Courtesy Matt Smith
Last month we celebrated the annual Mid-winter with a nice sit-down dinner prepared by our wonderful galley crew. This annual celebration has been a tradition since the earliest Antarctic explores, and every station on continent has a party and we all exchange station photos of the crews serving the current winter. Our esteemed Josh Neff decided with much effort on his part to host a murder mystery, where many of us created our own characters, each with unique clues devised to help solve who was our killer. I played an oil tycoon from Texas with two body guards (Matt Smith and Dr. Dave Reibel). Sadly, we were in the wrong place at the wrong time, witnessed a murder, and were subsequently killed ourselves. That was a real bummer!
Courtesy Grantland Hall
At the start of July, Peter Bammes, our electrician from Los Angeles, after almost two months of work, hosted the First Annual South Pole Winter Olympics. Nearly everyone on station participated or helped in one way or another over the 14 days of competition. The events were Individual Beer Can sprint, which meant running up all 92 steps from the bottom to top in full ECW (extreme cold weather gear, which adds nearly 20 lbs). Individual sled pull was held wear each person would pull a sled with 45lbs in the back from the geographic South Pole to the ceremonial South Pole, which is close to 200 yards. The weather was -70f, 20 knot winds, and the drifts of blown snow were brutal, as only 3 people were able to finish! The Team sled pull was the same track, but the load was a person in the sled, with 3 pullers. I was part of Team Michigan ( LT Gavin Chensue, NOAA, Josh Neff, and Peter Gougeon). Not only was I the heaviest person, but was also the passenger! It turns out I weighed nearly 100lbs more than the next closest rider! Amazingly, we , or more correctly, THEY decimated the other teams! It was crazy cold and windy, as always.
The games then moved inside, where the events included pool, ping pong, volleyball, and Rubik’s cube. Tow games were included, Settlers of Catan and Supreme Commander. There was something for everyone, and during the medal ceremony, a final photo competition was held. All in all, Peter did a fantastic job, and all hands enjoyed every event!
Courtesy LT Gavin Chensue, NOAA Corps
We have finally entered August, the final month that will have full darkness, but when the sunlight will also begin to radiate over the horizon. Astronomical Twilight was at the start of this week, and we also have a half moon and clear skies, allowing me to do my first rounds in 6 weeks without a red headlight! The previous six weeks have seen increased wind speeds and gusting, leading into the two windiest months of the Antarctic winter, August and September. The week after next I will have rounds again, where I am hoping to see the first of the returning sun and the end to the long night we have all worked through.
Above is one of the best shots I’ve seen this season, taken by Hunter, of the ceremonial Pole looking away from the ‘front’ of the elevated station. It captures the nearly never-ending wind, an aurora storm, and the Milky Way galaxy. Extended exposures are requires to be able to capture the colors in the sky, and all our great winter photographers make use of insulated boxes for the cameras to stay somewhat warm in, many times leaving the cameras out for up to 12 hours for pantographic shots to turn into time lapses.
Looking ‘southwest’ from the NOAA ARO lab in the clean air sector, this aurora storm was possibly one of the strongest we have seen this winter. Hunter has remarked that he hasn’t seen the sun in 4 months, and he simply does not miss it! He along with everyone else taking great pictures are all in agreement, that winters here are amazing to behold and even better to capture with the camera!
Another tradition was completed in the last two weeks, that of the annual winter over crew picture. If you scroll back to the top of this post, you will see the ‘test’ shot conducted by Matt Smith, Hunter Davis, and super polie veteran Robert Schwartz. 45 members of the 2017 South Pole winter over crew assembled in the -70f windy evening, and made sure to make the memory that will last forever. Rumor is that at this weekends all-hands meeting, we will get to see the final product!