Friday, January 30, 2015

Recovery and Packing: January 24-31, 2015

Saturday, January 24, 2015, I finally made it out to SuperTIGER.

The day started much the same as the past eight had—I woke up, still tired, checked email, and then went to breakfast at 6:30 with the Basler crew. I had a feeling that this would finally be the day, since it took me about 5 hours to fall asleep after I went to bed the night before, and the weather at Pole was bright and clear. Sure enough, early indications were that the weather at Pole was going to be good, and that SuperTIGER was cloudy now but would be clear by the time we arrived.

Sean and I started bringing our cargo over to the Basler. By this point, Thomas had everything just about taken apart out at SuperTIGER and we were just going to pick everything up, so we ended up bringing many fewer tools than we had planned. We also brought another tank of propane and 244 pounds of food for the camp, as well as, most importantly, real coffee and a full box of hot chocolate packets. Once the plane was loaded up, we went back into the main station to make ourselves some lunches to bring with, while the Basler taxied over to the fueling pad and got fueled up. Once they were ready to go, Dereck, the Basler Captain, came to find us and we went out to the plane.

The flight to SuperTIGER from the South Pole is about three hours long. After we took off and flew for a while, I spent most of the flight talking with the flight crew while Sean took a nap.  The entire Basler crew—Dereck, the Captain, John the First Officer/copilot, Luke, the engineer, and Tyson, the loadmaster/flight attendant. When we got close to SuperTIGER there were still some clouds—the weather hadn’t opened up quite yet—so we made a few passes so the crew could check out the skiway. We flew over the camp and saw James, Lyra, and Thomas waving at us. On our last pass, we flew by very close to the ground, and then the next time around we landed. The plane taxied over to the camp and stopped close by, close enough that some of the cargo was nearly under the wingtip. 

SuperTIGER camp from the air

We met with Thomas, James, and Lyra for a bit and then unloaded all of the stuff we brought out on the plane. The camp was set up next to the SuperTIGER payload. When they arrived, the payload was almost entirely drifted in—only a few inches remained above the snow. Nearby, they set up personal sleep tents as well as an Arctic Oven, a large communal tent that served as the kitchen and dining room. There was also a small tent that provided shelter from the wind and privacy for the restroom facilities. 
Lifting a Cherenkov box out of the hole
During the month or so that the SuperGroom Team was at the site, Thomas managed to dig out a large hole around the payload, all the way down to the top of the payload (which had ended up upside down after flight). Protecting (somewhat) the pit from the wind was a wind wall, and a second wind wall downwind from the pit protected some (bottom of the stack during the flight, on top of the stack in the pit) detectors of the instrument, which were light enough that Thomas, Lyra, and James could lift them out.
They tried to blame me for spilling the Oreos, but I was already out of the pit and halfway around before they fell over
After getting settled and dropping off our important cargo, we got to work readying the Cherenkov counters for pickup. We had metal brackets that went on one side and made a harness with a long 2x3 for the other side, and managed to pick the whole thing up and stand it on the side that had the brackets. This let us rest it standing up without crushing the Photomultiplier tubes (PMTs). With everyone helping, we were able to lift it up onto the shelf of the pit, and then off that shelf onto a sled, where we carefully dragged it over to the plane and brought it in. 
While they brought the first Cherenkov detector into the plane, I got to work on the one underneath it, adding the brackets and handles, and then did the same for the Cherenkov boxes on the other SuperTIGER module. We then picked up the second Cherenkov box, brought it to the plane, and got to work on the hodoscope and scintillators underneath it. These weren’t in great shape—during landing, they’d come down on top of the rotator, the piece of CSBF hardware that kept us pointed at the sun during flight. The rotator is a heavy cylinder of metal that, when you fall on it, isn’t great for the thin aluminum sheets that covered the top of the scintillators. Two of them were bent by it, and they in turn bent the hodoscope underneath them. We took them out of the hole and moved them over by the plane as well. 

