December, 2000

Its hard to believe that it is already December. Station closing and the start of winterover is only about 8 weeks away.

Today Andrea and I went out to the U.S. Geological Survey's seismic vault to replace the GPS unit and take some diagnostic measurements. One of the seismometers is not operating properly. The seismic vault is about 100 meters from the dome and is about 10 meters beneath the ice surface. The seismometers are located here to isolate them from vibrations originating from the station, thus providing the best possible measurements of earthquakes occurring around the world. The entrance has a hatch and is constructed from wood. When we first arrived in October the entrance hatch was about 1-1/2 meters under the snow surface, but it has since been extended by the carpenters for easier access (Andrea going down the hatch) . You have to be careful when climbing down to the vault tunnel because there is ice covering the ladder. (looking down the vault ladder) . Once you get down, it is very quiet and cold and everything is covered with ice crystals (looking up to the sky from down below)   You then have to bend down and walk along an tunnel to reach the heated under-ice seismic vault. (access tunnel) . On the way to the vault you can see the USGS seismometers along the tunnel floor just outside of the heated vault (vault, 10 meters beneath the surface)   Once inside the vault you can take off your parka because it is heated. The seismic data acquisition signal conditioning electronics and computers are in the vault itself.

Last weekend the principal investigator for one of my projects was here. He works for the US Geological Survey and we went out and determined where the location of the South Pole will be on January 1, 2001 to within a centimeter. The pole marker is moved every year because the 2-mile-thick ice sheet that we are living on moves about 10 meters a year. The location was determined using the global positioning satellite(GPS) system. A GPS antenna was placed on the tripod where we estimated the pole would be and took 15 minutes of data (me next to GPS tripod) .  This data was used to determine the location of the tripod and we then determined the direction and distance to move the tripod . The tripod was moved and we took data again to confirm that we were at the Earth's rotational axis. Poles are left in place from previous years and can be seen as a long line of poles representing the South Pole location at January 1st of each year (line of markers) . Larry, from USGS is shown holding the pole marker from Jan 1, 2000 which is about 10 meters from the Jan 1, 2001 location, at the tripod (2000 marker) . The construction of the new station is going well and it is shown relative to the GPS tripod location (new station) . On New Year's Day we will have a ceremony to relocate the South Pole marker. , December 20th, Rolf Bae and Eirik Sonneland From Norway arrived at the pole on skis while dragging heavy sleds. They wintered over in the Dronning Maud region of Antarctica and left from their winter base, Troll, on October 21st and arrived December 20. I don't know the exact distance , but its over 1000 miles. They also used parasails to propel them on their skis. They are camping in their tent next to the pole and will leave in 2 days to cross the Trans-Antarctic Mountains and hope to reach McMurdo Station sometime in late January or February. Enclosed are a few photos I took.
1) reaching the ceremonial pole (not the actual pole);
2) close-up of the guys,
3) at the actual pole as of Jan 1, 2000

For relaxation a little game of croquet was played out at the pole
1) final croquet pole
2) bulls-eye at 90 degrees south
3) croquet team

For Christmas we had a nice Christmas dinner on Christmas eve then on Christmas day we had the annual "Race Around the World. It is a 2-1/4 mile race that takes you around the South Pole 3 times. Many of us ran the race (runners) , but others used cross country skis, some were towed by snowmobile (towed skiers) , some took the snow cat , some rode in a set of towed sofas , and at least one was a celebrity . When the race was over all participants went back into the dome for free T-shirts in the galley.