iceman's South Pole Page

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Winter - 2019

Photo Galleries

Sunset & Twilight 2019

Yuri's Night

Midwinter 2019

Auroras 2019

November 2019


That's it if there is a plane today I will leave the South Pole, home for over 13 years (5 summers and 15 winters) more than a 1/4 of my lift. It has been a great time, but now I'm looking forward to have summer back home again next year, the first after 10 years :) and to catch up with all the things that were on hold for the past years :)

all the best still from the South Pole :)


October 2019


First summer people arrived today on a Basler and the first 2 winter-overs already left, winter 2019 officially ended. Tomorrow we should get another 16 people.

Last Saturday Luis organized a surprise party in the gym for my retirement :) lot's of fun :)

I finally also had to make some more movies I haven't processed yet. So here are the links :)


First plane of the season, but just for a quick refueling stop. But they brought some freshies, which always amazing after 8.5 months :) Being packing now for weeks, it's is time to wrap up my South Pole stay.
A lot of people ask me, it must be bitter sweet to leave after all that time I spent down here, but actually it is only sweet, I had my time down here and I don't wanna miss it but after 5 summers and 15 winters down here it is time to move on and I'm looking very much forward to have a summer back home after 10 years :)

September 2019


The sun is up and very bright, the last few days we even had some really nice weather and cold temperatures, still around -70°C ambient. But we are already in full swing of opening tasks, the runway is done and we started our big station cleanup. I also started packing a few weeks ago, after 9 years of being down here for SPUD/Keck a lot of stuff has accumulated.

Last Saturday we had our big sunrise dinner, again with some amazing food. Soon we gonna get the first planes on transit, they will just be here for an hour or over night, depends on crew rest, but they basically just get fuel and leave again, but they might bring freshies :)
First summer folks we expect end of October, also the regular Herc flights are not scheduled until Nov 11.

On midnight from Saturday September 7 to Sunday, we had a live video conference with the ISS. Two of my friends, Christina Koch, who wintered over in 2005 and Luca Parmitano, who I first met during the ESA astronaut selection are up there right now. It was absolutely awesome and we nearly had one hour to talk, got a station tour. Besides that time of the day due to our satellites more than half the station attended.

In 2013, on Luca's first trip to the ISS, I made a comparison of South Pole to the ISS

South Pole ISS
weight higher than on most places, due to the non spherical shape of the Earth and the nonexistent centripetal force because of the trajectory of the space craft you are weightless
day-night cycle longest day-night cycle possible on Earth, one sunrise and one sunset per year shortest day-night cycle possible at the moment, one sunrise and one sunset every 90 minutes
survival outside without protective gear a few minutes a few seconds
food less than 10$ per day and person, but amazing what the cooks can do with it having star cooks prepare your meals in advance sounds nice, but seems to be a bit more expensive, too and eating our of pouch is not the same
freshies (fresh fruit and vegetables last plane brings in a big bunch, and the first weeks you eat a lot, but the freshies vanish very quickly and then nothing until the next flight 8.5 months later not much because of weight issues but on a more regular basis since there are more resupplies
internet for about 16h per day, not very fast especially if 40+ people are online although quite slow and limited
recruitment unfortunately a joke, you got a pulse you good to go for a lot of jobs very thorough
training very little, you learn on the go very extensive
how many people have done it 1388 people wintered at the South pole between 1957 and 2013 534 people went into space up to date, starting 1961 with Yuri Gagarin
sport here we score better, we got a full size gym and a nice weight room 2 hours mandatory work out per day, facilities are limited but they got the better view
showers here we are also better off, although ours are limited to 2 times 2 min per week none
many last things when you embark on a 13 months South Pole tour, or even only for the 9 months winter, there are lots of "lasts": last long shower, last grass, last trees, last kids, last dogs last shopping, last TV and the list is long and continues... pretty much the same plus a few more additional lasts, like last "fresh" air etc.
emergency response we are our own firefighters & trauma team but we have a doctor and a physician assistant, but fire is the biggest danger, we only got the one station pretty much the same, medical abilities are even more limited and they only got the one station as well
emergency evacuation was done only twice during winter so far and takes about 3 weeks preparations on both sides, for us to get equipment ready to prepare a runway, for the other side to bring the Twin Otter planes from Canada down all the way to Antarctica each crew has it's Soyuz life boat with which they could abandon the station in matter of hours and return to Earth
noise there is not really any quiet space on station, constant air movement through air handlers for heating, all the fans on the electronic equipment and outside there is always some wind and if you are close enough to the station you hear the power plant
constant forced air movement is necessary since there is no gravity to mix the air and oxygen throughout the station and to recycle spent air
cooling as strange as it sounds, being at one of the coldest places on Earth, one of the biggest problem is cooling, our barometric pressure is normally between 3000 to 3500m above see level so the air is already quite thin and absolutely dry so not much cooling power, so for example a normal PC is just overheating here
cooling in space is extremely tricky since you missing 2 of the 3 ways to transport heat, you only got radiation but no conduction or convection if you try to give of heat into space
support from mission control a lot of times it seems like Denver (our headquarter and mission control) is not there for us but we are there for them, support is disappointing
something happens on the ISS, mission control is all over it and supports the astronauts - mission control is there for the ISS
publicity very little get's into the press what happens down here, and if something hits the news than it's most likely bad news
everything get's big news coverage

