Antarctica: November 2012


The post office area is jam packed with outgoing boxes from winterovers who are eager to leave.

ERT turnover is going on today, and the hallways are clogged with humans.

Now that the summer crew is here, it's time for the fun and games to start.

Rainbows, rainbows, rainbows galore...BUT WHAT DOES IT MEAN???


The majority of the winter crew is heading north today, and the flight deck is packed full with people to send them off on their merry way.

Two passengers who are immediately recognizable: Dale the Tall, and John, who doesn't need no stinking parka in this balmy weather.

Sue, Dale, and Johnny...

...joined by Sheri and Ethan. My Sunday dinner pals, good times guaranteed!

Time to go! Hugs, handshakes, and high fives all around.

Goodbye to the winter crew, and safe travels back home!

Time to head back in and face the overwhelming station population of 123 people.


Next door at BICEP2, the telescope is taking its final CMB observations ever. An appropriate sappy soundtrack is playing in the background.

A box of tissues is out on the table for this sad occasion. log "The end! ..." and abort_schedule. Time to move on to final calibrations before the receiver is decommissioned.

The BICEP sentinels are still faithfully standing guard: Lothar, his brother, humping dog, and nunzilla.

A quick refueling stop back in our part of the lab, snacking on sensitive receiver test equipment.

BICEP2's final calibrations begin with beam mapping with the far-field flat. Derek and Steffen are mounting the behemoth above the window.

Zak is also helping out with the mirror effort.

...and Jamie decides to lend a hand too.

I finally got to see the the Marco bread mega-stash for myself.


Probably one of my last trips to 0.5. It looks tiny from the outside.

One of my favorite spots in the shack, below a window. "Saturn was not a single lady."

The door has some new bits of advice and wisdom...

Looking back from the beer can steps. The snow cliff of death is being carved away into a more user-friendly ramp.

Our winterover photo appeared in the hallway a few days ago.

It's at the end of a long lineup of group photos.

Somebody was polite enough to leave a note. If only the asshat who stole other people's food over the winter had such decency.


After an epic series of mechanical delays, the first flight with SPT folks is finally here! One fuelie is guiding the plane in...

...and another fuelie waves in the plane from the pax terminal.

X marks the spot to stop.

The passengers slowly start emerging from the plane. It's great to see our collaborators again!

Welcome back!


No rest for the wicked: our peeps already did snowmobile training in order to drive out to the giant reflector.

JT and Ryan, ready for action.

It's not completely set up yet, but we already have the warming shack.

The front surface is remarkbly clean of snow. We're about 3km from DSL and desperately hoping that the snowmobile doesn't die on us.


A last-minute telescope docking to fix the calibrator box. Amy, John, and Tijmen are sleuthing away.

Tijmen at the helm on the manlift. It's the last telescope docking for me...goodbye, SPTpol receiver.


The latest chapter in the post office saga: an obscene number of stamps on all the packages being sent home.

10 months have passed in the blink of an eye, and my ride back home arrived on time today.

Gathering at the flight deck to say hello and goodbye.

Bye station, and hello Nick.

The Keck guys are out to welcome Kaufman back to the station.

Hooray for going home!

Waiting, waiting, waiting for cargo (un)loading and refueling.

Us and our telescope in the distance.

John and JT made it back from the 3km site in time for one final farewell.

One last look at the industrial suburbs and the empty spot where the dome used to be.

Goodbye, goodbye!

...or not? 5 feet short of the door, we were shooed back to the flight deck.

After the world's shortest boomerang, we're finally boarding for real.

Goodbye again!

People are actually stepping on the plane, so we're good to go this time.

It's time to leave!

One last look at the flight deck, where a few Polies remain.

Sven's happy to get out of here too!

Photo for mom: a rare glimpse of the men's bathroom with the curtain pulled aside.

We're allowed to roam around shortly after takeoff, and this guy is setting up extra nap space.

Sven prefers the milkstool throne for his nap.

There are some advantages to being a dude...the ladies' bathroom is out of commission for this flight.

The view from my seat. There aren't many outbound passengers, and we have plenty of space to play.

The views are always spectacular during this flight.

Half of us are snapping pictures, and the other half are napping.

Sven admiring the view from the window.