After a quick break, we took the other two Cherenkov boxes out of the pit and loaded them onto the plane. With the biggest pieces now in, we started loading the hodoscopes and scintillator boxes that had been waiting, ready for the plane. We also got the hodoscope and scintillators that were still in the pit and brought them over on sleds to the plane. After loading all the detectors, we started adding more stuff to the plane, including most of the SuperTIGER gondola. 
The SuperTIGER camp and Basler
Once everything was loaded, I took advantage of the opportunity to walk somewhere nobody had ever been before, and wandered out past the wind walls to unexplored country. I didn’t have to walk too far, and it was pretty cool, but kind of anti-climactic. I walked back to camp, we took a few photos, said goodbye to James and Lyra, and then the entire Basler crew, along with Sean, Thomas, and myself, got on the plane and took off for the South Pole.

Once at the Pole, we unloaded the contents of the plane onto a few Air Force pallets that are used for cargo on the Hercs. These weren’t the pallets we ended up using to ship everything, but they got all of our stuff over to the cargo area. 

Sunday, the Basler went back out to SuperTIGER and picked up James and Lyra, along with the rest of the SuperTIGER science cargo and most of the camp. Back at the Pole, we got a few things ready for when Cargo opened up on Monday morning.

Monday we palletized all of our cargo and got it ready for a Herc flight. We ended up having three different pallets—one with just the hodoscopes and the two broken scintllators, one with our tools, electronics boxes, and other gear, and one double pallet (called a T-2) that had the Cherenkov boxes, honeycomb substrates (that held up each SupterTIGER module), and non-bent scintillators. This pallet was the most time consuming to put together, but with some help from Lyra, James, and a few guys from the South Pole Cargo department, we were able to get it together in around an hour. My job ended up being holding things and making sure they didn’t fall over, which got a little chilly (the windchill was -45F). 

At the end of the day Monday, we talked to cargo about when we could expect our cargo to get out, and were told that it would probably be the last flight of the day on Tuesday, since we were trying hard to make it to the cargo vessel in time.

Tuesday, with everything done (for a while), I went back into my routine of sitting around the Pole with the Basler crew (who couldn’t fly due to weather). We packed up our personal gear and went over to Bag Drag in the morning. Our Herc ended up getting cancelled, so we had another night at the Pole, which we spent playing an epic game of Risk! (which I won).

Wednesday morning I woke up to the news that our Herc had been delayed again, this time until Wednesday evening. We went out and looked over all of the cargo that would be coming on later flights (the gondola, some batteries, etc), and talked it over with the cargo department After lunch (real burgers and fries, but the milkshake wasn’t quite as thick as I’d have liked. It’s a harsh continent.), I watched TV for a while and then got everything ready to go for the flight. We went out to the Poles again after dinner and took some more photos, and then waited for the Herc to arrive.

When the Herc did arrive, we had a brief scare while they worked on an issue with their hydraulics. The plane was fine, but there was a chance that they might not be able take any cargo pallets. After about a half hour, though, they said that everything was good to go, and loaded our cargo on the plane. We got on, buckled in, and the plane took off, bound for McMurdo.

There were only 6 passengers on this flight, so we were able to get up and walk around and look out the windows a lot. We got some great views of the Trans-Antarctic mountains on the way in, and our plane ended up flying closer to Mount Discovery to get a good luck at it, which was really cool. We landed in McMurdo a little before midnight, and had a quick chat with the Willy Field cargo people. Our cargo was supposed to go directly to LDB, and they said they’d bring it over after the night shift lunch. We helped direct them as to where to put everything when they got there, and got everything settled before heading back into town. 

We found McMurdo to be a town completely transformed by the arrival of the cargo vessel. Shipping containers were everywhere, in a well-organized but busy spectacle. A new orange plastic fence separated Derelict Junction from the road around it, and the space we normally walk across to get to the Galley was taken up by shipping containers and off limits. 

