Photos from Jon's South Pole Trip

Hi everyone! Welcome to my South Pole photo gallery. I realize I have now posted tons of photos and the page is probably starting to take a long time to load. Sorry. Check out the linked index to skip to your favorite section. I may still get a highlight-real together sometime...

Thanks! Hope you're all well.

(Click to enlarge the photos!)

First Flights, NZ, Gear
Travel to MCM
MCM station
Travel to SPS
Pics from the Plane
Ice Tunnels
The Oden, Icebreaker
Sea Ice

Traveling to and Gearing up in New Zealand

Photos from the plane

Is this Antarctica already? Nope, Wisconsin. I'm just getting started.

These are some beautiful shots of the mountains on the way from Auckland, NZ to Christchurch, NZ. I can't wait to come back to NZ and meet Jess to tour around for 2 weeks.
This is quite the big muddy river. This photo was just minutes after the mountain shots. Once you arrive in the area around Christchurch called Canterbury, it quickly becomes amazingly flat.

My hotel room in Christchurch. I would have opened the blinds to let more light in but it was too hot!


This is the outside of the Antarctic Center, a major tourist attraction like a science museum about the South Pole but with penguins. I didn't go inside yet. I had to pick up my gear at the Clothing Distribution Center (CDC) nearby.
Entrance to CDC. Sorry I can't rotate photos just yet.
All the gear available to "check out" from the US government.
I guess Clinton visited. Lots of politicians/dignitaries won't pass up a trip to the SP.
Merry Christmas! Now get on your plane.
The changing room in the CDC. Each of those bags is full of gear for someone about to depart. Where's mine?
All the gear required to be worn on the plane. It is your "passport."
The back storage room at the CDC. Lots of gear in lots of sizes!

All of my Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) issue. Now I have to figure out how to fit it in the right bags.

Christchurch area

The Christchurch Botanical Gardens. I didn't actually have much time to explore.
One strange thing about NZ is that there are very few mammals (only bats, I read).
I kept hearing small animals and looking thinking it would be a squirrel or chipmunk, but no, just birds everywhere.
Merry Christmas again, this time on Cathedral Square! Christmas decorations are erie with all the other green trees around.

Travel to McMurdo

Departing Christchurch

We were all briefed about how to fly on a military plane, in lieu of a flight stewardess giving a safetly briefing. Oh, and common sense stuff about Antarctica. I think I learned that it's cold.
Aboard the shuttle to the Airforce National Guard plane. We really have to wear our ECW in the steaming heat!
This was the first and last we saw of our plane for for a while. We hadn't even made it off the shuttle before they sent us back to the terminal - weather delay!
Passengers eating breakfast in the Antarctic Center cafe after the plane was delayed. Breakfast turned out to be important with the meals they gave us on the plane.
Hey look! People wearing clothes like ours! I felt like a part of the attraction... I don't think I'll be doing any repelling from the ceiling while on The Ice though.
I meant to stand next to these dummies with all my gear on but forgot! (and it was hot)
A plaque commemorating those in the military who have died in operations exploring and supporting Antarctic operations. The last name I see on there is from 1997.
Ah! Finally back to the plane. The Airforce National Guard unit out of NY handles most flights to The Ice. The plane is an LC-130 cargo plane and the trip will take 8 hours. See the skis?
Big fuel tanks, but only enough for a one-way trip! (or half-way there and half-way back)

Aboard the LC-130

Passengers seated in the jump seats on board the LC-130.
The strangest item in our lunch bag: Burger Rings, Full on burger flavor, while in one corner it says all natural flavor and in the other corner (covered by thumb) it says natural corn crips. I don't know how they got corn to taste like burgers with all natural flavoring. But it has a penguin on it, so it's okay.
That's our loadmaster getting ready to set up the bathroom. See that curtain? That's supposed to cover the bathroom.

Me looking down at my bag lunch and FDX blue boots. We had to keep most of our ECW. The flight was at some points boiling hot and others icey cold. Not designed for comfort.

