Robert's homepage


Hi folks,
This is my homepage with a some information for my friends how I am and what I am doing at the South Pole.
I will work at the AMANDA experiment. During wintertime also for SPASE, VULCAN, RICE and GASP

What's new

11.11.97 (11/11/97)
With 12 days delay the first plane arrived on November 8. We enjoyed the last couple of days of our winter, before the crowds came in. Now the station is already very busy and tomorrow starts the main body, i.e. most of the summer personal gets in. Four of our winter-over crew left already and by the end of the week only a few will be left. Now a fantastic year comes to an end.
I will arrive in New Zealand around November 20 and stay there for a few month to avoid the German winter and to travel around. From February 6 to 15 I will be back at the Pole again. In March I will be in Colorado and beginning of April one week in Madison, Wisconsin.
In April I will go back to Germany. I try to keep this web site, but I will also have a new main homepage back in Munich.

Bert's page

Thanks for visiting this page, take care and see ya
This was the last update for a while :)))

To keep in touch:

I will check my email whenever I have the possibility:
From now on it's better to use:

either the address on the bottom of the page is fine (mail goes directly to the South Pole and after November 12 I won't get it before February 6).
or you can send it to New Zealand (I will check more often there)


This is my home for one year, the dome at South Pole

What happened so far

Here is a report about what happened so far.

09.09.96 - 15.09.96: Rocky Mountain Fire Academy RMFA
All the winterovers had to attend fire fighting training. You may ask what should burn at the South Pole. Well we won't have any forest fires, that's for sure. But everything down there is very essential to us and we can't replace it during wintertime (March - October), so we better take care about all this and the next fire department is a couple of thousand miles away.
Thanks again to the RMFA for the training and fun :))).

Here are some pictures from the training.

15.09.96 - 13.10.96: UW Madison
The University of Wisconsin Physics Department is one of the institutions involved in AMANDA. This year nearly all the photo multiplier tubes (PMT) were assembled here at the Physical Science Lab (PSL). I worked most of the time testing these PMTs.

13.10.96 - 09.11.96 University of California, Irvine
At UCI I spent most of the time getting familiar with the DAQ (Data Acquisition System) and the software.
We also had to prepare the optical fiber cables we are using for the calibration of the array at South Pole.

10.11.96 -15.11.96 Trip to South Pole Finally I arrived in Christchurch, NZ on Tuesday. We got all our ECW (extreme cold weather gear) the same day and the flight to McMurdo, Antarctica was scheduled for the next day. So I didn't have a lot of time in NZ.
Wednesday we met at 06:45 in the morning and checked in and after a briefing and check for drugs we entered the C-130 of the NZ Army. After 7 1/2 hours we arrived in McMurdo. It was nice and sunny and about -5 C. McMurdo is the biggest Antarctic Station with about 1000 people.
Thursday was our flight to South Pole. It was a great view and a nice scenery. The weather conditions at Pole turned out to be quite bad and after three attempts to land we returned to McMurdo, but it was still a nice 7 hour round trip and at least we had already seen the South Pole :)).
On Friday the weather at South Pole was even worse, but after the fourth attempt we finally had a touch down.

Since 15th of November I'm at South Pole, it`s a cool place :)). The temperature isn't too bad, about -33 C (-27 F). Actually the windchill make it much colder. Yesterday it was a nice clear day and I started to take some pictures. The Station is crowded right now with about 170 people, but it's a great atmosphere. Fortunately I got a room(9 x 5 feet) already in the dome, because I'm on the fire team. Most of the people are staying in summer camp. Inside the dome there is only room for 28 (this is the capacity during wintertime). I will try to get as soon as possible some pictures from here on the net.
It's just after Christmas and we got our first string in :))). Last week we had already our first attempt. After about 12 hours of work the string got stuck at 1000 m and we had to pull everything up again. But on the 25th everything went fine and right now the first string is in a depth of 1850 m and seems to work fine.
So how was Christmas here at South Pole.
On the 24th at 11 AM we had the world famous "race around the world", that are three laps (2.7 mi) around the geographical South Pole. The conditions weren`t perfect. The track was quite soft and a strong wind caused a windchill of over - 50 C (- 58 F). But it was a lot fun.
On Christmas eve we had a gift exchange. Everybody brought a gift and got a number. When your number was chosen you were allowed to pick up a gift from the table or from another person, that had already a gift. This took several hours :))).
Unfortunately we missed the big Christmas dinner on the 25th , because we were already deploying our string.
Thanks also to PICO (Polar Ice Coring Office). They are putting great effort in to get our holes done.

