Sunday, January 30, 2011

Antarctic hero shots

So, hero shots are those pictures of yourself in fabulous locations, doing great deeds, and are inevitably posed pictures. So here I am in Antarctica, being a hero...

In McMurdo, on a previous ANITA balloon campaign, with the ANITA solar array.

At the South Pole, in drill camp with a number of large wrenches (none of which I used for anything other than photo props). Good clue as to the posed nature of the picture is the fact that my clothes are clean and there are no icicles hanging from my face.

With the Pisten Bully (name comes from the German term "piste" as in "off-piste skiing" and not piston from the engine) in front of the IceCube Lab.

At the Geographic South Pole, a location which is resurveyed each year as the ice moves over the bedrock (far) below. (Thanks to Peter Gorham for the photos.)

Arms around the Earth. At the Ceremonial South Pole, where the flags and barbershop pole reside. South Pole Elevated Station is in the background.

Friday, January 28, 2011


I didn't take the picture. This is at McMurdo. I think the fire extinguisher didn't quite work...

Some oddities at the South Pole

Sousaphone in the hallway.

The lobster isn't native to the Pole region. The bread might be.

Perry looks quite dapper in his tux, but there are no penguins at the South Pole.

A marathon at the South Pole? Yep.

LC-130 ski-equipped Hercules


Not sure if it's a pretty aircraft...but it is loud.

That's the view out the window, though you can go closer and get some good shots. Posted some earlier.

The passenger area on a flight from MCM to NPX, looking forward. The green hanging curtain is the bathroom.

Pax deplaning at Pole.


One of my favorite Antarctic planes is the Basler. This is an old DC-3 (or military version, C-47) of World War 2 vintage that has been stretched (especially in the cargo door area) and re-engined with turboprops (okay, and they do a lot more as well to the plane). Basler Conversions is in Oshkosh, WI and I'd like to go and visit sometime. Webpage for Basler.

Yes, manufactured originally in 1942. Still flying today in the world's harshest environments. Part of the key to their longevity is the lack of pressurization. Pressurizing the passenger/cargo area produces stresses on the airframe.

Big doors to load lots of equipment.

Kenn Borek Air is a northern Canadian operation that moves to Antarctica when the ice roads up north start carrying the heavy cargo. Note the skis.

Fuel depot.

Still more Oden pictures

Linda, the 1st (2nd?) officer, who graciously gave us the tour. On the bridge, near the captain's chair.

A sample of the hull material. Thick. Heavy.

Looking out the back of the bridge area onto the helicopter pad.

Yep, there's a theater. Comfy seats too.

They had hats, t-shirts, fleeces, Swedish candy and chips, and postcards.

You wanted penguin pictures...

Discussions have mostly been on Facebook

For example, on the McMurdo runways: Link

If you're looking at this on Blogger or Blogspot, do feel free to friend me on Facebook. If I don't know you, put in a "antarctica blog" mention in the message. Thanks!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

More on the Oden

Top view of the lifeboat.

Looking out over the bow deck. The containers on board have the science experiments that were conducted during the cruise inside of them. Breaking ice, the Oden can spray water from the bow to "lubricate" the ice breaking process.

The broken-up ice where the ship entered port.

HUGE, wide bridge with a conference table in the background. Excellent all-around views.

The interior of the ship was quite nice, lots of woodwork. This is a shot in the door of the library.

The icebreaker Oden

The US Antarctic Program contracts with the Swedish Polar Programs to have an icebreaker clear the McMurdo Sound and bring the tanker and cargo ship into port. (The dock is a floating mass of layers of ice and dirt, the near one is the current floating dock and the farther one is a ten year old dock.) The Swedish icebreaker Oden has been doing this duty for a number of years. Previously I had seen it out in the Sound, but this year (thanks to Mark Krasberg!) we got a tour of the ship.

It's a big, blocky ship, about 350 feet long and probably a good 120 feet or so wide. Quite pretty in a serious way. It's also beautifully kept up with nary a spot of rust, even after a hundred day cruise down from Scandinavia to the Southern Ocean.

Lifeboat and wing of bridge.

Our informal tour group on the gun turret mounting. The Oden was originally built for the Swedish military.