Talk about out of the frying pan, into the fire. You might have to zoom in to read it, but right above the emergency exit it says "Danger, propeller."
A full view of the cargo hold. Sorry it's blury, but the plane was vibrating.
Some people in the jump seats.
I knew Jess would like to know that the military really uses the Little Giant Ladder System (like in the infomercials).
The first glimpse of some Antarctic mountains peaking their heads through the cloud cover.
Me, working on an abstract for a talk that was due the next day! It took me a while to get comfy and warm on the seat with my big red parka.
Mountains again. I thought this picture was exciting at the time, but it is nothing.
Suiting up, preparing for landing! Seatbelts on! Find the gear you want to wear!
It's nothing new to this guy. I couldn't focus on reading, too exciting.

Arrival at MCM

The airstrip at McMurdo (MCM).
The famous "Ivan The Terra Bus" waiting to pick us up. More like Ivan the Terribly Slow Bus. But those are some bumpy roads.
People disembarking from the plane that got us here safely. The military guys folded out a cot for that women on the left who slept comfortably the whole flight. I don't know what kind of VIP she was.
Aboard Ivan.
Scott Base. This is the NZ base.

McMurdo Station

Free day at MCM

Evan is a lab tech traveling with me to the SP, but we're going up that hill behind him first (Observation Hill).

Some buildings in MCM. Mountains in the background don't come out very well in the photo.

I took this same picture with every setting on my camera. Can anyone edit this to bring out the mountain in the background.

That mountain is called Mt Erebus, the southern-most active volcano.
I think this is the best image one so far. You can see the volcano smoking.

Sights and Evan on the way up the hill. A big oil depot since fuel is used for almost all power.
The world as seen from the top of Ob Hill. Can you see the airstrip out there?
Erebus in the distance again.
The cross at the top. See the plaque in the following photos.
Erebus again.
Erebus and me.
View of MCM from Ob Hill. Okay, honestly, how are you supposed to read that plaque on the right without falling off the cliff? If you zoom in on the penisula in the upper-left, you will see Scott's hut, built 102 years ago! That's where I went next.
The plaque that goes with the cross.
In 4 languages, to make sure no one violates the treaty protecting this historic site.
Ob Hill from the bottom again. Doesn't look so big now.
This looks like it belongs on the moon or something.
Dog sleds! Even though dogs are banned by that treaty.
Richard Byrd, one of the early military leaders paving the way for science in Antartica.
The helipad. These are mostly to support field camps in the area, but I never saw any fly.
I really like these fancy tread trucks. Firemen in the background preparing to drill.
Firemen drilling. At least I hope it was a drill, because I was just standing nearby watching.
"Flipper", it says on the side.
Probably the cutest little vehicle around.
This is the National Science Foundation (NSF) Chalet. Beeker is supposed to be a demeaing, yet affectionate term for scientists, so it's funny that the NSF Chalet is on Beeker St.
Immediately after I took the first picture I noticed this "Do Not Freeze" crate sitting outside freezing.
The sun dial is really quite accurate, but I'll still trust my watch.
Someone with too much time on their hands, probably someone who spent the winter here. Actually, it is a pretty impressive sculpture.
Runoff from the hills nearby. There is quite a drainage system set up so the ground doesn't erode out from under the base.
This is the peir for the port. It looks pretty pathetic at the moment.
I think this is the Antarctic version of the Scamp camping trailer.
You'll have to zoom in to see the statue of the skier on the hill.
A skua. Some people think they are a pest since they try to steal your food.
What are you looking at?
This is a dead seal from the time Scott was here over 100 years ago. Stuff just doesn't decompose very quickly here.
Scott's hut. Another historic site. I think he was the first to the South Pole. (It's hard to keep all these explorer's straight.)
Apparently you can get a key to look inside. They left it exactly as Scott left it.
I tried to take a picture through the window and failed. If you zoom in you can almost make out some boxes.
The sea ice. This side of the bay melts some in the summers.
The trail to the end of Hut Point.
Me and the bay.
Evan and another cross... I can't remember what this one commemorated.
McMurdo Station from Hut Point.
That's the shipping lane that the icebreakers make each year to get supplies into McMurdo.
I like this shot of the trails around Hut Point. People were actually jogging out there in shorts.
The shrine to Our Lady of the Snow.
Chapel of the Snows.
They still had their nativity set up.

