Antarctica: March 2012


Shawn and Johnny are making baguettes tonight in preparation for Sunday's dinner, and Nick and I are tagging along as kitchen tourists.

Johnny and the Hobart, waiting for the dough to finish kneading.

After the dough is finished and waiting to rise, it's time to return to the game of hearts with Shawn, Nick, and Gus. Shoooot da moooooon!!!

Nick is scheming something and looking partcularly sneaky as he prepares to deal the cards.

After a short wait, the dough is ready to be shaped into loaves. Johnny is dividing the dough and teaching us his expert baguette technique.

All of us want turns trying our hand at playing with the dough. Hats are required in the kitchen, and Nick chose a real winner.

Hard at work...

I get a turn with the dough too, with my favorite kitchen hat!

The finished products! They both look and smell amazing.

Shawn is unloading the bread to store inside a plastic bag.

The complete bread pile, ready to be cheesesteakified.


It's Saturday night, and everyone is out to play SKUA BINGO!

Nate's grand entrance, explaining what items he found where.

Shawn found some amazing hats in the heavy shop for me and Nick to use! I got the fuzzy purple pimp hat, and Nick has an elephant.

Ethan found a very tall top hat, Sheri found a blue robe, and Gus found a a Michael Jackson jacket.

Kasia, Mel, and Jase are ready to party like rock stars!

Eeyore keeps falling off Nick's head, so Shawn's trying to reattach him to his shoulder.

Heather is the first winner of the evening! She has the choice of a bag of coffee and a mug...or the MYSTERY SKUA ITEM INSIDE THE BOX!

I'm the second winner after Heather, so I get to host a round! Katie made out like a bandit with her pez win!

All of the bingo players, dressed in the finest that skua has to offer. Sven's duct tape patches are particularly classy.

Nick enhanced the elephant hat with the rhinestone eyelashes from the Bieber shrine and miniature wooden shoes from Mammoet.

It's Jase's turn to host the final blackout round, and he's checking if Travis is actually a winner...

JP and Gus are anxiously waiting to hear the results.

Bingo's over for the night, and it's time to take some final glamor shots of everyone's skua costumes. This one's for the lab.

Ack, I wasn't expecting a sneak attack!

Shawn found a pile of fuzzy blue things in skua, including PENGUIN PANTS! The Oscar slippers are very cheerful.

Time for Robert to try on the fuzzy purple hat...and he's rocking it!

...especially with those amazing yellow pants!

Nick and I aren't the only ones with business time shirts on station! It's hard to tell in this picture, but Jono has a soda can stuffed down his pants.

Robert and the pez empire, ruled by C3PO. They're getting ready to break out the board games.

JP's costume consisted of skua toiletries. Jono is borrowing the dental floss...


It's Sunday and the galley staff get a break from cooking, but Shawn has volunteered to make philly cheesesteak sandwiches for dinner. He's busy trimming and cutting a ridiculously huge chunk of beef.

All the sandwiches are made to order with different cheese and veggie options, and I'm getting written instructions for waitress duty.

Time to fire up the stove and cook the first pile of meat for the first sandwich!

The bread from Friday night, ready to be cheesified and toasted.

The orders start coming in fast, and there's a long line of sandwiches waiting to be made.

One of the final products. The order form from Jase says "you kick ass!" :-)

Nick is studying the assembly process.

Another one of the finished products. All meat and cheese, all the time.

Shawn made a batch of super secret cheese sauce to go on the sandwiches, and it disappeared quickly.

The grillmaster, hard at work.

He decided to make Sven's delivery himself, the last sandwich of the evening.

Finally, it's time for us to get sandwiches too! This one's mine, a heaping pile of awesome.

After a couple hours of sandwich-making frenzy, the dinner crowd dies down and it's time to clean up the mess...


We got the best email ever from our amazingly awesome greenhouse tech today: free MINT from the growth chamber!

This calls for immediate action: minty drinks!

I have no muddler here (it's a harsh continent), so here's my best attempt at smashing mint leaves into simple syrup with a teaspoon.

Time to add the bourbon...

And a little mint garnish...

The finished product, my first mint julep! :-)


The very last orange that I've been saving in my room.

Gone. No more until November. :-(

We docked the telescope for more maintenance today and invited some people over to visit. Shawn is helping us check the health of the cabin heaters...

...and also providing backup dancing for moral support.

Time for a quick tour of the yoke arms and a peek at the elevation motors.

