my trip to the Antarctica and the South Pole

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Christmas at the South Pole

Christmas at the South Pole

Many of you have asked what's going on at the South Pole for Christmas! Well, to answer your questions, Santa does visit, even though we're his farthest delivery. Although, this year, he's had a bit of trouble because the Ice Runway in McMurdo melted early. So the cargo planes he uses to deliver our presents are all grounded in New Zealand. I was lucky enough to get 2 packages, though, both from my sister Denise, with wonderful Christmas decorations! I have put a wreath on the door of the Cryo Barn for the first time in it's history! I'll have more pictures up on my photo website in the coming days. Merry Christmas Everyone!

Here's the email from our Recreation director about the weekend events:

South Pole:

The following are the Events For This Week (ending Sunday, December 26, 2004)

NEWS FLASH - New Year's Weekend -
We get both Saturday and Sunday off.
The New Year's Eve party will now be on Friday, actually on New Year's Eve!

FOOTBALL GAME Replays, with Kurt Skoog - Dome Bar, 4:30 p.m.
- New location this week -
- Everyone is invited, Bring a wrapped gift -
live music by "Squeaky Meat", Summer Camp Lounge, 9:00 p.m.
- Totally gnarly new tunes -

Veterans' Annual Raising of American and POW Flags - Ceremonial Pole, 8:00 a.m.
- Show up and honor the Vets -
SNOW SCULPTURING JUDGING - At Snow-henge, 9:30 a.m.-ish
RACE AROUND THE WORLD- Geographic Pole, 10:00 a.m.
- Dress appropriately - Be there before 10:00 a.m., Be ready to run at 10:00 a.m.
PRESENTATION OF AWARDS - Galley, 11:00 a.m.-ish
- Pick up your Race T-shirt, Have a quick brunch, Clear-out so Cookie can prepare dinner -
CHRISTMAS DINNER - Galley, late afternoon/evening

All Veterans to Sign POW Flag, Galley, 10:00 a.m. 'til 10:30 a.m.
POOL TOURNAMENT, Pool Room (above Comms) 1:00 p.m.
$5 entry fee. Please sign-up with the Recreator in the Store.
Fabulous Prizes.

Upcoming Events:
Friday, January 1
Near Year's Eve Party, Garage, 8:00 p.m.
Saturday off!
Sunday, January 2
Poker Tournament, Galley

Horlick Mountains

Horlick Mountains

On December 21, I went on an unforgettable trip to the Horlick Mountain Region on the Antarctic plateau to prepare an air-dropped fuel cache for a remote field site. The adventure is best told in pictures, which can be viewed at

Sunday, December 12, 2004

this one's for the chileans

this one's for the chileans

<> A couple days ago, we got some visitors. But these folks didn't get here on a plane like everyone else on station. These people drove in. They were part of the Chilean traverse that was a land-crossing from the point of land in Antarctica just south of Chile (but not on the peninsula) all the way to the South Pole. It took them 17 days of driving 14 hours per day over sustrugi (snow formations caused by wind) that were up to 5ft high with a caravan that looked like a North Carolina trailer park gone AWOL.

Everyone on station got an email the day before their arrival. It went something like this:
"Sometime in the next couple days, the Chilean traverse team will be arriving at the South Pole. If you see a dot on the horizon moving toward us, please notify Comms." Seriously. Nobody knew exactly where they were or when they'd be rolling in.

Since they've been here, they've been a sort of novelty for us diversity-deprived Americans. They've set up camp on a far corner of the station, but can be spotted just about anywhere around, standing out conspicuously in their blue Chilean parkas like Yankees players in a Red Socks locker room. They've even introduced some of us to Chilean partying with a reception held in the largest of their traverse trailers. It was a crowded affair, causing even our highest higher-ups to stagger to work with a new and different Chilean kind of hangover the next day. They agreed to our invitation to give a presentation one night about their mission and the science they were performing. They were 30 minutes late.

It's neat how in a place without TV or the constant media and sensory overload blitz of the States, a little novelty can go a long way. Vive South Pole!

Monday, December 06, 2004



Sunday morning, and I just got back from Happy Camper School. I was one of 12 people crazy enough to volunteer to go camp for a night out on the plateu about 3 miles away from the station in -15F and 20 knots of wind. The "school" is officially a Survival School, required for some people who are going out to remote field camps, but offered as a recreational opportunity for others. It's a chance to sleep somewhere other than your tiny room on station, and to get farther away from Station than you're normally allowed to go.

So we take off in tracked vehicles and watch the station disappear in the low visibility of flying snow. The wind had been high since morning, so much so that all the flights in had been cancelled. I had been wracking my brain for an excuse not to go that would be good enough to use without hurting my pride, but now that we were off, I couldn't be more excited. Our guide was a New Zealander mountaineer who had climbed Mt. Everest, Mt. McKinley, and probably every other peak with a "highest in somewhere" status. He showed us how to pitch the traditional Antarctic "Scott Tent" and some more modern Mountaineering tents. We built a 4ft wall winward of our tents, made out of snow blocks that we cut out with snow saws. Hand-warmers were my saving grace as we had to tie down the guy lines on the tents with just our glove liners.

Then we set out for the next 6 hours or so in the cold to build ourselves some snow trenches. I had absolutely no intention of sleeping in a snow trench, but most everybody else did. They built elaborate caves and rooms under the snow, with entrances blocked by walls, and covered with snow bricks. My un-frozen extremities and I were more than happy with my solar-warmed tent behind the wind wall. With every layer of clothing I brought with me on, I was warmly sound asleep by the time some of the others had started digging out bedroom #3 in their snow caves. I had two chocolate bars squirrelled away in my sleeping bag to keep them from freezing, to be eaten during the night when I woke up cold. It's great when eating chocolate is part of the instructor's orders.

By morning, I had slept nearly as good as any night I have spent in the station. I awoke to the sound of birds chirping. Oh wait, that was my dream. I awoke to the sound of snow blowing. The morning was spent filling our water bottles with hot chocolate and taking down tents. About 10am, a dot appeared on the horizon. Although we were all frozen and had been counting minutes until our ride home, when it came time to volunteer for the first trip back, nobody wanted to go. I wasn't complaining 20 minutes later when I was sitting in the galley with a warm omelette and cup of coffee, though. It's nice to be back, and it's nice to have gotten away.