Antarctica: February 2012


Harry managed to score a day trip from McMurdo to Pole! Unfortunately the "sleigh riders" only get to stay on station for about 30 minutes.

But it's enough time to warm up in the galley, catch up a bit, say hello and goodbye.


Today Dana and Daniel are reinstalling one of the elevation motors after the coupling was replaced. We're crammed into one of the yoke arms of the telescope (the grate on the floor is the entry hatch).

The yoke arm has a wooden platform halfway up, and I'm perched there while Dana and Daniel climb down.

Looking back up into the yoke arm. It's far more fun than a tree house!

The next step is to refill the motor with oil. Dana is dealing with the motor while Daniel pumps the oil from below.

All done! Nick is grabbing the oily's a messy job...


This, folks, is a jar of cheesy spread that was excavated from Old Pole a few years ago. Yes, the expiration date is 1974. No, we didn't eat it.


After a week of SPT bootcamp, Dana and Daniel are returning home. The new and old winterovers: Team Little Red and Team Carhartt!

Goodbye, Dana and Daniel! It's been a great week, and we're all sad to see them go.


Because the weather was so nice today, several of us decided that it was glamor shot day. Nick (Prime) loves the Pole!

...and I heart Small World Coffee.

I didn't last very long without a fleece though. About -35F today, and -60F wind chill.

Its been brutally windy in the past couple of days, and we've gotten some gorgeous snow drifts around the station. It's still sad to see the empty spot near the Beer Can where the dome used to be.

And now for something completely different: a massive, mutant kiwi that I picked up in the galley earlier in the day.


It's the last summer Saturday night on station, so what better way to celebrate than with a Pants Off Dance Off?

The window decorations in the B1 lounge: many, many pants.

Flint and Mary are rocking the one-legged pants, pantaloons, and pirate patch.

No pants to be seen here.

Jase is the winner: jorts AND iridescent blue shorts, all in the same evening!

He has many admirers...

As always, spontaneous dancing broke out after awhile.

And those who aren't dancing are ganged up on by multiple people...

...but Nick refuses to cave to the pressure.

Goodbye, summer nights...


There seems to have been an absence of good sun halos this season, but I finally saw a decent one from the lab today. (Nick is the small speck walking over from the station.)

Signs of approaching winter...a bundle of flags outside DSL.

Pee and poop barrels have also appeared. We apparently need to have a bathroom meeting at some point (because it's been all dudes all the time for the past N winters).

The summer solar (outhouse) will soon disappear.

This partcular outhouse is known as the "Olivia Newton John." Several of her posters decorate the walls.

All of the CMB people are leaving tomorrow, so we celebrated by watching THE ROOM (once again). And drinks in the galley, of course. Sarah is skeptical of Flint's vodka water.

Erik and I opted for manhattans instead. In coffee mugs, with cherries of extreme awesomeness!

Yes, it's the end of a weekend here.

My favorite piece of dish pit art by Sidney. "Let's pretend we don't exist / let's pretend we're in Antarctica."


All of the summer telescope folks are leaving today, and they're all trying to do last-minute work in the science lab before being called to the plane. For Nick and me, this marks the start of SPT winter!

Just documenting some of the bizarre things that have accumulated in the lab over the years. Such as this box that used to contain SPT formal wear. For Erik.

At SPT, we're all about baiting the ladies with miscellaneous computer hardware.

The skua bin has been overflowing with goodies as the summer folks have been leaving, and I found this amazing Helly Kitty alarm clock the other day. Nick turned it into official SPT bling with the help of some golden mardi gras beads.

Nick passed the bling on to me to wear to the flight deck. I fully intend to wear it again to greet the first flight of the summer, nine months from now.

We all decided to bomb people with goodbye kisses in the style of The Room.

Oh bye, Erik!

Sheehy and Justus are finally done with work and are making their way to the flight deck.

The last of the SPT summer crew! Clarence, Stephen, Nick Prime, Erik, Ryan. We're very sad to see them go.

Nick Prime and Nick Alpha swapped name tags so that Nick Prime would be stuck here for the winter.