It was also weird how much returning to McMurdo felt like coming home. Maybe part of it was that we got to keep our rooms, and I had a bunch of clothes and other stuff waiting for me, and maybe part of it was that there were actual geographic features to look at on the horizon, but it felt really nice (the non-terrible internet helped too, of course).

We arrived in McMurdo about 2:45am Thursday morning. After not nearly enough sleep, I met Thomas and Sean for a 6:30am breakfast. We went out to LDB and started getting everything ready for the vessel. We had a set of uprights, similar to the ones flown during flight, but tall enough to fit all of the detectors on them. The holes on the uprights were oversized and slotted, which meant things would go in quickly.

Before lunch, we got all set up and stacked up the first pallet, and bottom three layers, two scintillators and a hodoscope. After lunch, we started taking the Cherenkov boxes off of the pallet they had been shipped to McMurdo on, and put the first two on the stack. We kept adding more and more detectors to the stack, and about 5pm had everything on except for the top pallet, which we decided to leave for the next day. We caught the 5:30 transport back to town, had dinner, and then agreed to meet up again at 5am the next morning. I went back to my dorm, showered, and went to sleep.

Meanwhile, the Basler made it back out to SuperTIGER again on Friday, and picked up all of the remaining camp equipment.

Saturday I woke up early, we had breakfast at 5am, and we caught the 6am shuttle out to LDB. We added the pallet to the stack and started making sure that we had screwed everything in properly and tightly, and added some RTV to each of the bolts to keep them in place. We then started packing up everything else that needed to go back to the US, including all the recovery tools and electronics boxes. After lunch, we got a couple of loaders out to help us move everything, and moved the heavy stuff out to the container that had our tools and other equipment in it. They also moved the instrument container next to the building we were working in, and carefully brought the re-stacked instrument into the container.  Around that point, the Basler flew over and we waved to the crew, but apparently they didn’t see us. Then, we tied it down with cargo straps, which was fun because I got to climb up on top of the stack and attack the cables on top. Once everything was good to go, the container got closed, everything went on the cargo Kress, and it was off to the ship! It went on the ship sometime Friday evening.
In the container and ready to go!

Saturday we slept in and went out to LDB around lunchtime to get our equipment to return to the BFC. We also tied down some plywood, because extremely strong winds were forecast for Saturday afternoon/evening. Back in town, we returned our equipment to the BFC, including our sleep kits and the other things we’d borrowed, and then I came back to my dorm to upload photos and update the blog. Sean is scheduled to leave on Monday, and Thomas and I are scheduled to fly out on Thursday. We’re hoping that our other cargo will come in from Pole soon. James and Lyra were supposed to come back from Pole today, but their flight was cancelled due to weather. 

On the Kress on the way to the ship!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Made it out to SuperTIGER!

Saturday, January 24, Sean and I finally made it out with the Basler
to SuperTIGER. I'll have an update on that soon, but haven't gotten
around to writing it all up yet.

Another week+ at the Pole: January 16-23, 2015

So I haven't updated the Blog in over week, but that's mostly because
basically nothing has happened (until yesterday!). Every day, we wake
up and meet the Basler crew for breakfast at 6:30am. That's when we
hear the bad news: the weather is unsuitable somewhere, either at Pole
in the morning (this we can normally tell by looking around during our
walk into the main station from the Hypertat), weather at SuperTIGER,
or the forecast for when we'd be getting back to Pole. Then we go on
"Weather Delay" until the 10am forecast comes in, when we officially
get cancelled for the day. Every day for the last week. The Basler did
get a flight out to cache fuel at another fuel camp one day that the
weather at SuperTIGER was bad, but otherwise we've been hanging out
with the Basler crew and killing time waiting for the weather to be

We've found ways of entertaining ourselves—we basically rotate through
napping, watching TV shows on DVD, watching movies, playing board
games, and playing sports in the gym. In the gym, we've done
badminton, ping pong, tennis, volleyball, and wiffle ball. We've also
probably played 10 different board games. It gets a bit frustrating
just waiting around for the weather to be right.