September 2019


Goodbye dark skies and auroras, it was nice all these years. But here are some of the highlights of the 2019 Auroras .

Just did a test call with Houston for our private live video conference with the ISS on Saturday :). Really looking forward to talk to some friends in space, how cool is that :)

We are on the final stretch of the winter 2019, and I already started some packing and finishing up all my projects. Wouldn't mind if we just would be in April or May and I still had most of the winter before me, but I'm really looking forward to spend a summer back home next year.

August 2019


For about 2 weeks a very faint twilight is visible on the horizon, at the moment of course the moon is much brighter. We made use of the last really dark period and skies for some more time lapse. This one is in front of ICL the IceCube Lab, a neutrino detector buried in 3km deep ice and looking for high energetic neutrinos. The two towers house all the cables coming from the over 5000 modules spread out over one cubic kilometer of ice.

Monday Aug 05, 2019 the moon rose again at the South Pole, it's up for 2 weeks and down for 2. This time lapse is from the evening of Aug 06 to evening of Aug 07. Towards the end the auroras are too bright for the sensor and it just goes into saturation - so if you think the moon is bright, watch these auroras :)

July 2019


50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, here it was on Sunday the 21st. One of the biggest achievements, in my opinion. I went took this photo on the exact minute when the eagle set down on the moon. Unfortunately the wind had picked up quite a bit and blowing ice crystals obscured the moon a bit.

Now we had the biggest storm of this year, and quite warm temperatures and lots of snow to shovel. It actually warmed up over 30°C in 3 days. But always funny if you say it warmed up dramatically and the temperature is still -40°C. But last week we had the coldest day of this winter so far, but it stayed only for about half an hour below -100°F (-73.4°C).

Also on July 20 Luca Parmitano one of the European Astronauts launched with an American and Russian Astronaut/Cosmonaut for his second trip to the ISS, now with Christina already up there I have another friend on the ISS. It was a very smooth launch on a Soyuz rocket. We met back in 2008 for the first time, when we were both in the ESA Astronaut selection process and you can tell who made it and who didn't ;). But winter at South Pole is a bit similar and I call it jokingly "Space for the Poor" :)
Of course we made him some signs as well and went out 10 days ago when the moon was quite full and bright.


Auroras were a bit slow over the past days and the moon is back up. There will be partial lunar eclipse at the coming full moon, but partial is not so super interesting. But here is a video with a fisheye lens, looking straight up. The video is over the course of 24h

We also had a plane overhead in an attempt to break the round the world record via both poles (one more orbit), weather was unfortunately really bad so we couldn't see it, but we talked to them on the VHF radio.

June 2019


Sun is coming back, kind of sad, always comes to fast. So I realized I don't like the June solstice, down here it means half of the winter is already over and back North it means the days are getting shorter again. And in 6 months it is already x-mas, time is going by too fast :)
But we had an awesome midwinter celebration. On Saturday, as always our cooks did an amazing job. There was also some historical Antarctic food, like hoosh, pemmican, some dried fish and sledding biscuits. Midwinter is the biggest holiday in Antarctica, it marks the midway point of winter and was already celebrated with the early explorers. Today it is celebrated on every year round station.

