February, 2004....J. Dana Hrubes...updated February 29, 2004 , 0241 GMT

  The last LC-130 aircraft until October 25th leaves heavy contrails as the last of the summer people leave the station to the winterover crew (photo by Baker)

February at the Pole - the station closes for almost 9 months

Summer finally wound down and before we knew it, the last of the summer people were leaving on that last flight on February 15th. It had been a very hectic and constructive summer, but it was time for us winterovers to take over the station.      last of the summer people board the last LC-130        lonely last plane (photo by unknown polie)             winterovers wave good-bye as the last  flight for almost 9 months waves its wings          quiet galley (photo by unknown polie)     

This winter I have more projects to care for than last time and they are spread out over a larger distance.
Walking is necessary because it is now getting too cold for snowmobiles or other  vehicles.
This makes for about a 2-1/2 mile walk each day to do routine work or to attend to emergencies or repairs. It is not too difficult right now to make the rounds everyday while it is light out and only -50oF or -60o F, but it can be a bit challenging once the sun sets, it is dark out for six months, it is -80o F to -100o F and the wind is howling with blowing snow and white out conditions.

I have two laboratories in the orange Skylab building on the first and second floors with 8 projects dealing primarily in upper atmospheric physics,  the VLF beacon transmitter building almost a mile away in the "dark sector",  the Infrared Spectrometer lab in the Atmospheric Research Observatory (ARO) about 1/3 of a mile way in the "Clean Air Sector", and the SETI telescope tower and service building about 1/3 of a mile away. In addition, I have 7 under ice vaults with antennas and other instruments out in the antenna field up to 3/4 of a mile away from the dome. And finally, there is the 7 kilometer-long (4-1/2 mile-long) VLF dipole antenna which is located grid west about 2 kilometers from the VLF beacon building.  I occasionally have to visit the vaults that are as deep as 40 feet to make adjustments on the instruments or pre-amplifiers. Frequently a walk to one of the buildings results in quite a bit of snow shoveling before you can enter.    shoveling the VLF beacon bldg      

Aerial View of Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station showing the locations of my 11 scientific projects

Now that the station is closed and winter darkness is approaching, a variety of station tasks must be completed. These tasks include removing the aircraft and station JP-8 fuel line and system and rolling up the 1/2 mile-long hose, putting up safety flaglines to the dark sector and the VLF beacon building, ARO, the SETI building, the antenna field and the RF building (satellite antenna area).   (fuel line photos by Jules Harnett)       rolling the JP-8 aircraft and station storage fuel line      fuel line work         the look of cold work      exhaustion  

Skiway Flag Removal Team     

Flagline installation to the Dark Sector (photos by Troy Wiles)    installing flags        flagline crew       flagline (station in back about 1 kilometer away)      

One can readily see why a new station is being built to replace the dome which was completed in 1975 and the South Pole accumulates only about 8-10 inches of snow per year.        Dome in 1975 (bill spindler)      Dome in  2004       

The sun is rapidly getting lower in the sky as sunset on March 20th approaches.     power plant exhaust in the weakening sun at 8 degrees elevation on Feb. 29th         

NEXT MONTH:   The Sun Sets For Six Months

       A Real-Time Photo of South Pole Station as Seen from the ARO Building (live when satellite is up)

           A Comprehensive South Pole Web Site by Bill Spindler

          Winterover Web Pages (Bill Spindler's List)