Sunday night I gave the weekly Sunday Night Science Lecture in the
Galley. I talked about SuperTIGER and gave basically a brief overview
of the experiment, how it works, and what we've found, with a bunch of
recovery photos at the end. I was hoping for more photos (and some
actual pieces of the instrument!), but we didn't make it out in time.

Over the weekend, the Traverse arrived from McMurdo. They covered the
distance from McMurdo in a record 17 days, and brought tons of fuel
for the station to use over the winter.

So that's what happened at Pole for the first 8 days or so that the
Basler was here. We finally got the weather we were waiting for on
Saturday, so I'll have a longer entry about the recovery tomorrow.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Basler Arrives!: January 15, 2014

Today I woke up and walked over to the elevated station to check the flight scroll and confirm that the Basler was indeed supposed to be heading to Pole today. Everything looked good, and after we checked in with the SuperTIGER site Sean and I went out to our cargo and double-checked that we had everything ready to go. At that point, the thought was that the Basler might continue on to SuperTIGER and then back to the Pole today, but we knew that might be pushing the limits of flying time allowed in a single duty day for the flight crew.

We warmed up in the galley with some hot chocolate and talked with Bryan, the Twin Otter flight engineer, who told us that the Basler was just going to stop here for the day. We had some bad weather coming in in the late afternoon. We relaxed a bit after that, but made sure we had everything ready. A bit after lunch, the Basler arrived. We wandered out there about a half-hour after they landed, just as the flight crew was finishing up everything they needed to do. The flight crew is in the Hypertat with us tonight, so we showed them where it was and had a talk about flying out to the payload. It sounds like the only thing we're waiting for is weather.

A bit later, we had a talk with them about weights and how much stuff we could fit both going to SuperTIGER (much less weight because they have to bring a lot of fuel) and coming back. It all sounded good, so we're hoping for good weather tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

More Waiting: January 12-14, 2015

I'm trying blogging via email, so we'll see if this works.

Monday morning I woke up to a call from the SuperGroom team. At that
point, the Basler was planned to come to the South Pole and then,
depending on how long it took and the weather, continue on with Sean,
Dana, and I to SuperTIGER. We assured them that we were ready to go,
but reminded them that the weather looked questionable in the
afternoon and that we still hadn't gotten a Herc flight in with the
last bits of camp cargo that we needed. We went over to the carpentry
shop to ask for a couple more pieces of wood, and then walked into the
station to warm up. We sat around in the galley for a while and then
decided to go watch a movie. By the time we had a movie picked out,
we got paged for another call from the groom team and I went outside
and talked to James for a while. At this point, we found out that the
Basler was not coming to the Pole at all that day. By that point it
was almost lunch, so we ate and then returned to the lounge to watch
Blade Runner. The rest of the afternoon Sean and I learned how to play
cribbage from Dave and Carol, who work on automated weather stations,
and are also basically just waiting here for a plane. After dinner,
Sean and I stopped by the store for a couple of minutes while Dana
called Thomas out in the field.
When our flights back to Christchurch changed, there was limited space
on the different flights, so Dana was scheduled for a January 19
flight. Monday was exactly a week before that, and there hadn't been a
flight to the South Pole by a Herc in a week. We started to get very
worried about Dana not being able to make it back in time, and when it
became clear that he wouldn't be able to get much time on the ground
at SuperTIGER regardless it was decided that he should leave the Pole
soon to get back to McMurdo in time to fly out to Christchurch as
planned. If he didn't make the January 19 flight, he could be stuck
here another two weeks (and has been here since late October/early
November). He called Bob in the afternoon and Thomas after dinner to
talk over this plan with them.
At 7, we went to an Antarctic history talk, given by yet another Dave
(a different Dave from the one who works on automated weather
stations, and also not the machinist Dave, and also not our groom team
Dave). We'd missed the first two lectures in this series, about the
Heroic Age of Antarctic explanation, but this talk was about the
explorers who many different parts of Antarctica are named after, and
what happened with their expeditions. It was very entertaining and
informative (fun fact: the area around WAIS divide had pretty much
constantly terrible weather as early as the 1930s). After that, we
stopped by the galley for dessert and then went and got on the

