iceman's South Pole Page

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Winter - 2015

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Flying South

Back at the Pole

Sunset 2015

Auroras 2015

November 2015


The last days were nuts, like always around opening. The Basler had a week delay because of bad weather in McMurdo, so it didn't come in until Oct 27. They decided to push the Hercs forward one day, so actually on Friday Oct 30 the population doubled and on Saturday we were already 120+
Now summer is already in full swing and 1/3 of the winter-overs are already gone.
Last days were all very long with all the packing, cleaning up, telescope problems... but most of it is done now and now we are waiting for the first summer people for our experiment.

Here are also links to some more aurora videos that got finished the last weeks

October 2015


The first Basler, turbo prop DC-3 came through to refuel, they brought in the first freshies, everybody got half an apple and half an orange and a few pieces of carrot :)
Now the Basler is supposed to come back from McMurdo with a handful of summer people and then the invasion should start on Oct 31.


Time is really flying now, had stormy weather for most of the past 4 weeks, but now it's beautiful and the sun seems already so high (it is actually already over 7°).
All the high winds caused, quite a bit of blowing snow and therefore drifting around any obstacle and the sastrugi, little snow dunes.

September 2015


Last Saturday we had our sunrise dinner, the official sunrise, i.e. equinox is Sept 23 0821 UTC. The weather is not really cooperating and we don't have a clear horizon, but blowing snow. But it is definitely very bright now outside.


We are now in civil twilight, i.e. the sun is less than 6° below the horizon, aurora season is over and we lost most of the stars, only the brightest ones are still visible. The change in brightness in the last days was dramatic. Only 2 weeks until sunrise.

August 2015


August just flew by. And it's getting damn bright outside. Also the sun was very active over the past days, the sky is getting too bright now for seeing much. The full moon doesn't help either and the every day more and more stars are vanishing.


Here is the South Pole contribution to the 48h filem festival.
The required elements were

*Toilet Seat
*The phrase: "It's a very complicated algorithm"
*A twanging boing noise

I also did another pano today, different lens and camera, I like it already better, than the first one ;)


We are already quite a bit into astronomical twilight and the glow of the sun is obvious on the horizon. Here a quick and dirty pano from last night

Last night we also had the 48h film festival, a lot of station participate. 48h before the deadline, 4 or 5 items, sayings etc. will be announced which have to be included in the movie. Then every station gets creative and makes a short movie and then they are distributed to all other stations and we vote on the best movies, always a lot of fun and this year really good movies. As soon as ours is online I will post the link :)

Check out my vimeo site for new videos, anther real time one.


Already August... finally after some horrible weather days, at least most of it during the moon (sorry for the Dobsons), some clear skies again, in time for the last dark period, the sun is coming, and the faint glow is on the horizon.

July 2015


NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) on July 4th featured a picture from South Pole :).

The cold spell of the last couple of weeks is over and we are battling higher winds again, the temperature warmed up to just below minus 50°C - funny if you can say, "it warmed up" to something in this temperature range :).
Even for the South Pole in Winter it is unusual to stay below -70°C for several days, anytime the wind speed increases, the ambient temperature will rise a bit since we have a very strong inversion layer, i.e. it's getting "warmer" if you go up and therefore the wind mixes the "warmer" air with the cold surface air. On the 30m Met tower the difference can be sometimes up to 25°C from the sensor at 2m and the one art 30m.

Broken records:

20 consecutive whole days (21 Jun - 10 Jul) spent below -60C (-76F). Old record was 16 in 1997.
13 consecutive whole days (28 Jun - 10 Jul) spent below -65C (-85F). Old record was 12 in 1987.

Tied records:

7 consecutive whole days (2 - 8 Jul) spent below -90F, tied with 1965, 1987, and 1997.
8 consecutive days (2 - 9 Jul) with at least some time spent below -100F, tied with 1982.


With temperatures down to -80°C, we always get asked how do we dress outside. Besides the normal clothing we wear inside, we got our ECW (Extreme-Cold-Weather) gear. But everybody comes up with it's own solution for hands and face which are the weak points. Here is an animated gif.


While I look with envy at the high summer temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere, we are having the coldest days so far this year.

If that is not enough to cool off, the first aurora pictures from 2015 are online now ;)

June 2015


The past week we had the best auroras of this winter so far. A few CMEs hit the Earth in the course of a couple of days and caused auroras over fast stretches of the Earth. Anytime a CME hits the Earth, the aurora oval widens, but mostly to the outside, so sometimes, it goes unnoticed at the Pole, because we are right inside the oval. But this time we were lucky and got a good share of it as well.

I'm still learning a lot about my new camera (A7S), but I took the first REAL TIME videos, not a time lapse, at 25fps, iso 25000, f2.8. I also still have to learn a lot about video processing, but here is a small format video file, directly from the camera. Quality is not the best, but it gives an impression how quick auroras can move, that is real time !!!


Last night we had our midwinter dinner, and a bit of a food coma, the galley crew, provided us again with a fabulous meal :)
Midwinter is the biggest celebration on the continent and the only day which is celebrated on all stations at the same time (more or less), because for every station it means the return of the sun, for us at the Pole it will take the longest, another 3 months until it will be above the horizon again for the first time. The official solstice is tomorrow morning at 04:38 NZT. (21st of June 16:38 UTC). A tradition is to invite all the other stations to join the celebrations (also knowing that no one will be coming) but midwinter greetings are sent to every station. The once we received are posted in the galley next to a huge Antarctic Map and marked where they are.