Kris peering out of the upper platform in the yoke arms.

Next tour stop: the treehouse above the cable wrap and the azimuth axis.

It's my first trip up here too, and it's awesome!

Shawn and the cable wrap down below.

Later in the evening, it's time to use up the last bit of mint for a mojito party in the greenhouse! JP is hard at work crushing the mint leaves.

Good times guaranteed in the growth chamber with JP, Sven, Carlos, and Shawn.

Carefully measuring out rum for the mix...

Shawn is working on crushing the second batch of mint using his patented two-spoon technique.

Sven and the finished product!

The last of the mint next to my glass.

After the taste test, JP decided that he needed more rum.

Carlos agrees. More mint and more sugar were also in order.

Time to kick back, relax, and celebrate with our minty creations.

I'm admiring the local sights, including this happy gnome and hibiscus flowers of ridiculous size.

I also found a pair of goofy goggles sitting under the plants. They're great for staring at the LED lights.

Carlos wants a turn too.

JP is enhancing the goggles with his own sunglasses.

Shawn was also persuaded to give them a try.

The last batch of the evening! A little spillage from overzealous pouring, but nothing was lost.


Some strange fliers have been appearing around the station lately. The one and only Sven is totally representing Team FIVE.

And Nate is advertising (1) free banana sled rides to the dark sector and (2) his LMR number. (Or rather, Jono is advertising Nate's services.) Don't be shy.

We haven't seen much of the sun lately, but the clouds are slowly starting to disappear today...starting with this sliver of light on the horizon.

A few more clear patches of light above the radomes.


The sky has been filled with clouds for the past few days, but the sun finally popped out briefly to say hello. There's even a faint trace of sundogs if you look carefully!

The moon is also up, and it's beautiful to see in the waning light.

DSL in the dim light, the sun reflecting off the giant freezer doors.

The sun elevation is only about 3 degrees now, and it makes the horizon appear a stunning gray color that's impossible to capture with a camera.

MAPO, the station, and building 61. And the flagline, receding into the distance.

SPT is very happy to finally see clear skies.

My very, very, very long shadow.


A special treat for breakfast: Mel's amazing happy donuts!

The galley dessert cart always has tasty creations and a semi-infinite stash of fresh cookies.

The sun is popping in and out of the clouds today, and it makes the horizon look absolutely gorgeous.

The sun in my eyes as I walk back to the station...

A bunch of new pillows were unloaded into the station, and this box is for anyone who wants to trade in their old nasty pillows.


My shadow and my telescope. :-)

The clouds really cleared out today, and the horizon looks more beautiful than ever.

The moon is also up, and it makes this place look like an alien landscape.

The harsh shadows on the snow are mesmerizing.

Exploring the small snow drift behind DSL...

We made a quick trip up to the roof, and SPT and DSL are casting long shadows on the ground.

Nick and the primary mirror. It feels overwhelmingly large when you're standing on top of the cabin.

The snow and the moon...can't imagine growing tired of this sight.


Just a quiet day at the lab, going for telescope rides and measuring motor vibration levels.


A quick trip outside this morning to admire the scenery and play in the snow. The distant dark sector is colorful in the light of the setting sun.

The sun is below 2 degrees elevation now, and it's getting cold was about -85F.

Flint kindly left me a bottle of homemade Sunset Cabernet from his winter in 2010, and I prettied up the bottle in preparation for sunset dinner tomorrow. Here's the label for the front of the bottle.

...and here's the label for the back of the bottle. Thanks, Flint! :-)

JP is hosting a toast in celebration of sunset, and his special surprise for everyone is a chunk of glacier ice to use in our drinks.

Everyone, with drinks and glacier ice in hand, is ready to go.

Cheers! To the beginning of a fabulous winter!

It's Marcus's turn to get a chunk of glacier ice too.

The lounge is filled with most of the people on station.

Jared is admiring the chunk of ice.

And yet another surprise for the evening -- green jello shots in honor of St. Patrick's day!

Lynette looks delighted, as do the rest of us!

Jase follows behind with a bowl to collect the empty petri dishes.

Kasia and the tray of green goodness. Mel and Jase tweaked and perfected the recipe, and the results were awesome!

Nick and his cube of green.

Time to turn on the blacklight and crank up the electronica!

Jase (and many others) are glowing under the blacklight.

Jared returns with an interesting costume choice...

...and Kasia's manning the disco ball with her flashlight.

JP's amazing glowing drink!