More Oden info can be found at Wikipedia and some pictures from a 2007 cruise on Wired.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

IceCube flags

The IceCube project installed a very nice set of flags over the IceCube strings to help folks visualize the experiment in celebration of the completion of construction. Orange flags for regular IceCube strings of detectors, and red ones for the denser "deep core" strings. Here you seen one string in the foreground (with some small flags on bamboo poles which are used widely in Antarctica to flag almost anything, black flags mean "stay out" and the others are interchangeable (at least at Pole, McMurdo has some rules for their use)) and two heading away in line into the background.

IceCube hole marker, with the IceCube laboratory in the background. Note the outhouse to the left of the picture. I'll leave that to your imagination as to proper function in the cold. (There's no running water in the IceCube Lab (ICL).)

The South Pole Traverse

While I was Pole, just before Christmas, the South Pole Traverse came in from McMurdo. They had left 38 days earlier (though they had returned to MCM with some mechanical issues and been snowed in for a time too, so it didn't take quite that long to drive to Pole) and driven along a packed snow "highway" to the Pole. The idea is to reduce the number of airplane flights of cargo (especially fuel) down to the Pole with cheaper transport methods.

The Traverse consists of a bunch of Cat and Case tractors pulling sleds made just from sheets of plastic on which the fuel bladders and other cargo sit. Must be a slow way up to the plateau! The return trip to McMurdo is quicker.

There was a good article in the Guardian, a few years back now, with the warnings about the Pole getting to be easier, and with fears of mass tourism. More and more tourists each year, but none coming by the route of the Traverse.


The airport code for the skiway at the South Pole is NPX which seems somewhat odd for the South Pole Station. (All airfields have such codes, many of them are obvious, SFO for San FranciscO, but some less so, ORD for Chicago O'Hare? Well, it was originally Orchard Field which was renamed for the WW2 fighter ace O'Hare, so it kept its old shorthand form.) Well, originally the South Pole Station was run by the Navy, and they named their airfields (well, the airfield shorthands) to all start with N for Navy. So, that's the Navy Pole Station (X). There's no airfield at the North Pole, so all is right in the world, right?

The sweet, but very delayed, ride off of the ice

There's our C-17, newly arrived from CHC, on the "tarmac" at Pegasus Airfield in McMurdo. Well, 14 miles out of McMurdo proper. They had delayed the flight multiple days due to bad weather in McTown. That weather included a day when it was 40 degrees F warmer than in Minneapolis... Finally, when the DVs (distinguished visitors, from the National Research Council) were due to leave, the weather got cloudier and colder, but the flight did come in.

Passengers waiting outside at the "terminal" and our bags on the pallet on the right.

DV bags down in front. They'll be hand loaded so that the DVs don't have as much time standing around waiting for bags in CHC.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Back in the USA

Will keep posting photos and articles from Antarctica as I am far behind on those...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

And there's 24/7 phone and internet here...

It's a luxury on this harsh continent. It lets me get the following quotes right:

"Great god, this is an awful place." - Scott, referring to the South Pole

"The land looks like a fairytale." - Amundsen, regarding Antarctica

"We took risks. We knew we took them. Things have come out against us. We have no cause for complaint." - Scott, found in his diary after he starved to death
"Adventure is just bad planning." - Amundsen, who didn't starve to death
"Take it all in all, I do not believe anybody on earth has a worse time than an Emperor penguin." - Apsley Cherry-Garrard, from his wonderful book The Worst Journey in the World

"Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success." - apocryphal Shackleton, advertising for the Nimrod expedition

Some machinery of the Pole

One of my colleagues down on the ice is making a picture book of all of the heavy machinery for her three year old nephew. There is some mighty fun heavy metal driving around the Pole. At times it looks like some combination advertisement for Caterpillar tractors and for Carhartt overalls. I think the insulated Carhartts are the iconic Antarctic clothing item now, even more so than the big red (Canada Goose) parka. Anyway...digressions aside, let's take a five image look at some equipment (more soon)...

Some of the smaller Cats at rest.

The hose reel from the RAM drill, mounted on an aircraft pallet so that it can make it through the door of a Herc.

One of the South Pole's two Mantis cranes. Near the cargo lines.

Tracks in the snow, left by one of my favorite machines...

...the Pisten Bully (from the German word Piste, nothing to do with pistons). Am probably biased since I got to drive it around a whole lot and didn't drive the Cats...