The second to last mass exodus of the summer season. Goodbye, beaker buddies!

Steffen's preventing me from hopping on the plane with the others...

...and then, long after all the passengers boarded, a distant Sarah running frantically to the flight deck!

Robert scooped her up on the snowmobile while all of us were taking pictures.

VIP transportation to the plane! Just enough time for a couple of hugs...

...and then the fuelie grabbed her bag and both started running to the plane at top speed. Goodbye, Sarah!

It's all quiet back in the science lab, now that all the summer people have gone, and that means there's room for Steffen to unpack and sort his monstrous collection of goodies. Like this rowing machine that he shipped down...

He's very excited about this shiny new toy. It's going into his private workout room.


The station is closing for the winter tomorrow, and there are signs of the end of summer everywhere you look. The mail drop slot has been taped shut for over a week now.

The giant pile of checked bags for the last outbound passengers. It's always a bit sad to see this stack at DZ.

All of the mailboxes have been empty for quite some time now, except for the occasional odd beer bottle or bowling ball. I hear the latter is occasionally used as a shot glass.

The end of summer always coincides approximately with Valentine's Day.

We're all celebrating the end of summer with another party in the B1 lounge. There aren't many people left, so not quite enough critical mass for dancing like rock stars.

Mikey is trying to smuggle booze bottles in his jacket to take on the plane tomorrow.

Flint and Mikey, enjoying fine red wine in galley cups.

You know the party is starting to get good when the shirts come off...

...and people start napping on the pool table. Flint wants no part of this.

Good times in B1.

It's Mikey! This guy cracks me up. He does an amazing, spot-on Werner Herzog impersonation.

Dave is excited about leaving tomorrow! Flint is...apparently excited about things too.

We took a break from the party for a brief subfloor expedition. Flint is bagging his shoes to keep the dust off. All style, all the time.

Venturing into the subfloor...with a bottle of winter 2010 pinot noir!

Emerging back out of the gnome hole...

...and getting rid of the dusty bagshoes.

This, peeps, is a book that Flint bandsawed to remove the spine and scan the pages. And now it's going to be reglued back together.

Back to B1, where we found that the party was long over and that we were the last ones standing.

Time to relocate the party to the band room and rock out for awhile before facing the departing flights tomorrow morning.


Today's the big day...station close! The first plane of the day takes most of the remaining summer people and connects them to a straight-through flight back to Christchurch. Steffen and I are out to say goodbye to Flint.

Upholding the old BICEP photo tradition that was started by Bill 5 years ago.

I suspect Steffen is poking fun at Flint for showing up late to his flight. With three carry-on bags!

The crowd of outbound passengers, waiting for the plane to finish refueling.

Time on the flight deck always passes in a split second, and all too soon, it's time to board.

Goodbye, Flint! It's very sad to see old friends leave...

Bye, Dave! He's still super excited about leaving.

Steffen, armed with camera and tripod, always ready to photograph.

After a couple more hours, the very last plane of the season arrives on deck to take away the rest of the summer crew.

The last handful of passengers begin to emerge from the station.

Waiting at the flight deck again. Most of the last passengers out are fuelies, fire fighters, and people who are stopping at McMurdo on the journey north.

It's starting to get cold outside, and my eyelashes are frosted up so much that it's becoming difficult to see.

Time to board! A handful of the winterovers are standing at the flight deck entrance, hugging everyone as they head for the plane. The South Pole flight deck truly is the warmest place on earth...

Other winterovers stay behind, looking on as our summer friends depart.

Robert and Steffen, sporting twin parkas, stalking out the plane with their cameras.

Finally (after some minor mechanical issues with the skis), the engines rev up, and the plane turns to leave. Goodbye, goodbye!

The plane takes off in the distance, above a crowd of winterovers who are still waving goodbye.

The pilot loops back around and buzzes the station to say goodbye to us.

Zooming past the Dark Sector...

...farewell! We're now officially landlocked until November!

Today's weather at station close: -49 F, with -77 F windchill. No wonder I couldn't feel my fingers and toes after returning from the flight deck.