If you look carefully, you can see the air bubbles that are fizzing out of the glacier ice.

The happy winter crowd...


Happy sunset celebration! Today's festivities started with a light lunch at the greenhouse, featuring an amazing collection of snacks from the galley. Here are some of our last apples...

...with a bowl of what was essentially pumpkin pie filling, distilled and condensed into a heap of awesomeness.

Two trays of micro-sandwiches topped with chicken salad and tuna salad.

A cheese platter with some fancy honeys and dates.

A huge tray of deviled eggs.

Spencer is instructing Sven how to mix the special drink: simple syrup infused with mint and lemongrass, mixed with club soda.

Sven is preparing to take over as lunch server.

A special mortar and pestle (made by one of the winterover machinists!) that will be used to add fresh mint to the drinks.

The micro-sandwiches even have candied pecans on top. Our galley staff does not screw around!

The full snack lineup outside the post office.

I wandered over to the greenhouse to get freshly ground mint from Joselyn for my drink.

The inaugural usage of the mortar and pestle!

We were handed menus (designed by the one and only Mel!) while we were enjoying our snacks in the greenhouse.

Most people are spending the afternoon working on the station scavenger hunt.

A handful of us worked on transforming the galley into a super classy setup for dinner.

Following tradition, we also set up a memorial table for those who died here.

At 5pm, it's time to gather for appetizers in the galley lounge! The first table has crab and artichoke dip...

...and this ridculously huge and fancy bowl of shrimp.

Canapes with cream cheese swirlies, and bowls of other tasties.

The full appetizer lineup, and Jase and Mel, our supremely talented cooks!

They make an awesome and hilarious cooking team.

The last appetizer table has huge antipasto and cheese trays.

I wandered over to the other side of the curtain to check out the table centerpieces, courtesy of Joselyn and the greenhouse.

The weather stayed clear for dinner, and colorful light from the setting sun is stunning.

With all the floral centerpieces, the galley looks especially cheery.

Here's one of Joselyn's giant mutant hibiscus flowers.

The galley lounge crowd starts to grow, and everyone's enjoying the appetizers.

Nick is looking sharp with his bowtie!

We're hiding in the corner as more people pile into the lounge.

Derek and Joselyn are manning the bar!

The galley lounge is almost overflowing with the crowd.

My winter family...

Time for dinner to begin! The candles are lit, and the setting sun is looking beautiful.

Me and Nick. This picture is for the folks back home. :-)

Shawn is looking all spiffy in his freshly ironed shirt.

Shawn, Marcus, Nick, and JP at our table.

It's open Flint's bottle of wine! We're having some technical difficulties with the cork.

God gave us tools so we don't have to use brute strength...

...although we're still hacking at the cork by the time Joselyn starts serving the soup.

Potato, kale, and leek soup with crispy prosciutto.

Shawn finally won with the cork, and the Sunset Cabernet is served!

What a cute couple. :-) (Except they forgot to gaze into each other's eyes for the photo.)

Robert really, really enjoys the soup!

Finishing off the soup, and preparing for the next course in the very long menu.

The next food item: fresh salad, straight from our greenhouse!

Meanwhile, the galley crew is busily assembling the main course.

Marcus is distracted by the candle, and soon we're all playing with fire at our table.

The main dish! Pistachio-crusted duck with sun-dried cherry sauce and crispy fried duck skin, herb and walnut roasted carrots and kumara, and warm brussel sprout slaw.

Jase, Mel, and Spencer get called out of the galley for a standing ovation from all of the winterovers.

My stomach was already far beyond full, but now it's time for an incredible selection of desserts from John!

The coffee table is full of peppermint, cinnamon/cayenne, and peanut butter truffles.

Apple almond tart, double chocolate mousse, marshmallows, and cubes of pecan/chocolate goodness.

Rico and Joselyn are relaxing and admiring the desserts...

...and are soon joined by many others who are enjoying John's creations.

A beautiful backdrop for our farewell to the sun.

We have a lit candle at the memorial table as well.

Time to start cleaning up... Chris is asking Kasia very nicely if she would please take his plate. ;-)

Perhaps Sven didn't ask so nicely? In any case, he's being attacked by Kasia.

Lynette, Jono, and Nate! All three of them wintered together a few years ago.

Admiring the pictures on Lynette's camera.

Robert and Joselyn look happy and beautiful in the setting sun.

Mel has finally emerged from the play with Nate's hair.

Time for Kasia to attack Jono. That, folks, is the look of fear on a man's face.