Tuesday I woke up and checked email, and then went to breakfast with
Dana, Dave and Carol, and "Kiwi" and Bryan, the Twin Otter Co-Pilot
and Flight Engineer. At that point, the Basler was on a weather delay
but still scheduled to come to the Pole today. A little before 9 I
went back to the Hypertat so that Sean and I could talk to Thomas for
our daily check-in. There wasn't too much new, but we had to tell
Thomas that the Basler was on a weather delay and not on its way to
the pole right then. Dana was told that he was on the flight back to
McMurdo that night, and had to bag drag more or less immediately.
Back inside the main station, we sat around in the galley looking at
some SuperTIGER construction photos to get an idea of some things we
need for recovery. We lasted all the way until 11:15 (about an hour
after I predicted!) before the Basler flight to the Pole was
officially cancelled.
After lunch, we talked with Henry the Twin Otter pilot and watched a
bunch of really awesome videos he took with a GoPro camera that he had
either strapped to the front ski or inside the cockpit of his plane.
Some of the aerial shots of the ice shelf and Mt. Erebus were
especially amazing.
We had a little bit of a brainstorming session about contingency plans
for recovery if the Basler keeps getting delayed, and then talked to
Bryan the Flight Engineer until dinner. The weather was pretty
terrible here all afternoon, and apparently wasn't good in McMurdo
either. It didn't look good for the Herc to fly here tonight, but Dana
kept insisting that it was going to happen. After dinner, we played
cribbage for a while and got the news that Dana's flight was on its
way (with another cargo Herc about an hour behind it!).
Once they announced that Dana's flight had landed and was ready for
passengers, we went and said goodbye. Then, it was on to the computer
lab for the evening internet, where we heard that his flight had
successfully taken off.

Wednesday was a rest day for the Basler crew in McMurdo, so there was
no flight to the Pole or SuperTIGER. I woke up early and walked in the
-47F windchill over to the station, where the internet wasn't working
well and I wasn't able to load anything. Then we went back to the
Hypertat and called Thomas, who gave us the most recent iteration of
the plan. The plan now includes me not camping at the SuperTIGER site
but accompanying the Basler in and out with the cargo, and then
dealing with the cargo here at the Pole. It's a little disappointing—I
was actually looking forward to camping, and getting on with the work
that I came here for and waited so long to do, but it's apparently
what needs to get done at this point.
After lunch, Sean and I went to our box of tools and pulled out the
stuff that Thomas thinks we'll need in the field. We then went out to
the science machine shop and helped organize the stockroom for a
couple of hours. It was good to have some work to do. After a break,
we headed back over and helped Dave (the machinist) load a bunch of
pieces of metal into sleds and then snowmobile them over to a shipping
container for storage, and by then it was time for dinner.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Tunnel and IceCube Tours: January 10-11, 2015

Saturday morning I slept in a bit, and then went into the elevated station. After staring a load of laundry, Sean and I went out to the Cargo office to start the process of shipping the SIP back to the LDB facility at McMurdo, where it can be packed for the trip back to Texas. We ran into Dana at this point, and then headed back inside to the warmth of the elevated galley. After lunch, I went to medical to see the doctor. I’d managed to get a sliver from the plywood door of my room in the hypertat stuck in my palm and didn’t have a tweezers, but the doctor was able to get it out easily. I spent more time explaining the plan for SuperTIGER recovery and the science of SuperTIGER than I did getting the splinter out. The afternoon was pretty quiet—nothing particularly exciting happened.