The flight scroll is now empty, and the station population is 50. "It's only good from here on out! Winterovers rule!!"

Following tradition, we all gathered in the gym to celebrate station close by watching The Thing. Happy winter, everyone! It's going to be an awesome one!


BEST BELATED VALENTINE'S DAY PRESENT EVER: a chunk of pink foam from Jono, of the waste department, so I can carve a toilet seat for DSL. Somebody offered to, eh, trace an outline while I sat on the foam (raises eyebrows).


It's time for one of the first preparations for winter: the beverage pull! We're entering the A4 berthing wing, which will be used for cold storage during the winter.

Waiting in the hallway as the first box of beverages is delivered to the bottom of the stairwell.

Spencer is ready to man the conveyor belt.

Outside, Greg approaches with our first delivery.

One of many boxes to be unloaded into A4.

We form a human chain on the stairs to pass the drinks into the station. Lynette has a box of Tui...

...and Carlos has a special delivery of Fat Tire!

A box full of Monteith's and Tui, NZ specials...and no shortage of Miller, our US special.

The final unloading of the booze boxes.

Katie is scooting the conveyor belt to the other side of the hall, which will house the soda.

One of the results of our hard work!

Nine months of drinks for 50 people...


A long day of telescope maintenance today...including climbing up into the yoke arms again to inspect the elevation motors. The grate is the entrance hatch. From this perspective, it looks like a tiny jail cell.

Nick is hard at work on the readout electronics, trying to debug one of the boards.

The work required a lot of climbing around the receiver cabin...including monkey around above the electronics rack. It's a long way down.

Above the electronics rack is the secret back door to the cabin, which we may use in an emergency if the telescope can't be docked and accessed from the lab. The gnome door is tiny and requires a fair bit of gymnastics in order to get in.

Looking back up to the top of the cabin and the gnome door.


While groggily walking out to the lab this morning, Mother Nature gave me this present.

First task of the day: climb onto the cabin roof to inspect the shroud that surrounds the cryostat window.

It's a long way down from here...

...but totally worth it for the beautiful view of DSL, MAPO, and the station.

In a mere hour or two over lunch, the flag line suddenly appeared! Just like Hansel and Gretel's bread crumbs, leading us back home.

A long line of flags, which will guide the way out to the Dark Sector after sunset.

The fork in the road...left turn for Icecube, right turn for MAPO/DSL.

Looking back at the complete line of flags after returning to the station.

X marks the spot for home, Destination Alpha at the station.


Time for another roof trip today! Nick is climbing the ladder to get to the top of the cabin.

The weather's been pretty gross lately, so we have a fair amount of snow to clean up on the cabin roof.

Sven and Carlos stopped by to say hi, and they're also enjoying the rooftop view.

Tiny people and the gigantic primary mirror...

Looking back up through the roof hatch.

It's (rightmost) Heather's birthday today! A handful of us gathered in Tracy's room and then B1 to celebrate...he's enjoying the company of both Heathers.

...and JP is enjoying the company of Shawn.

Tracy looks about as sleepy as I feel. JP not so much.

Shawn fixes vehicles here, and he taught our snowmobile class the other day.

Cocco is thrilled to be reunited with his drambuie!


It's Saturday night, and time to break out a martini...

...for the Mardi Gras party! It's pretty mellow for starters. Jase, Mel, and John are just hanging out on the sofa.

But soon the taunting to earn beads begins.

Mel is showing off her breakdancing moves to the rest of us.

Beads, masks, and ridiculous attire for all!

Mel insisted that everyone get up and dance...

...she's excited to have dragged him off the sofa!

Beads and masks aren't enough for some people like Jono, who's adorning himself with the Christmas lights.

The light costume soon got turned into a jump rope.

Nick is kicking ass at the light rope!

Everyone in the room got called over to give it a try.

After jump roping, it's time for limbo! Shawn is demonstrating how it's done.

And Jase is successfully lowering the standards.

The last ones standing at the end of the night...Lynette, Tracy, Heather, Gus, Shawn, JP!

Click here for March photos and adventures...

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