Lynette and Nate are also terrified of Jono's fate.

Moving down the line, it's time to harass Nate.

She's done styling his hair...

...and now back to styling Jono's hair.

The one and only Mel! She used to cook for the circus before coming here, and she draws amazing comics.

Kasia's next victim is JP, who seems to be enjoying it.

Jono and Nate are both posing with their new hairdos.

Kasia and her latest creation.

Nate, Kasia, and JP...they all look like they're enjoying themselves?

Nate and JP are finally left in peace, and hopefully not scarred for life.

The late night crowd, just hanging out in the galley.

The view of the setting sun and the ceremonial pole from one of the galley windows.

Kasia has chosen Carlos as her next victim, and Shawn is doing the same to Nick.

I guess it's the scalp massage corner of the galley.

Nick is trying to teach us how to properly tie a bowtie.

Enjoying one last glass of wine next to the setting sun.


The weather turned horrible today, with 25 knot winds, soaring (-40F) temperatures, and no visibility, so I guess we've said our final goodbyes to the sun. The walls of all the buildings are plastered with frosty bits.

DSL is obscured by blowing snow even from MAPO, which is just a short walk down the path.

Everything is covered with sticky snow.

The blowing snow relented for just a bit in the late afternoon, and we saw a little color in the sky before the clouds and wind took over again.

The only downside of walking outside in this sort of weather: the goggles become completely useless after 10 minutes.


Sunset was officially yesterday, so today's the big day: swapping the clear lens into my goggles.

The weather has been absolutely terrible for the past several days, and one of the winterovers describes it as the worst sunset he's seen in nine years. The DSL deck is plastered with snow.

The flag line, vanishing into a haze of blowing snow and wind gusts.

Our freezy box, containing midwinter noms, is getting very snow covered too.

The Icecube lab is barely visible at the end of their branch of the flag line.

Following the flags and a distant Derek back to the station.

He left this monster friend for me at the station entrance, which was a pleasant surprise. :-)

The dark sector open house is this Sunday, and I hope the weather clears up by then so we'll have a good turnout!


Nick and I visited the VMF for snowmobile training today, and we were greeted by these friendly duct tape aliens.

Shawn, our resident master of the snow machines, is suiting up to go outside.

Nick looks very small next to Genie.

Shawn looking like a badass in his bunny suit.

Refueling one of the snowmobiles before we take it outside.

Shawn's showing Nick the ropes, and he quickly buzzes off.

The hypertats (and everything else) are getting covered with snow from this week's relentless high winds.

A relatively warm but very windy day to be outside.

A very frosty Nick...

...and a very frosty Shawn.

We visited Wall-E, who's hanging out with a bunch of other machines in the winter graveyard.

Wall-E and Shawn. The machines, they speak to him.

Driving the snowmobile back into the heavy shop...

...and closing the ridiculously gigantic freezer doors.


The sky finally, finally cleared up a bit today, and we were able to see some colors on the horizon.

This gas cylinder has seen better days.

The Dark Sector labs hosted an open house today, and Nick is telling our visitors how to drive the telescope.

We roped JP, Sven, and Robert into operating the pulley system for opening the roof hatch.

The roof hatch is cracked, and we're ready to dock!

As the receiver cabin is descending on the roof, Sven and Robert work on fully opening the hatch.

Nick is opening up the pod bay doors so everyone can take a look at the guts of the cabin.

Our visitors! Sven, Joselyn, JP, Kasia, Kris, Dale, Heather, Katie, and Robert.

Nick is taking Katie for a manlift ride to get a better look at the cabin interior.

After our visitors departed, time to take some glamor shots of the telescope with the beautiful pastel colors on the horizon.

A distant MAPO and building 61 in the fading light.

The wind has left some wicked snowdrifts for us to stumble and trip on. This is one of the more mild drift formations.

SPT and DSL, all covered in snow from the windy weather.

Looking back towards DSL and the pink sky from the station.

Nick is also taking advantage of the clear weather to get some glamor shots.

Back in the warmth of the station...the galley windows are covered with snow and ice, and this one looks particularly beautiful.

Dale volunteered to cook an Italian dinner for us today, and it was truly epic.

I tried a little bit of each thing. Focaccia, one meatball, pasta with pine nuts, pasta with vodka tomato cream sauce, fried risotto, eggplant awesomeness, pasta salad, tiramisu...

