Antarctica: April 2012


This week we're covering all the windows on station in preparation for the aurora cam (and other light-sensitive instruments) turning on for the winter.

Tiny little square covers for the giant freezer doors in the DSL receiving area.

Frowny and smiley. :-)

A little darker every day... A couple people here (with better vision than me) have already been able to see a few stars appearing in the sky.


An empty, quiet galley, late at night. We're having a window cover contest this week, and the first submissions are beginning to appear.

A couple of colorful covers in the galley center: dreaming of the beach, and a Pink Floyd tribute.

This is my entry...just a single piece of cut paper, inspired by Peter Callesen.

A Polie, the ceremonial Pole, and the surrounding sastrugi. Steffen was quick to point out that there aren't enough flags.


There are plenty of green apples left, but this is my very last red apple...

On the bright side, more mint from the greenhouse! Yippee!


In my groggy state this morning, I thought I was seeing things on the horizon. And then I realized it wasn't just my imagination...

Star light, star bright, first star I see first star in almost three months.

Our frosty crossing beacon and the faintest slice of the orange moon, peeking over the horizon.

DSL looking beautiful in the dim light.

A mere two hours later, the moon is visibly higher above the horizon.

DSL and the rising moon.

The orange moon and SPT.

By the time I walked the short distance to MAPO, my fingers were already numb and I had to pop inside to warm up. It's -90F today.

And by the time I left MAPO, the shape of the moon had already shifted again. It was difficult to continue walking to the station without looking back every other step.

A faint hint of green light at the top of the moon.

MAPO and the giant, orange, surreal moon.

Looking out towards the dark sector from the observation deck at the station.

After lunch, the moon had already moved to the other side of the dark sector. I'll take this over a wrist watch any day.

Zooming in on the flickering edges, traces of green, and hints of craters. What a breathtaking sight.

This afternoon's diversion: a trip to the ham shack!

Kris is trying to pick out call signs from the alphabet soup on the airwaves. It's evening in the US, and there's a ridiculous amount of radio traffic.

Invaluable cheat sheets for novices like me. I don't even know all the letters off the top of my head.

We're logging the times of our contacts, call signs, sent/received signal strengths, names, and locations. Plus, a handy note for me so I don't have to remember what to say: CQ, CQ, CQ, this is KC4AAA Kilo Charlie Four Alpha Alpha Alpha, South Pole Station, calling CQ and standing by.


This evening's entertainment: radio darts! Kris is calling up McMurdo and Scott Base and getting ready to start the game.

Go Team Katie! Showing us how it's done...

Dale's turn to show off his mad skills.

And Katie is totally excited...

...because Doc hit a bullseye!

Kris has the electronica cranked outside of comms, and it's a rockin' party.

Kris's turn to throw.

By some freak accident, I got a bullseye too! (After scoring 3 points in the last round.) Alas, the few of us were no match for Mactown 1, but we're chomping at the bit for a rematch.

While waiting for my turn, I was admiring this map of distances from the South Pole.

The selected list of places is pretty random, and even includes Kwaj!


We hit -100F for the first time this season! It's surprisingly early in the year for such low temperatures...we've supposedly tied a previous record.

...and a little later, still below -100F. The wind outside was low, but it defintely wasn't zero knots.

After celebrating the cold weather, time for warmer indoor activities. Like making marshmallows! John is finishing up the marshmallow fluff while I work on making colored sugar.

Next lesson: learning how to pipe the marshmallow goo. The stuff is insanely sticky, springy, and crazy difficult to work with.

Well, the first peep is sort of recognizable, but there was a rapid de-evolution as the marshmallow goo quickly cooled off. A fun learning experience though, and I've got ideas for a future round. :-)


Happy Easter! The Easter bunny visited us last night and left baskets of goodies outside everyone's room! Yay!

My basket contains cheesy crackers, an assortment of Christmas candy, and Antarctic temporary tattoos.

And a bonus Easter present from Robert: MICRO ritter sport chocolates! With KNUSPERFLAKES! I've learned a new and useful German word today.

The galley is adorned with colorful, festive decorations, and Dale cooked an amazing Easter feast for us this evening! Unfortunately, no food photos because I was too busy snarfing down the yummy creations...

My tiny contribution to dinner was a couple of gimpy chicken peeps, plus a handful of rabbit peeps. Of ridiculous size...

...because the only cookie cutter option I had was a rectangular piece of pallet banding material that I reshaped into a rabbit. It's a harsh continent.


In celebration of Yuri Gagarin's first flight into space on April 12, 1961, we're having our own Yuri's Night at the Pole and joining the world space party.

Mel painted this amazing be-an-astronaut cutout in just two evenings! And the astronaut suit is surrounded by alien tentacles! And as if that wasn't enough, the VMF duct tape aliens decided to join the party too.

