Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Seasonal Activities

Temperature: 24.0C
Wind Chill: 28.9C
Wind Speed: 7.0 kts

So many times, we miss the opportunity to go to mundane events, like races, just because we don't think they will be very entertaining....the Race Around the World on Christmas morning is just such an event, where normal folks get outside in regular temperatures and do normal things...like race!

Some of us decided to run,

others to walk, bike or ski,

and then there were those select few that decided to take the track in style!

one of our resident "Fuelies", Dan tried yet a different approach!

even Batman made an appearance...

The race itself lasted three laps around parts of the station, and a couple miles later it was all over, and we all headed inside for a late breakfast and a continuance of the festivities!

Today, right before Todd left, Chrissy and I took a trip out to the tent where his sled was housed, and signed the pig before he left.

Wandering outside the station, one can also see Snowhenge! These blocks of ice were strategically placed for the New Year, and in a few days, they will be fashioned into works of art which will be displayed in another posting.

Finally, what started off Christmas morning, followed by the 5:30pm lowering, was the flag ceremony that traditionally started down here 1999. A Vietnam veteran was working down here, and he wanted to pay tribute to POWs and veterans who were MIA from that era. They started the tradition of raising the black POW/MIA flag down here then and continued it ever since. The reason for it being done on Christmas... for those Americans being held in the camps, Christmas Day was the time when they were let out of confinement to send and receive mail, talk to/share time with/hold other Americans that they were captured with. It gave them the opportunity to partake in some of the freedoms that they thought it necessary to fight for. I took part in the raising and lowering ceremony so I don't have many pictures, except for this one

but the flag was signed by all the veterans, reservists, retired and active military personnel on station this year. After it was lowered, one of the Polies will take it back to DC, where it will be presented at the Vietnam Memorial. When I get access to more pictures of this ceremony, I will try to get them on here a little quicker!

Well, that was Christmas Day for me. Just a few things were going on...and I didn't mention anything about the daily routine at ARO!! :)

Take care everybody and have a Happy New Year!!

Capt. Splash

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Trekkie of a Different Kind

Temperature: -20.9C
Wind chill: -32.0C
Wind speed: -11.7 kts

Monday December22nd, we had a newcomer join us at Pole. His name is Todd Carmichael and he spent the last 39 days to get here. His journey was a long one, starting at the coast of the continent and working his way to the center of Antarctica, Todd was armed with only a sled full of his provisions, a couple phones, a GPS device, a pair of skis, and the determination to be the first man to not only ski to Pole from the coast, but to beat the record previously made by Hannah McKeand back in 2004!

Todd needed his determination and resolve from the very beginning. In his mind, he had his trip split up in three different sections. The first being the distance from 80S to 82S, the second was from 82S to 88S, and the last leg 88S to 90S. Within the first several miles, Todd lost both his skis. His bindings broke, but he decided to continue on. The previous year, he had joined a group of people trying to do the same trek, but weather was one of the obstacles that kept him from finishing his goal. This year he didn’t let his skis stop him. The weather did worsen for him, and while he was trying to set up his tent in gale force winds, one of the tent poles flew up and broke his goggles. This was a bigger problem for Todd than for most…this pair of goggles were his prescription pair.

As if this wasn’t enough, Todd’s hand that he had been dealt was stacked against him further with a couple more tough cards. A little further into his journey, he negotiated not just one, but three crevasses that gave out on him while he was trying to cross over them. At this point, one would have all the sympathy in the world for Todd if he chose to turn back and try the trek another day. Todd, on the other hand, was determined to see this trek through to the end, and he didn’t want to try and negotiate the area of crevasses again, so he pressed on. Further into his journey he realized that he had caught up to the pace of the previous record holder and his resolve strengthened with that knowledge, as well as with the phone calls back home to his wife and family. Another tough card was in his hand, though, when both of his phones and his GPS died on him. At this point, all he had to guide him was dead reckoning with the help of a compass, and the idea that once he got to Pole, all his troubles were behind him. Back home, his wife and family lost contact with him when the phones went down, but he had told everyone that he would arrive at the station on the 21st, Argentina time, which was Monday the 22nd South Pole time, so she had it set in her mind that she would hear from him then.

During his journey, Todd used his sled as a companion, as he had no one else with him. His sled, he refers to as the pig (as the sled with all the provisions started out weighing about 250 pds.), provided someone for him to talk to, as well as to try to motivate to help Todd pull his burden of provisions.

