day/season.

Final goodbyes. The guy on the right is checking off the passenger list.

Steffen's busily taking pictures, as always.

According to Steffen, this is now a BICEP tradition.

One last look at the Dark Sector...

...and one last look at our winterover as I board the plane. BICEP's summer is officially over!

Into the C-130, which is more crowded than it looks in this picture. There's some random cargo in the back and a huge pallet of luggage.

Our carry-on bags are stashed in the middle of the plane, and the pax are sitting in two rows on the sides.

After a brief flight, time to get off the plane. It's a bit of a mess as people in poofy parkas pick up their giant orange bags.

Welcome back to McMurdo!

We've landed at the Pegasus airfield, and it's a long ride back to the station.

Some guy is straightening the propellers as we head towards Ivan the Terrabus.

The Terrabus is even more crowded than the plane, and it's about a 30 minute ride into town.

I decided to spend the afternoon wandering around town instead of sleeping. This was probably a stupid idea.

Hut point. The little specks in the upper right are seals lounging on the ice.

McMurdo is brown and dirty at this time of the year. People say that this place is like a mining town, while Pole is more like a space station.

But beyond the crusty brown, there are beautiful mountains in the distance.

Another view of the mountains.

The bridge in the back of Building 155, the main hub of McMurdo...

...and the guardian of the bridge.

It's Valentine's Day, and Tom is celebrating by eating a very pink cupcake.

We arrived in time for American night at Scott Base, and a bunch of us went to hang out with the Kiwis in the evening. There's a cool can crusher at the Scott Base pub.

Me in action with the can crusher. (You stomp on the foot pedal in order to crushinate.)

Joe was also hanging out at Scott Base, and he mixed this scary looking green drink. The color was definitely more frightening than the taste.

Sometime in the evening, the bartender brought out this strange device...a ski with 5 shot glasses epoxied to it, or "shotski," as I was told. Some pretty gross stuff is encrusted on the glasses, so he's cleaning it out.

And the sequence of events that followed...

Joe likes the ski idea and is scheming something.

After a long evening, it's time to go home. The view from Scott base is even more beautiful than the view from MCM.

I hear the first sunset is on February 20. It's strange to see the sun so low in the sky.

15-February-2008

This morning, a tourist ship appeared near the station and was periodically sending out tourist-filled helicopters. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough time to walk all the way out to hut point before my flight.

The outgoing C-17 flight is packed full, and transport is a mess. Lots and lots of people and parkas trying to squish through the cargo office.

A bunch of MCM people were standing in the cargo office, cheering as each outgoing passenger walked through the door. I guess everyone's excited to go home at the end of the season.

Packed onto the Terrabus again and slowly driving back out to Pegasus.

That's my ride to Christchurch.

An endless stream of red people boarding the C-17.

A look back at the Terrabus...

...and Erebus, smoking in the distance.

Brad, Zak, Tom, and the rest of the SPT crew are on my flight too.

Time to go.

Clarence is being an asian tourist again.

Brad's ready to go home.

This is the first time I've seen the back of the plane entirely filled with people instead of cargo.

Emperor Erik tried to get some sleep, but he unmasked himself after he saw us taking pictures.

Brad's Go Picnic box has "stoned classics." It seemed funnier at the time because I was really low on sleep.

During the flight, people gradually shed their ECW gear and start looking normal again.

Welcome back to Christchurch...

Time to take the bus over to customs and return to civilization.

Good times guaranteed in CHC on a Friday night...

16-February-2008

Last day in Christchurch before returning to Pasadena. It was cold and rainy, but fortunately there are many entertaining things to do indoors.

One last ginger beer at the Dux. Everyone was confused/intrigued by the pot belly painting.

"The alley" has a handful of nice pubs. The greenhouse tech recommended it two years ago, but I didn't find it until now.

Clarence is pretending not to notice the lady with the Mars Attacks hair on the other side of the room.

Brad at the bar, looking like he's about to execute an evil plan. An evening in the alley is definitely a nice way to finish a trip to the ice.

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