During the last moon period, we had some pretty clear weather and I tried over the course of 2 weeks, when the moon is over the horizon to capture it every day. I used a heated camera box on the roof of MAPO and controlled the camera via a self made Teflon USB cable. The moon will change elevation quite a bit from day to day. Since the orbit of the moon is at a 5° angle to the ecliptic, this year the moon won't be getting higher than 18° above the horizon. Now being close to the solstice the moon will be pretty full when it reaches it's highest elevation. Here is the little time lapse from these moon shots.


After 2 weeks of mostly clear weather, we have a heat wave like back home only with the minus sign in front, right now it is -36.6°C. Moon is still up and I'm trying a time lapse for the last 10 days. But now with the warm weather the series ended abrupt since you can't see the moon at all.


I fixed the old tracking mount and did a first trial with this 25h

During the time of the above video, the temperature dropped for the first time below -100°F (-73.4°C), but therefore it was nice and clear :)

May 2015


Tried another 24h star trail, with a better camera, the first trial a few years ago even made it into APOD, see also winter 2012. Here is the video on


Time for some updates! We just about to leave astronomical twilight, i.e. it is astronomically speaking dark outside, you still will be able with dark adjusted eyes to tell which direction the sun is, but we should have a pretty nice sky once the moon sets next week. Now we need some good auroras, not much happened yet, sun is pretty mellow.
First timelapse of the season

Otherwise time is flying again, only 6 weeks until midwinter !! Telescope is running quite well over the last weeks, had 2 major He leaks, but that was most of the excitement - knock on wood.

April 2015


First stars are out and someone already spotted the first auroras. But we are just into nautical twilight so every day it will be better now for the night sky :)

March 2015


Saw the first star - Canopus yesterday, more to follow soon, nice colors in the sky.

Here is also Bill Spindler's winter-over statistic. Although Johan and I got the same amount of winters at the Pole (he got also 6 winters at Palmer as well) so he is up there with the record holders for most time spent in Antarctica, but I spent more time at the geographic South Pole up to date then anybody else :) (since I got more summer time than Johan) - time to look for a different job in some nice warm summer setting ;) !! Well my time is coming to an end here, next winter will be my last.

Sunset panorama


And another drive problem, this time in azimuth, the telescope mount is old and has now lots of problems with wear. Yesterday we exchanged the gear reducer on the az drive which started to cause more and more problems because of wear.
Our building had some furnace problems and we were without heat for 40h, got a bit chilly but the UTs did a great job to get us warm again.

Last Saturday we had our sunset dinner, goodbye sun for the next 6 months ;)

Last Monday we took a sunset group photo at the ceremonial Pole


Busy days, we finished the calibration runs on Monday and then had to take down the huge mirror above the telescope, which enabled us to look over the ground shield at a source on DSL. We finished converting the telescope for CMB observations during the night and started the first CMB run Tuesday morning. Of course nothing was flawless and there were numerous problems that need attention, heating of one of the detectors, more drive problems etc. This season we got 2 detectors with 220GHz as well (to the 2 100GHz and 1 150GHz), this will help us to distinguish better between real signal and the one that is caused by dust.
On Tuesday we watched the BBC Horizon documentation in the galley

There are some unofficial versions now on YouTube, so you can find it if you look for it. Very well done>


Sun is getting low in the sky - "the time of the long shadows" as I say. Hopefully we can finish beam mapping next week and get the telescope ready for cmb observations.

BBC is featuring "Horizon: Aftershock: The Hunt for Gravitational Waves" with some of my footage, UK transmission of the Horizon documentary has been scheduled for next Tuesday (9pm, 10th March, BBC TWO).

February 2015


Telescope is running again for 2 days :) Internet is slow, but I hope to be able to update some pictures soon.


For the last week our telescope is down and won't move in elevation. We are still troubleshooting the problem, but haven't found the cause yet. So long hours in MAPO for the past week, and cleaning, moving, winterizing the station, getting organized etc.
The internet has the poorest performance ever. We lost our good TDRS-5 satellite from the past years, we got TDRS-6 instead which is overlapping with GOES, so we lost 4h of connectivity and we are only priority number 20 on TDRS-6, which means if the 19 other users with higher priority decide they need more time we get less, so since I'm back sometimes it was only 1.5h. Now we also lose our 24/7 email and go back how it was many years ago - emails only via the normal satellite connection, that is progress with IT.
As I writing this, I'm trying to connect to my website server, no chance so I have to see how I can get my website updated, oh what a struggle, anywhere else internet improves every year, but not at the South Pole :(.


The last Herc left today, only with some power plant mechanics and the station engineer to get one generator overhauled and ready for winter, which was originally a winter task but couldn't be done that way.
The last big exodus was on Friday the 13th and of course we watched all 3 versions of the thing over the weekend :)


Back at the Pole for the next winter :).

Brief stop over in Christchurch, but 2 nights in McMurdo. The flight to the Pole was nice from the cockpit.

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