(at one end of the pig is the compass he used when his GPS failed)

Naturally, a lot of people hearing this story couldn’t help but think of “Wilson” in Castaway, and given the circumstances, it made all the sense in the world. Todd had a couple more cards to get through. He had it set in his mind that he was going to break the land record and he had brought enough food to last him through that time. He was a few days away from Pole, and he realized that his fuel container for his heater had ruptured, and contaminated his food supply. All he really had left at this point was water. He could, however, see the station in the distance, so he kept pushing forward, towards Pole. He figured he was about 5 miles away from the station when he realized he didn’t have the strength to continue pulling his sled, and it took a lot of deliberation before he finally unclipped himself from it, and made the all-or-nothing walk the last few miles. When he made it to our ski way, he stayed on one side of it until a couple of Polies, John and Leah, made their way out to him.

He was concerned that he wouldn’t be able to find his way back to his sled, but the sled was brought closer to the station, and Todd made it to the South Pole marker, beat the previous ski record, and started the process of getting some food into his system.

All told, Todd started his trek at 230 pds, travelled over 600 nautical miles, dealt with all the roadblocks, and arrived at South Pole 39 days later, weighing 178 pds. He has frostbite on his face and toes, but what really concerned the medical staff here was the damage the cold air did to his lungs. They put him on an anti-inflammatory medication that has helped him out a lot, and the feeling is that there will be no permanent damage either to his lungs or from the frostbite.

(Wayne and Ella with Todd the day of his departure, Christmas morning)

Todd was up in the galley this morning and hit each of the meals. I got to talk to him for a while, and we talked about his treks, my diving, as well as my time in the Corps, and even talked about what instrument I am going to learn how to play while I’m down here! Todd is a fascinating individual to talk to. He has been going on these treks for a while now, and has crossed all of the deserts, and can finally check Antarctica off his list. His next challenge?….he has enjoyed life as much as he possibly can, but he wants to relive it again, and what better way to do that than through the eyes of a child. He and his wife are going to adopt a girl, and go through some first times…again.

I can’t do his story justice since I spent the last 39 days in a heated station with movies and very slow internet capability, but please visit his blog. He sent daily updates back to his brother, who updated the blog for him while he and the pig were making history! His website is:


You never really know what your day is going to hold down here, but it never winds up just being a typical day! Best of luck to you Todd!!

Capt. Splash

Sunday, December 21, 2008

End of an Era

Temperature: -26.7C
Wind Chill: -38.9C
Wind Speed: 10.8 kts

This past Saturday, we had to say goodbye to a gentleman that has been coming down to the ice for the past 40 years! Jerry Marty is the NSF (National Science Foundation) representative down here, and he has been instrumental in getting the new elevated station off the ground, as well as figuring out things like capacity requirements for the old housing facility, the Dome. He has definitely seen a lot of changes and it is a shame to see him go. I stopped by the party they had for him the night before, which was really cool. He signed one of the sensors that the Icecube project will lower down into one of the many holes they have drilled into the ice...talk about writing yourself into history!! One of the workers here also went down to the shop and designed a cribbage board for Jerry and his wife (just a little nostalgia there, since Jerry and his wife would have nightly games with their friends when they both wintered over many years ago!) I didn't get to spend a lot of time talking to him, but he would usually bring the DV (Distinguished Visitors) by ARO for a quick tour of the facility. Naturally, I had to blink when the picture was taken...wonder if he will come back just for another photo op?

A lot of people showed up to send Jerry off in style. A group of construction workers made a column on either side of him and Jerry walked through crossed tape measures out to the plane. The crowd was impressive considering there were only eight people on the plane!

We also said goodbye to another friend of ours, Brooke, who previously worked in the Boulder office with her husband, and is now finishing an advanced degree in Canada. She came down to Pole for a week to help us set up a second Dobson instrument. The one that we were using before has been down here for four years and is ready to be sent back to Boulder for recalibration. The week flew by, and before any of us knew it, Brooke was on her way back to McMurdo. Today, she is heading back to Christchurch to meet up with her husband for Christmas!

Three other folks that were on that same flight with Jerry and Brooke also made a stop out to ARO this past Saturday.

Ron, Mary and Lisa came out about an hour before their plane landed, and did a quick interview with Cully and I. They said that it might take a week for the webcast to be posted, but gave us a link to check it out once it was posted. That link is:


I think I saw a couple thousand people on the other side of that camera lens, but overall, I think their time with us went well! :)
Unless you all beat me to it, I will try to let you know when the webcast can be viewed!

Our meteorological tower got extended by about ten meters last week, so it is now up to its intended height of 30 meters. Unfortunately, the extensions came in silver instead of the alternating white-orange that would have made the tower look like one complete structure!

Once a week, and especially in the winter time, Cully and I are going to have to climb the tower to check all the instruments, make sure they are working, fans are still operating, nothings stuck, things like that. I'm a big fan of heights (sarcasm at its best!), and was not happy when the tower was only 20 meters, but I'm planning on coming to terms with my fears. Cully is patient! I did manage to snap a couple pictures while the fingers were still working...