A school of snow cracks.

The sight of the plane interior never ceases to be dull.

Rivers of flowing ice down below.

Time for Carlos to take a nap in the special seat too.

Camera fun time in the back of the plane.

My greasy, broken carhartts after a winter of quality time with the elevation gears.

We land after what feels like a very short flight, and the back hatch is opened for cargo offloading.

Hello again, McMurdo!


The McMurdo helipad, sitting silently in the snow flurries.

Next door is the NSF chalet.

The Antarctic equivalent of a crop circle?

Walking up Observation Hill with my newly acquired sea-level superpowers!

Not-so-superpowers: the realization that I'm no longer used to terrain that isn't flat.

Windmills and Scott Base in the distance.

The cross at the top of the hill. "To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

Snow-covered McMurdo below.

The cluster of fuel tanks.

Looking out toward the sea ice.

There apparently used to be a nuclear power plant here.

Ivan's replacement, the Kress. It's hard to tell in the photo, but this thing is gigantic: the wheels are about as tall as me.

A quick trip to Crary, where I'm hoping to catch a glimpse of some critters.

A stuffed skua and penguin hang out in the lobby area.

By lucky chance, I happened to catch a tour that was just starting. Our guide is telling us about the creepy toothfish skull.

The bottom level of Crary houses the critters. There's even a petting tank so you can play with some of them!

I particularly like the white frilly critter that was wrapped around the tube.

Sea spider and starfish are just chilling in a corner.

The giant isopod did not enjoy being poked.

Tentacles galore!

Teenyfish and toothfish are best pals!

The toothfish is the star of the show, and he has a huge tank all to himself.

He is one ugly dude.

Next door, a bunch of eelpouts hang out in a shallow tank, slowly puffing their cheeks.

This guy was totally showboating for the camera.

Holy crap, nudibranchs! With bonus fish!

Critter quality time went by far too quickly, and it's time to head out of the lab.

I haven't opened my water bottle since leaving Pole. Welcome back to sea level.

The day's McMurdo tour ends at building 136. A wide assortment of metal templates for making various gizmos hangs on the wall.

Don't forget to wear eye protection...

Alas, the original corner bar is being renovated, but Harry has successfully set up shop in a new room. Cheers!


One last trip to building 136 to check out Harry's homemade forge.

Adding fuel to the fire...

Adjusting the air-to-fuel ratio.

The forge quickly attracts other admirers.

The "pizza burner."

Nothing like fun with fire to start the day.

One of the best things I've learned in awhile: casting metal with wet paper towels instead of a centrifuge!

Steam casting is apparently described in this edition of The Complete Metalsmith. Very clever and low-tech.

I've never actually set foot in the chapel before, so I thought I'd make a quick trip before heading out to the flight.

The chapel interior is very pretty and very quiet.

There's even an organ! Totally made my day.

The Erebus chalice hangs out in a display case.

The stained glass piece that graces the central window in the chapel.

Not a bad view for a chapel...

Not quite enough time to walk out to Hut Point, so I'll have to stick to admiring it from a distance.

I've never met this fish critter before.

Finally, it's transport time, and we're gathered in building 140 to wait for our ride to the air field.

Through the door! Sven is excited!

We're all quickly herded onto Ivan...

...and after a short ride, we're already at the air field.

My ride back to civilization!

People in parkas streaming forth from Ivan.

Boarding time!

Football is such a versatile game: it can be played in tuxedos, it can be played three feet apart...

Demonstrating the EPOS. Put the bag over your head.

These guys know how to fly in style.

After just a few minutes, we're allowed to roam around the plane and admire the frozen ocean below.

A very relaxed flight.

A very sleepy Sven.

More sleepy passengers.

Lots of orange bags on the other side of the plane.

Can't imagine a more comfortable way to fly.

The plane is almost completely empty on this return trip, and it's nice to wander around the empty space.

Looking toward the front of the plane and a bunch of sleepy passengers.

A bizarre round rainbow out the window...??

My first proper sunset in 10 months.

Everyone is at the window, admiring the changing colors on the horizon.

We finally land, and the back hatch is opened! We're greeted with the smells of burning rubber, humidity, and civilization.

Lining up to exit the C17...

...welcome back to Christchurch!

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