After dinner, Sean and I met up with Mike the plumber, who had been in McMurdo two years ago (and apparently remembered the talk I gave in Crary Lab) and at the Pole last year, where he got to know Thomas and JohnE. Mike took us along on a “plumbing inspection” of the tunnels underneath the station. We started at the bottom of the “Beer Can”, a metal cylinder on the side of the elevated station that has a staircase and an elevator (that is currently under repair) in it. We started walking down the underground passageway from the beer can to the power plant and storage facilities, but about halfway down we ducked under a pipe and entered the tunnels. The tunnels are very cold—it was below -50 F when we were down there. The walls, ceiling, and floors of the tunnel are all made of packed snow, and at random places small holes, or “shrines” are dug out of the side of the wall and random things placed in them. Near the entrance to the tunnels were a series of shrines that apparently used to be located much farther back in the cave, including a frozen sturgeon that has been in Antarctica since 1992 and an ice sculpture of Roald Amundsen. A series of well-insulated pipes runs along the left-hand side of the tunnels (as you’re going in) with the right side just a walkway. The tunnels at the beginning were fairly wide, and a tunnel widening project is underway (they basically just cut away the snow with a chainsaw. Eventually, we got to a part where the tunnel narrowed down and we had to periodically duck around pieces of pipe that were sticking out. We turned down several side tunnels (some of which were lit, some we had to use a flashlight) and got to see where sewage from the station used to be dumped. We also got to see some of the work that Mike had done last year, including the opening where the station’s fresh water used to come from, which is now where the current sewage is being dumped. We made it out to the current Rodwell (the wells used for station water as well. The process for getting water that is used here is really cool—basically, they pipe hot water into the ice and snow at a certain point. This hot water melts the snow and ice around it to create more water, and then this water is pumped out and heated and the cycle continues. The water is piped into the well at about 90F and returns around 40F. The wells get to be about 500 feet deep and around 100ft wide before they’re finished, but a power outage can cause the equipment to freeze up. Once a well is done, a new one is created for water and the large empty hole is filled back up with sewage.

We walked around the tunnels for about an hour. At one point, I could feel my eyelashes sticking together and almost freezing to each other when I blinked. It was cold.

After the tunnels, we returned to the passageway from the Beer Can to the Power Plant, and went in and looked around. In addition to the generators, there’s a room where the fuel is slowly heated up (it’s stored at -55F, but apparently it doesn’t burn so well at -55. The water treatment room is next door, and we got to sample the pure snowmelt water from the current Rodwell. Then we walked back down the underground passage to the cold storage area. This is similar to the freezer building in McMurdo, and there are rows of stacks of boxes of food for the length of a long room. At the end of the cold storage room, there was a cage of extra Extreme Cold Weather gear, helpfully stored in the freezing cold. This also is the future location of the South Pole, thanks to the glacial drift of the ice around the station. We then went into the -55C Fuel Storage room, and saw all of the 9,000-gallon tanks of fuel that the station will burn through the winter. At the back of the Fuel Storage room—about 100 meters back—we went up a staircase and popped out of the “Mario Pipe”, located on the other side of the Geographic Pole from the station. Mike went back inside to turn off the lights, but Sean and I thanked him for the tour and then walked back to the station.

Inside, we warmed up with some Hot Chocolate and talked to Dana for a bit before going to the computer lab for the evening internet. After a while, we went back to our Hypertat. Dana and Sean stayed behind, but I walked over to the Carpentry shop for the Carp shop party for a while.


Sunday, I woke up early and walked to the elevated station for the last half-hour or so of the morning internet. I then went back out to the Hypertat around 8 and went back to sleep. Most people on station have Sundays off, so there are only two hot meals, Brunch and Dinner. I woke up again and went in for Brunch with Dana and Dave from the groom team, and shortly after that Sean came in too. After we had finished eating but were still sitting around the table, the Basler arrived with passengers. Soon, they called for all the outbound passengers to head out to the plane, and we walked out and said goodbye to Dave, who flew back to McMurdo on the Basler.