Oh I know, Christmas was more than a month ago and no update, sorry. On February 12th is station closing, that means only 28 of us will stay here for 9 month until the next plane is coming in.
This deadline of course keeps everybody very busy. But we got a lot of work done so far. We have had the most successful season and tomorrow we will deploy our last detector string in the ice. From the first 180 PMTs we put in this year 176 are still working, that's great and much better than the previous years.

At New Year about 50 people came together at the Pole. It was strange to celebrate it during sunshine. After that people came out nearly every hour to celebrate New Year again in a different time zone. So I was out there again on the 1st of January to think about all my folks back home in Germany.
Right after New Year, on the 2nd, I went to Christchurch, New Zealand to get two wisdom teeth pulled out. (Piece of cake, no problems). After that I had 3 days of vacation in McMurdo, the biggest US Antarctic station located on Ross Island. Unfortunately the weather wasn't too good and except a lot of seals I didn't see any wildlife. No Penguins so far :(((.
We are working right now on our last hole. The deployment of the strings is pretty smooth now. On February 1st we will have a big PICO & AMANDA party to celebrate this successful season.

They are gone !!!
On Wednesday February 12th the last two planes came to South Pole to bring some more supplies and to take the last 80 summer people out. It was quite a windy day and a lot of blown snow restricted the ground view.
Everything happened so fast so it was hard to realize that's it for nearly nine month. All the winterovers came out to the flight deck to watch the last plane leaving. After take off the crew made a last fly by in low altitude and they played "Riders on the storm" for us. We followed the plane until it was vanished in a wall of drifting snow. That's it, no more flights til the beginning of November. The station was now empty and silent.
Following an old South Pole tradition we watched "The Thing" old and new version, "Ice" (X-files) and the "The Shining". All the movies that make you feel good to be down here :)))). The next day we relaxed most of the time. But there is a lot of work for closing down the station and get ready for the winter. Like cleaning and shutting down all the Jamesways, where the summer people lived, makeing flag lines to all the buildings outside, so you can find the way even during an whiteout (no visibility)....
Another interesting point might be that we haven't enough beer, that doesn't affect me, because I don't drink (still :))) ), but there are enough people here who like it and it looks like we will run out in a couple of weeks....

I'm already way behind and quite a few things happened since station closing. We finished most of the winterover tasks and are ready for the winter and indeed the winter is already here. Temperatures are between -60 and -70 degrees Celsius. Today (2nd of April) we could see the first stars. On the 21st of March was Equinox in the morning at 01:56 local time (NZ). But the sun was still way above the horizon. That day we had a big sun set party in Skylab one of the view rooms with windows. It took about four more days until the sun set. Unfortunately we were not able to see it for the whole time, ice fog blocked the view of the horizon most of the time. But there were still some nice moments. Also the full moon was up during these days and that looked really nice.
I call the time before sunset the time of the long shadows. When the sun was crawling along the horizon it caused long shadows and the snow surface became quite structured.
Our experiments are running more reliably now but there is still a lot of work to do. Also now when it's totally dark (in about three weeks) we have to start some more experiments that are only running during the dark time of the year (VULCAN, GASP).
Last week we had a frozen pipe in the Galley, it took five days until everything was functioning again.
So I hope you all enjoying the spring now, have a good time until soon. I'm working right now on some more pictures for the page, so check it out.

26.04.97 (04/26/97) Over a month after sunset the horizon is still bright, but we had already some beautiful auroras. But if you want to see them you have to handle temperatures close to the magic -100F mark. The last couple of days it was awesome outside, the moon was high in the sky and nearly no wind. The previous week we had strong winds up to 30 knots with very poor visibility, so you could barely see more than 5 flags of the flag line (spacing between flags is about 3m). This storm also caused huge snow drifts in front of the main and garage entrance. Beginning of May it will be dark enough to get two more experiments online VULCAN (Very UnLikely Cherenkov Array Name - that's a good one isn't it :))) ) and GASP Gamma Astronomy South Pole. That also implies a lot of work outside, but as long as you get some nice auroras or the polar plateau in the moon light, it's definitely worth it.