Today is also Jase's birthday! Johnny baked a surprise cake for him, and Kasia is sneaking out of the kitchen, armed with the flaming cake.

Happy birthday, Jase! :-D


Another view of MAPO, the station, building 61, and the rapidly diminishing light on the horizon.

The frosty stairs leading to the roof of DSL.

A dinner conversation about "peanut dingleberries" (or "the old man in the peanut") spiraled out of control, and we decided to do some filtering experiments with two cans (eight pounds) of peanuts. Guy is using a colander to separate out the peanuts.

The result of the first pass: a mixture of peanut dingleberries and salty peanut dust.

Jono's dumping the reject peanuts back into the can...

...for another round of agitation in an attempt to loosen more of the dingleberries.

Nate's turn to try his hand at the colander.

Our steadily growing heap of dingledust.

Jono's using a finer mesh to remove the dust from the dingleberries.

The final collection of dingleberries. Yes, from eight pounds of peanuts.

The full dingleberry production line.

Nate and the results of our hard work!

Jono is taking it to the next level by coating the dingleberries with oil in preparation for roasting.

The first batch is spiced with garlic powder and cayenne pepper. JP and Katie are in slight disbelief that the peanut conversation is still on and that it's escalated to this level.

Roasting the first microbatch of spiced dingleberries...

...and they're done after just a few minutes in the oven.

Serving up the dinglesnacks in cute little ramekins.

The finished product: freshly roasted dingleberries, spiced with garlic and cayenne.

Celebrating our success by snacking on the peanut dingleberries. We spiced two other batches with old bay and wasabi. Don't judge until you try it for yourself...guaranteed to knock your socks off.

After the peanut experiment, I didn't think the day could get any better...and then I saw this marvelous sight from the science lab window.

The sun is almost 3 degrees below the horizon, so it must be refracting like a fiend to produce this fiery, floating stripe.

The sun stripe slowly, slowly shifts its shape above the horizon.

Several of us are hovering at the galley windows after midnight, thoroughly mesmerized by the last traces of sun.

A closeup of the ceremonial pole and the floating bits of fire.

I'm so glad that in spite of the week of terrible weather, we got a chance to say a proper goodbye to the sun.


Another trip up to the roof today to grease the gears... Nick is standing guard at the hatch.

The eye of SPT, the station, and the disappearing light on the horizon.

We're also inspecting the seal between the primary mirror and the new guard ring that surrounds it.

The primary mirror is large, and quite a thing of beauty.

It looks especially pretty with the pastel backdrop.

Lying down on the cabin roof and gazing up at the vast mirror.

Nick is also documenting the state of things on the cabin roof.

The view of the station and twilight from the roof of SPT.

I can't imagine a more perfect horizon. After the bad weather streak, I'm thoroughly enjoying the sunset colors, pastels on the sky.

A particularly tattered flag along the walk back to the station.

It looks like the wind is slowly carving the flag into a snowflake.

The sunlight decided to make another appearance late in the evening, with fiery stripes flickering far above the horizon.

ARO, the geographic Pole, and the sun stripes.

Watching the fire stripes gradually shift was absolutely breathtaking.

A substantial crowd is gathered in the galley to admire the last bits of sun.

A few brave people venture outside into the -88F weather.

An hour or so later, the refracted sunlight was even more spectacular, appearing at an even higher elevation, with hints of green and blue flashes.

Zooming in on the fire that floats above the horizon. It's truly magical.

The light from the sun leaks out along a band parallel to the horizon.

Robert brought out a telescope for us to see the sun up close, and the reflections in people's eyes make them look like the Terminator.

We all spent at least another hour just gazing at the horizon.

The fiery colors are even reflected off the sides of the beer can.

A view through the telescope eyepiece with the blurred sunlight in the background.


It just doesn't get old. The slight cloud cover adds another dimension of beauty to the sunset colors.

The glow on the horizon was pretty enough to lure me on an extended walk out to the Pole. The sastrugi are also becoming more sharply defined.

The Pole marker and the colorful sunset.

A camera doesn't do justice to the sky and the siren call of the bright orange glow in the distance.

The Pole marker, like everything else outside, is growing a decent layer of ice crystals.

The elevated station, our mothership.

There are some spectacular sastrugi these days. I never cease to be amazed by these waves frozen into the snow.

The corner of the station with all the galley windows. We'll be covering them in just a few days, so time to enjoy the view from inside while it lasts.

The snow drift behind the station makes a fun playground to climb and slide on.

Click here for April photos and adventures...

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