These other pics are from a few days ago as well. A twin otter plane took off normally, and then decided it would be a good idea to swing the plane around and fly right into the Clean Air Sector. He buzzed Cully and had just flown past ARO when Cully called me on the radio and told me to snap a few shots of it. These pictures got sent to our science support team, and I'm thinking that the pilot hasn't heard the end of it yet!

Hope everybody is well, and that you have safe and Happy Holidays!!!! In a day or two, there will be pictures of SnowHenge...

Capt. Splash

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Farewell BICEP

Temperature: -27.9C
Wind Chill: -42.7C
Wind Speed: 15.9 kts

I have to play a little catch up here. We had an air sample day a few days ago, and the winds were right, so Cully and I went out to the Clean Air Sector behind ARO, and set about getting our flasks ready to collect air. A lot of the prep for that was already done inside, so there wasn't much to do but wait...

and wait....

before too long, we had our samples and it was time to head back in, box them up and finish our day. A couple days before that, even, we had another balloon launch, which went fairly well. I am thinking we have another launch coming up Thursday.

Last Monday night we had a party out at the BICEP facility. These guys are using a telescope to look at our past. They are trying to see all the way back to the origins of things...Big Bang in particular. I was talking to one of the scientists yesterday, and the closest they can look is 400,000 years ago! That seems like a chunk of time to me, but they are still trying to figure out how to look back even farther! There are a couple theories on how the universe expanded. One is that it expanded at a regular flat rate, and linear. The other is that it happened at a different rate, and non-linear. The telescope is trying to look beyond 400,000 years and the answers to the theories the scientists are trying to find revolve around what temperatures they are able to detect from that time period. If they can determine what temperatures were prevalent, they can come closer to answering how the universe developed.

Some of the instrumentation was dismantled before we got to the party, as these folks are leaving early next week. They have done all the data collection they can for right now, and now they have to figure out what they have. While the lab itself made for a great party backdrop, people went up onto the roof to check out the telescope itself,

as well as the surrounding area. Note that the building in the distance on the left of the picture is ARO, give you some idea as to the spread of the facilities down here!

Wayne, the PA for the summer down here, and I went up to the roof to check out the goings on of the party from space. I caught a shot of the telescope from the lab out, and got a more inward view as well!

The telescope itself reminded a lot of us of the bomb that Slim Pickins rode down at the end of Dr Strangelove, and it didn''t take much to convince one of the Polies to re-enact the scene....

After a while it was time to call it a night, and we could have either caught a ride back to the station,

or hoofed it home in preparation for another glorious sun-filled day!

Hope everyone back in the land of color is enjoying themselves!
Capt Splash

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Not Your Typical Day

Air Temp:-29.9C
Wind Chill:-42.8C
Wind Speed:10.6kts

Holy heat wave Batman, it's warm today! Think I'll work on my tan today! The wind was blowing a lot more yesterday. I think gusts actually got up to close to 20 kts! Granted, a couple days of activities are going to be lumped together, but I think you get the idea that any and all things are possible on a given day! We found out from the Cargo dept that we had some empty boxes they were going to deliver to us. This was good news for us since we could continue to get rid of air sample flasks that had accumulated over the past winter. The loader came out, dropped off the boxes, and we set about making sure they weren't packed too
badly with snow.

Cargo came out a couple hours later with some extensions to our Meteorological Tower. Brian, Cully and I set about getting the pieces off the pallet,

and then after sufficient thawing we went up the existing tower to take a look at the instruments and what the weekly maintenance of those required.

That night it was time for Wiffleball! My first attempt at the game since...oh I don't know when! I don't think it went too badly, either, lot of fun. As I said, crazy things happen on a given day, in the middle of the game, the gym door busts open and our visual senses were assaulted by very colorful, masked individuals that had assumed the roles of their alter-egos. The Antarctic's version of Power Rangers showed up to get in on a little of the Wiffleball action, and then, as quickly as they appeared...they were gone!

That was a couple days ago. Last night was Volleyball night, and we wound up with some serious four on four games that made a lot of us hobble back to our rooms when the games were over! All in all it was a good night. Made up for the morning...Cully and I continued our quest for the Ultimate Ping Pong Player of the Year Award with a couple more games. It's going very badly for me, but the year is long and I am hoping to have a revelation on how to actually be competition for him! It reminds me of the summer-long bouts of UNO I used to have with my grandmother (who happens to still retain the title of Extreme Uno Champ of the World), the only difference is I used to stack the deck when I played her and I can't seem to figure out how to do that with Cully!

I will leave you with a shot that Cully took while up on the tower looking down at ARO. Everybody back home take care, and as we are, I hope you are looking forward to safe and
happy holidays coming up!!

Capt Splash