January, 2004....J. Dana Hrubes...updated January 31, 200 , 2149 GMT

I'm out on the Antarctic plateau shooting video of a test of a instrumented Mars Rover called tumbleweed deployed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Rover, later chasing photographer

January at the Pole - A Busy Month

January is probably the busiest month of the season. Science and construction crews are working at an incredible pace to fit in all that was planned into the short 2-1/2 month Summer season. The station will soon close on February 15th and we will be isolated for almost 9 months.  Only a few of the many tasks are described here.

In early January, the AASTO building and telescope tower that was slowly being buried in snow in the dark sector was dug up, prepared, and moved to the clean air sector for one of my upcoming winter projects called "the search for extrasolar planets".  For more info see:   cusp projects, 2003-2004.      This program, run by the SETI institute will use an optical telescope to hopefully discover new planets orbiting around stars in our galaxy.   pulling AASTO building from original position      putting AASTO building on a sled while DeHaviland Twin Otter takes off      Angie and Jess dismantle telescope tower equipment    telescope tower being lifted to sled     AASTO building being towed past the geographic south pole    AASTO building being towed past the dome and the telescope tower on its way to the new site    new site for SETI telescope 

Early in January, I said good-bye to Evans, from Stanford University. He built and upgraded the VLF Beacon Transmitter this season. Evans has been working in upper atmospheric physics in the Antarctic since the 1960's and has wintered at both Siple and Byrd Stations in the 1970's.    me with Ev next to the transmitter amplifiers in the beacon building out in the dark sector    

As part of the decommissioning of the USGS seismic vault, Al and I went into that vault and two other older abandoned seismic vaults dating back to 1975 in order to find the power distribution panel so that these vaults could be permanently decommissioned.  Some of these vaults are as deep as 50 feet below the surface.   nearly 30 year old vault looking up from 50-foot-deep bottom    tunnel to heated instrumentation vault     tunnel in other abandoned vault       door to instrumentation room 50 feet under the ice     old instrumentation room with signatures dating back 30 years      telephone at -56 F still connected to the main station and working      photo, demonstrating how the intense ice pressure fractures heavy structural timbers 

Speaking of tunnels, look at the sign inside the utilidor tunnel under the ice near the dome.       utilidor sign

Many other activities were were performed for different projects. For example, Al and I raised the wind anemometer for the University of Maryland project.   There is a constant battle at the pole to keep equipment from being buried in drifted snow.    Most of the snow at the pole is blown in . We get about 8 to 10 inches per year accumulation, but about only 2 inches actually falls the entire year making this about the driest desert in the world. The other 6 to 8 inches actually blows in from hundreds of miles away near the coast.      wind bird before raising    wind bird after raising     Speaking of drifting snow.... caterpillar tractors spend the entire summer season moving snow that drifts near the station and structures to a place well downwind of everything    pushing snow   

I went over to the dark sector one day with Cryo Mike to get my weekly fill of liquid nitrogen for my University of Denver spectrometer over in the ARO building.    filling liquid nitrogen dewar   

We again had our share of fire drills and false alarms to respond to.  We had one fire drill that took place in the under-ice utilidor. What a squeeze that one was getting into a confined space with full bunker gear and air tanks.  No claustrophobia allowed here    me with Billy after the utilidor drill      fatigue sets in after a drill 

And finally a couple of interesting shots. One is of an emperor penguin taken on Ross Island at the coast of Antarctica by one of our Cargo women, Bride.  emperor penguin    .....and finally at the end of year cargo party a raffle was held to wind a chance to take out your end-of-summer frustrations on a source of frustration commonly found in the American office place     sledge hammer meets copy machine

NEXT MONTH:   8-1/2 months of South Pole isolation begins with the last flight out and then a traditional South Pole showing of two movies:  Playing:  "The Shining" and "The Thing" 

       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)