Around 2 I met up with Dave and Carol, who work on Automated Weather Stations, and who came in on our flight from McMurdo. They wanted to play Frisbee Golf on the course on station, so I said I’d tag along. We walked over to the carpentry office and then behind there met up with Paul Sullivan, the Science Support Manager for the station. Paul took us around the course, which goes around, over, and through berms filled with cargo. At the back end of the course, there are the remains of an arch that used to have work space but was decommissioned and left out in the show. It’s a huge metal structure that looks like some sort of crashed spaceship lying in the snow.

After we went through most of the course, I went back to the Hypertat to get a new battery for my camera, and then went to the galley to warm up. Carol, Dave, and I then went out to the IceCube open house. IceCube is a huge neutrino observatory located about a 15 minute walk from the station. Buried a kilometer and a half underneath the surface is a cubic-kilometer array of detectors. They have 86 strings of 60 photomultiplier tubes each, and they look for the Cherenkov radiation produced by a charged particle created by an extragalactic neutrino passing through their detector. We got to see one of their PMT enclosures close up, and then the server room where a lot of their data processing happens. I ended up asking a lot of obnoxious questions about the hardware, since they basically have a much, much, much, much larger version of the SuperTIGER Cherenkov detectors.

After the IceCube tour, it was time for dinner. We ate and then went to the game room for an hour or so and then got on the evening internet. Tomorrow the Basler should hopefully fly back to the Pole with an eye towards taking Sean, Dana, and I out to SuperTIGER on Tuesday.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Another Day At The Pole: January 9, 2015

Today I woke up and checked email before breakfast. After breakfast, Dana and I helped Dave take his bags over to cargo for bag drag. I then called Thomas for our regular morning check in. It sounds like things are going well out at the SuperTIGER site. There wasn’t too much for us to do, so I read a book and took a nap before lunch.

After lunch, we sat around the galley for a while and then finally went out to the South Pole markers to take touristy photos. There are two South Pole markers. First, we headed out to the Geographical South Pole sign and marker. This marker marks the actual spot where the Earth’s axis of rotation comes out of the surface—the actual south pole. Because the station and everything around here is built on top of a glacier that drifts, the pole is moved every year on January 1. Every year, the crew that stays at the South Pole all winter designs and machines a new marker. This year’s is pretty cool—I’ll try to post a photo when we get a good TDRSS window. I haven’t been sleeping too well, so I’ve just been waking up for the tail end of the good internet.

After taking a bunch of photos at the Geographical Pole, we walked over to the Ceremonial Pole. This is a lot more picturesque—the pole marker is striped and has a reflective sphere on top, and is surrounded by flags from all the original signatories of the Antarctic Treaty. We took a lot more photos there, and then went inside to warm up. We sat around the Galley looking at the photos from the poles and the rest of the trip so far and talking. Eventually, it was almost dinner time, so I went back to the Hypertat to re-pack my bag.

Sean and I were offered a tour of the tunnels underneath the station, but we didn’t really set a time for that (we’re now planning on going tomorrow night). I packed my warmest gear just in case. I also packed a pair of shorts and a tshirt, because according to the wall of recreational activities, Ultimate Frisbee is every Friday at 8pm. We had a leisurely dinner and then I went down to the gym to see if Frisbee was indeed happening. In the end, only one other person—Dave, who works on meteorological stations and was on our flight out of McMurdo (not the SuperGroom team mechanic named Dave. There are 6 Daves on station. 3.7% of people at the South Pole are named Dave), but we threw a Frisbee around for about an hour.

After that, it was time for my first South Pole shower. To conserve water, everyone is limited to two-minute showers twice a week. With only two minutes of water, it’s important to have a plan of action going in and to budget time wisely.

Refreshed by the shower, I stopped in the galley for dessert (they were almost out of chocolate ice cream. It’s a harsh continent) and then hopped on the slower internet to check email.