For several days we had temperatures around -70°C in the past weeks, which means nice clear skies. Just the last few days it's back to blowing snow and hazy skies and warmed up to -60°C, funny if you can say that :)
We had some pretty decent auroras, but also the moon for the past 10 days. But here is a movie from the moon rise.


Time is flying again, can't believe it is June already, in 3 weeks we passed already midwinter, just too fast, still so much to do. This year we had pretty good weather with not too much wind yet and some pretty magnificent auroras, even for the low solar activity.

Yesterday we nearly reached -100°F (-73.4°C) but only just, but more clear skies with hopefully more great auroras :)

And here I had a bit of fun editing this video :) from the pictures below. Watch the whole clip, the variety of auroras is amazing.

or on youtube

May 2019


It's officially dark, sun is more than 18° below the horizon, also the last 2 weeks were without the moon, add some nice clear skies and some auroras and we had some pretty amazing displays on the sky the past weekend.

More great auroras over the past few days, but also bad weather. Today the moon rose again. But talking about the moon. I did another 2 week time lapse at sunset, when the full moon was rising and setting after 2 weeks as small crescent.

April 2019


So we are in astronomical twilight, if the moon wouldn't be up, it would be quite dark now. But we had some quite nice auroras already for the past days and some nice clear skies. Aurora season 2019 is open :)

Of course we also had our Yuri's Night again :) One of the costumes of course also featured the first image of a black hole ;). That image went through the world press, congratulations on a great job. SPT in the next building over was involved as one of the telescopes for the past years. Unfortunately the program is on halt at the moment, since one of the telescopes in Mexico is in cartel country and it's not safe to be operated anymore :(


We are just entering nautical twilight, the first stars are visible, as well Jupiter and Venus and in the next days it should be dark enough to see Mercury as well. Besides a few days of storm the last 2 weeks were quite nice.

March 2019


Nice weather for sunset :) We had our sunset dinner last Saturday, was again excellent and after the food coma, yesterday we had an open house in the dark sector at the telescopes. From the 42 this year there are only a dozen scientists all the other personal is support: medical, cooks, mechanics, logistics etc. so we can show them what they are supporting ;)

Last week we converted the telescope back to CMB observations from the calibration setup. That meant 2 days of work mostly outside.


Today the first South Pole winter-over launched into space to spend 9 months on the ISS, Christina Koch wintered in 2005 here at the Pole as cryo tech. Back then all the telescopes were open systems and still needed liquid Helium and Nitrogen every day to keep them cold. Christina was selected by NASA in 2013 and after years of training finally launched into space today.
Today it was also announced that she will stay for 9 months (Expedition 59, 60, 61) instead of the normal 6 months. Her two colleagues on today's launch were Aleksey Ovchinin and Nick Hague who had a launch abort in October and a ballistic reentry. That mishap changed the composition and duration of the next spaceflights.

Also my friend Luca Parmitano will launch on expedition 60 and will be commander of the ISS during expedition 61. See also winter 2013 when Luca was up for his first mission on the ISS. Once both are up there we will at one point have a live feed ISS-South Pole :) looking forward to talk to them.


Things are getting into the winter-groove. Sun is getting low, only a bit more than 4%deg above the horizon, the time of the long shadows, about 2 more weeks of direct sunlight, then it will be gone again for 6 months.
Telescope is running and we are still in the calibration mode. Hopefully we can take the big mirror off soon and get ready for CMB observations. The new telescope which will replace SPUD/Keck-array next season is coming along back in the States.

Pictures of the increasing shadows and the new flag line which helps to find your way to out buildings in server weather and darkness

February 2019


The new Pole Marker for 2019, designed and made by last and this year's machinist Steele Diggles, a real master piece. The geographic South Pole is fixed of course, but the 3km slap of ice we are sitting on is moving about 10m per year, so every 1st of January the exact Pole is determined and the new Pole Marker is placed. If you compare the location with respect to the station over the years, you see how far it moved.


Back at the Pole for 2 weeks now, coming down worked flawless again, had 2 extra days in Christchurch, which was nice, although the temperatures were a bit chilly during these days.
Station closing was on February 15 and we finally getting settled in for winter. Telescope and MAPO weren't in the great state of last year, but by now things are shaping up.

The last Herc of the season with departing summer folks

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