A space party isn't complete without a spaceship, so here's our very own South Pole Shuttle, on the launchpad and ready for action.

It's mounted and strapped to a wheely chair for rides down the hallway.

On the snack table, we had a moon made of cheddar cheese...

...and a flying saucer made of blue cheese and dates.

This little monster friend is piloting the spacecraft.

A bowl of unsculptable ghetto-but-delicious garlic cheesy something or another.

And perhaps the highlight of the food table, melon morsels from the greenhouse! This is the second of two precious melons that were lovingly planted over the summer and just recently harvested.

The first partygoers arrive, and JP takes the inaugural shuttle ride.

Robert Schwarz is in the house!

Shortly after, he's joined by TWO other mysterious men dressed in spacesuits.

Silent spaceman and his Skyy, sitting in the spaceship.


Silent spaceman needs to lift the helmet chin in order to take a sip from the bottle.

The party crowd on this side of the room: two spacemen, a silvery Joselyn, a shiny Jase and Mel, and Kris, our chief publicity officer.

No Yuri's Night party would be complete without white russians. And the Heathers put together an awesome compilation of Yuri video footage that's playing in the background, along with Kris's electronica.

Kasia's grand entrance as the Princess of Mars!

Time to turn on the flashing lights and get the disco ball spinning. Robert's zipper is glowing under the blacklight.

The lovely Joselyn and Kasia, shining under the disco ball.

Meanwhile, silent spaceman is mixing drinks...

...his charm is apparently irresistable.

Robert is enhancing silent spaceman's suit with orange highlighter.

The marker that Jono picked works remarkably well under the blacklight.

Chris is coloring in his tattoo, which looks pretty badass when it's glowing.

Markers all around... I think Kasia is writing CCCP in huge letters on Jase.

Good times guaranteed in B3.

Kasia's moving on to decorating Jase's back.

Silent spaceman enjoys the company of average citizens in addition to other spacemen.

Time for some action packed spaceship rides down the hallway! Joselyn and the shuttle are re-entering B3...

Jos is greeted by the pit crew upon a successful landing!

Robert's turn for a ride, and Sven is helping him attach his helmet. We're all about safety first here.

Clear the pit, because we're ready for launch!

Oh no, a premature launch!

Mel's turn for a ride down the hallway...

...and silent spaceman's turn. We're standing at the end of the hallway, ready to catch.

He's taking a break to dance with this unique attire.

The last crash of the evening, and the shuttle's done for. Although it's not obvious in the photo, the chair actually looked a lot worse.

At least the shuttle shards are being put to good use.

Finally, a photo of the whole group, thanks to Kris, our designated photographer!


Our first aurora of the season appeared a week ago, but then it got cloudy...but it cleared up again today, and I had my camera with me.

Green fire in the sky. Having never seen auroras before coming here, I spent the entire walk to the lab gazing up, unable to look away, stumbling over snowdrifts and crashing into the flagline.

The thinnest sliver of a crescent moon is setting...

...and the last hints of light on the horizon are disappearing.

MAPO in the shadows and the setting moon.


Just as I was about to climb the stairs to the station, returning from my walk to the lab, I turned around and saw this is in the sky.

Nature's ultimate happy pill, the reason I came here for winter.


More mint from Joselyn! And what better way to use it than in a gin gin mule...

Another successful evening in the QRR.


Joselyn is hosting the greenhouse's first farmer's market of the season!

The little table shows off some of the tasty noms made with greenhouse-grown greens: cute little radishes, a bowl of tomato + onion + bell pepper + basil + balsamic awesomeness, arugula + radish green pesto, dill, etc.

Inside the greenhouse, there's a cheese tray of epic proportions.

Joselyn also takes requests, and I'm her first mint customer. :-)

There are all sorts of wonderful things springing to life in the grown chamber, including this strawberry plant!

Cute and colorful bell peppers!

And a wee cucumber flower!

Time to put the mint to good use...

The greenhouse crowd spills into the hallway, and Sven is standing guard at the door.

Jerry and Kasia...

and Derek...

...are enjoying the ridiculously huge cheese plate, a pile of crab legs from dinner, and some wine. A harsh continent indeed.

A special treat for the evening: a jug of beer from the winter 2012 brewing collective! Marcus is pouring out a sample for me to try.

It's the best beer I've had on station so far. And it looks especially festive with this little sampler dish that Joselyn made.

Jono brought out a six-pack of another homebrew batch, courtesy of Team Icecube.

Also tasty, but a little fizzy...he's trying to get rid of some of the fizz.

Well, perhaps way too much fizz.

Click here for May photos and adventures...

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