In the beginning of December the traverse arrived from McMurdo. There were 10 guys who drove the ~800 miles in seven or eight vehicles, so of which you can see below. This is only the 6th traverse in history.
The main purpose of the traverse is usually to deliver fuel to the station, however, this traverse is on a mission to remove an abandoned station another 500 away from here, so they didn't have much fuel to spare. Usually the fuel come in the LC-130's, and it takes two gallons of fuel to deliver every one to the station. The traverse is much more efficient, it only takes one gallon for every gallon delivered.
It turns out that I knew two of the guys on the traverse. Cory, whom I had met in the North Cascades doing SCA crews, I knew was coming in, and we chatted about SCA happenings. The other guy was my NOLS instructor, Paul, from a mountaineering course I took in Patagonia in 2007. The last time I saw him were sharing a snow cave we dug into a glacier on the side of Cerro San Lorenzo during a Chilean blizzard. It was pretty awesome to run in to him down here.
On November 25th there was a partial solar eclipse at the South Pole. I snapped a couple of pictures with a piece of aluminized mylar over my lens. This worked out somewhat, so I stuck a bunch of them together for the image below.
So, after the delay in Chirstchurch, we got on the C17 to McMurdo. Our stay in McMurdo was short; only about 12 hours. Colin and I managed to get in a quick hike up Ob hill, you can see some pictures at the bottom of this post. The sun was low, giving the whole scene a nice yellow glow.
I had a roommate for about 9 hours. He was a grad student going to the dry valleys studying microbes in the lakes there, which are super saline. The dry valleys sounds really cool, lots of interesting things to see out there...the South Pole is a little more mundane.
The next morning we were up bright and early for our flight to pole. After about 3 and a half hours airborne we were on the ground at Pole. The weather wasn't that great, I was a little surprised we landed at all.
Being back at the station felt very familiar. Not much really changes down here. For the past week we've been working hard on the telescopes. We have managed to do some fixes to two of them and will be testing whether we have improved them in the next week.
The first indoor soccer game happened this week too. We had a great turnout, at least 11 people were there to play. Breathing the dry air at 10,000 ft is just about as I remember, hopefully next time I'll be a little stronger.
Mom, here is one of me in the C17. With Chin Lin and Randol, and a sleeping Colin.
Zak and Sven look pretty excited.
Getting off the C17 in McMurdo
Ivan takes us from the runway to town.
Colin strikes a pose on Ob hill
Carhartts make my legs look so straight!
No hidden corners this year. Unfortunately the unicorn is white and blends in with the snow, the missile silo is underground and the burger king went out of business.
Hello again! I am back at the South Pole, this time for the months of Nov and Dec. I am working on the same project as last year. This year we hope to add two more telescopes to our array, as well as make improvements to the three we set up last year.
My fist posting this year I wrote a week ago when I had just arrived in NZ:
Yesterday I arrived in Christchurch. The flights from SFO were all very smooth, although upon arriving I saw that the airline I had been on, Quantus, had grounded all their flights a few hours after I left due to a labor dispute!
I met up with Randol, Chin-Lin, Zak and Colin in LA, where we managed to watch game 6 of the world series, along with about 50 other people peering through the glass walls of a packed airport bar.
Upon arriving in Christchurch I went for a run near my hotel. I am staying near the airport this year, since the earthquake destroyed much of downtown. It is always weird switching hemispheres, going from the middle of fall to spring time. There are blooming cherry trees, green grass, and the smell of new green leaves on the trees. I am soaking it all up before going to the pole.
We went downtown yesterday evening for dinner. We took a cab from the hotel, since the airport is about 10Km away from the city center. Driving into town, things seemed pretty normal, until we stepped out of the cab. Looking around, everything was just too quiet. The devastation from the earthquake was far worse than I had realized. Nearly the entire downtown part of the city is fenced off with a chain link fence. Almost all the businesses seem closed. My thought as we walked around was that we were in a post apocalyptic Zombie movie.
Eventually we found a street with a few open restaurants and had some pizza.
Our flight to McMurdo was delayed for two days, so we had time one day to rent a car and drive up to near Hanmer springs. We went on a hike on the St. James walkway. The next day, I went on a long run up to the Wairmakariri River, north of Christchurch. It was nice to get to spend a little extra time in NZ.
Sheep greet you in the airport parking lot when you get off the plane in NZ
We now have one working telescope on the mount, and hopefully we will put up two more within the week. The picture below is of the building next to us. It doesn't look very impressive compared to the one taken by a digital camera, but in reality, the image taken with Keck is pretty awesome. You have to remember that the resolution of the telescope is intentionally only about a degree across. And of course, this is a microwave image that is polarization sensitive, which is not something your usual digital camera can do.
The SPT dish and the dish in the lower left corner are dark because they are reflecting the sky, which, for microwave wavelengths, is very dark down here.
I guess it's been at least a week since my last posting. During that time I participated in the first Pole-ylmics. There were many events: sledge pull, race up the 'beer can' (a set of about 4 stories of stairs), a triathlon (skiing replaced swimming), ride the bike as far into the snow as possible, and a race to see how quickly you can put on cold weather gear.
The first event of the morning was the triathlon. Because of a party the night before, the 9am start time discouraged participation. There were only four competitors: Marco, Sarah, myself and Linda. I was guaranteed a silver metal in the mens category! Marco and I were neck and neck until the skiing. I haven't xc skied in a while. Oh, and we all had to start staggered because there is only one bike.
The next event was the race up the beer can. We only raced up the stairs, not down, which I hear was because of safety concerns . I won with a time of 23 seconds. In the picture you can see my winning technique of grabbing the metal cables with my hand to propel myself through the corners.
I did not participate in the sledge pull, as I was intimated by the size of Phil. Phil is our big man in the Keck collaboration. He won, with a winning pull of 1100 lbs plus Don. Phil is in the lower picture.
I've also got some pictures showing the progress in the garden. The first set was from about a week ago and the second is from this morning. It is amazing how fast it grows!