15.05.97 (05/15/97)
Finally it's dark enough for a some other experiments. Though you can still see where the sun is, because this part of the sky is slightly brighter. The sun will never be more than 23.5 degrees below the horizon. The Vulcan telescope is taking data now, that is an air Cherenkov telescope. The other telescope is the GASP. Both telescopes demand a lot of work outside in the last couple of weeks, and it's not always easy to work under conditions like here.
So it took us on Monday about 13 hours to fix a broken cable, what have could be done under normal conditions in 15 min. Working outside is like working in space. All the gear that protects you from the elements heavy gloves, that makes working quite difficult. Then I built me a kind of face mask to keep my whole face covered and still be able to breath without causing my goggles to freeze up. But every time you go outside you see a beautiful star sky and a lot of times awesome Auroras.
I also built a heated camera box so I don't have to worry any more about a frozen shutter...
Last Saturday we had a Toga-party, great fun. Everybody was dressed in bed sheets or what ever came close to a toga. Check out the new pics.Toga-party
Fridays we are playing radio-darts with some other stations on this continent. That means we are coming together in comms and playing darts and the results are transmitted via radio to the other stations and vice versa. That's a lot of fun. Also on this entire continent 1.5 times the size of the United States are less than 800 people right now.

01.06.97 (06/01/97)
We had some very calm days. The moon was up and you finally could see all the snow drifts again, one were falling over in the last three weeks. It was quite warm, only about -60 degree Celsius. Outside you can hear your own breath freezing.
We started a table tennis and pool tournament. The radio dart tournament is every Friday and we managed to win two games so far. Our band ("Fire on Ice") can play the first songs and we keep practicing.
Otherwise not too much new, still cold and dark. :)))

22.06.97 (06/22/97)
Solstice was yesterday at 20:18 local time (10:18 UT). Now the sun is on the way back up. We wonít see real twilight for another two month. A couple of days ago the temperature broke an old record from 1969, no it wasnít a minimum, it was a maximum record, only -32.1 C (-25.8 F) And I tell you, you can feel the difference. You feel like taking the shorts out of the closet. On the June 19 around 01:30 we had a fire alarm in MAPO (our lab in the dark sector). Luckely it was only a blocked exhaust pipe and the problem was solved very quick. But it was a good drill.
I finally had some time to do some long outstanding additions in the photo part. Now all the pictures from station closing until sunset are under Tour through the station - part 3
Also I added some pictures to completeTour through the station - part 1
New is also Life at South Pole - part 2
Today I also want to add some pictures from the 50ís/60ís night we had yesterday to celebrate the solstice.50's/60's night

records from the met office:



The average monthly temperature for July 1997 was -66.0C/-86.8F.
This establishes July, 1997 as the coldest July on record, breaking
the old record of -64.3C/-83.7F set in July, 1965.

It also establishes July, 1997 as the second coldest calender month
ever at South Pole Station.  Only August, 1987 was colder with an
average monthly temperature of -67.2C/90.0F.

Records have been kept continuously since January, 1957.

28.07.97 (07/28/97)
The night is nearly over. We have the last moonless dark period right now and everybody is keen to get some more aurora shots. I tried to post some but the quality is too bad. First I had to develop the slide film, than make prints from slides and record the prints with a video camera and than put them on the net. But the print paper is too shiny so you more or less saw only the camera and the lights.
The temperatures are very low and stable. The heat waves with -40 C are over and we had several times temperatures below -100 F ( -73.4 C). Like last Monday (21.07.97) when we joined the legendary 300 club.

Crazy Stuff:

Today 12 people joined the famous 300 club, that means 300 degrees Fahrenheit temperature difference. The temperature outside finally dropped again below - 100 F (73.4 C with wind-chill it was -150 F and -100 C). We heated the sauna up to over 200 F and got warmed up. After a couple of minutes we all ran outside just wearing boots, like nature created us. The moon was high up in the sky and around everybody was a cloud of steam. It was a lot of fun and we took a couple of pictures of the steam clouds. Then we ran back to the sauna. We were out for a good minute and it wasn't too bad, so we decided to make a run to the geographic pole. After warming up in the sauna and getting the cameras ready we were bursting out into the polar night again. One hand was protecting the "wing wang" and three of us were running to the Pole. The first half of the trip was good, but the breathing was quite hard, because of the cold air and the altitude of 3000m (10000 ft). The last thirty meters I would have rather turned around, but there were only 30m of 230m (one way) to go, I looked around and two gasping figures were following me. We touched the pole and turned around. Now it would have been nice to have a nice warm parka or such stuff. But there were 230 m back to the top of the hill in front of the entrance and then down to it and back inside the dome to the sauna. I thought what a stupid thing to do, run around naked at -100 C (-150 F) wind-chill at South Pole in the middle of the night. Gasping for air I had to walk a couple of steps. The sweat on the back and butt was frozen and cracking during running. The dome was closer, but still about 100 m to go. The cold was getting very, very intense and you only wanted to get back in. I can't really describe the feeling, on one side you really didn't feel any pain (not until you were back to the sauna), but on the other side you could feel the freezing cold, not a slowly creeping cold you normally feel with clothing on, the cold was just there, all over you. There was the slope down to the entrance through the door, up the stairs back into the sauna. It was still at 200 F (93 C) but it felt cold and even the hot wood felt cold. My ears were white and I had to cough for a couple of minutes, but then we took the victory shots of all us in the sauna and in front of it. Now nearly 24 hours later my ears are still glowing in the dark, but they feel already much better :).
It was great fun and next time we probably do it again, not running to the Pole, but just run outside :))).

It was a lot of fun and my ears are back to normal. :)))

I created a new page How to dress at South Pole (if you don't run outside butt naked :)).
25th of July was Christmas in July. Why not - so we decorated the galley. You find some pictures about that under Life at South Pole - part 2.
There is only a little bit more than three month until station opening, the time is still running. And after the next moon period we will be able to see the glare of the sun at the horizon.

16.09.97 (09/16/97)
Just a few days until we will see the sun again after 6 month. That was the longest night of my life and the best one :)). I actually miss the star sky and the beautiful aurorae already.
Since beginning of August VULCAN and GASP are turned off, due to the moon and than to the definitive brighter getting horizon. I observed the first change on August 5th and since then you could watch the changes on a daily basis. First just the weakest stars disappeared in the region east of Orion. On long time exposures of aurorae the sky was getting bright and the first colors appeared in that region of the horizon. Some pictures are on Twilight and Sunrise. This page will be updated over the following days.
On Labor Day we had a nice barbecue. We also got ready for the official winter-over picture, but we wanted to have a nice colorful background, of course the weather disagreed with us and so we were waiting over an week to get it. Gary and I took over 150 test shots, to get everything right, due to constantly changing light situations. But finally it worked and the picture came out great.
Recently we had two fire drills, one in Biomed, the other one in Skylab. Some scenes from the second drill are captured with a mounted video camera. Another fire drill
That the rising sun is not correlated immediately with rising temperatures showed us a new temperature record, where the temperature dropped the first time below -80 C (-112 F).
The Met report:

NZSP 150151Z
0151 UTC MON SEP 15 1997


AT 2129  SEPTEMBER  14, 1997 UTC (0929  SEPTEMBER 15  LOCAL TIME)


RECORD IS -82.8C/-117.0F SET ON JUNE 23, 1987.



It will take several more weeks until it's getting really "warmer" here. The ozone measurements are indicating clearly the development of the ozone hole over us.
Soon a lot of work outside will start. Preparing the runway for the first flight in 6 weeks, dig out summer camp and get everything ready for a new summer season.

11.10.97 (10/11/97)
The sun is back, celebrated with a great party in Skylab (sunrise party) Only two more weeks until the first plane arrives and snow removal is a big issues this days. Also there is nearly no precipitation the amount of drifted snow behind obstacles is enormous. (Snow, snow, snow...) I will leave the South Pole in one month, so there will be one more update of the page.
From November until February I will travel in New Zealand. And from February 6 until 15 I will be back down here at the Pole. This time I will wave from inside the last plane.


                Robert Schwarz, AMANDA S-130
                South Pole Station, Antarctica
                Box 700, PSC 468
                FPO AP 96598-0001
smail access only between Nov. - Feb. 12 (it's too late, now :) ) but I'm looking forward to mail in November when the next plane comes.

(so you can still write, also you have some time now)

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