Enroute to SPS

Leaving MCM

MCM with mountians beyond the bay.
Bag-drag. This is where you haul all your luggage up the hill to check in for tomorrow's SP flight.
Travelers waiting to begin check-in for the flight.
Oh, is the shuttle to the plane waiting for people? Yes, it's Ryan, Kirill, and Dave. Three of IceCube's finest :) .
Today you can see all the drainage is actually frozen.
Some candid photos before we all depart for the pole. This is Dave, with IT. He was a roomate in MCM.
Kirill reading.
Waiting for the plane to fuel.
Just waiting.
And waiting -- hey, is that a Slovakian Ex-President in the middle? It sure is. You can tell he's important because his name badge is yellow.
Last views before boarding the plane. Erebus again.
Huge pressure fractures in the ice, a little close to the runway for my taste.
The sun and clouds.
The flight control tower.
Our loadmaster, telling us to put plastic bags over our head in case of a fire. He saw I wanted a picture of him with his head in a bag still didn't put it on. He was funny though.
Boarding another LC-130.
LC-130 taking off. (not mine)
Here's a seatbelt that could have actually used an explanation, and of course we didn't get it.
This flight was much emptier. We got to stretch out a little.
See, not much in there besides our luggage.
Truly, the apex of terrible lunches.

Pics from the plane

I don't think I was actually supposed to take a picture in the cockpit...

But there's the Ex-President on the left filming the whole trip. So what's a couple photos by me?
I think I'll let these photos from the plane mostly speak for themselves. I could've taken pictures all day in an attempt not to forget what I was seeing. Of course pictures don't quite cut it...
Open. Number 1 only please.
About to deplane.
First steps at the SPS. There's a welcoming party of red coats already assembled.

The South Pole Station

Those engines are still going. You can see the guy holding the rope so you don't walk into the spinning blades.
There was my first glimpse of the South Pole Station, on stilts.
Evan with plane.
Amongst the welcoming party. I hadn't recognized anyone I knew yet because they all look exactly the same. They didn't recognize me because I grew a beard and that's all you can see.

IceTop tanks

These form the surface array, IceTop, for detecting cosmic rays.
They use the same DOMs that we bury in the ice. You can almost see it here.

Drill Camp

That's the drill camp where the hot water is produced.

And the tower where the hot-water drill is drilling away.
A cable trench for connecting the completed string with the surface junction box.
Karen enters from the right.
They still have a few Christmas decorations up.
This is the firn drill that heats up and melts the first 50m of compacted snow (the firn).
Hardhats required.
Water heaters.
You can see the calipers that measure the hole width.

Inside the drill tower. They are just pulling the drill head out.

These are DOMs, prepped and ready to go.

The Slovakian ex-pres again. He signed a DOM for the ages.
The full drill head in the buff.

In the vicinity

Parts of the new station are still getting the skin put on.
You can see all four wings of the station.
The garage.
This is how far summer camp is from the station. It's ~6-7 minute walk.

Summer Camp

This is one of the tents that I sleep in. I'll give you one guess what the hut with the moon on it is for. I used that twice before I found the heated bathroom nearby.
This is what I wore to the bathroom for a while.
The climbing wall.
More of the exercise room at summer camp.
I haven't used any of this :) .
Shots of my room.
I thought someone got murdered here too, but after looking close I think it's paint.

The DOM Dance

The forklift used to load DOMs onto the sled.
Gary and Jon, driving.
Pretty fancy hand signal. Gary hurt his wrist and I had to do it once.
A plane landing, distracting me from the DOM dance.
Karen, doing the DOM dance.
Another plane taxing nearby. It's a very noisy work environment.
A broader view of the DOM-testing site.
DOMs waiting to be tested.
The OML with computer equipment for testing.
DOMs in boxes in the tent, waiting to be carried away.
The tent we use is from Walmart... I broke the zipper.
Black covers to reduce the amount of light seen by the DOMs.
DOM-testing 'action' shots.
We don't even have to pull them out of the boxes; just pop out the cable.

B2 Science Lab

Japanese tourists. They're everywhere!
A box of candy shipped for Christmas and lost until I arrived.
Tourists. $40k for a few hours at the SP. Shot from SPS Science Lab window where I spend most of my time.
They arrive on these Twin Otter planes.

Around the station

Out a galley window.
The sculpture garden.
The galley itself. Good food.
The Science Lab, where we hang. Mark is featured here.
Kite-skiers out the window of the lab.
Entrance Alpha. You can see the stairs are already almost half-buried in just a few short years. The whole station can be lifted with hydraulics.
It was aerodynamically designed so snow would not drift here... too bad snow does.

Visiting kite-skiers

The 100-lb sled they tow to the coast.
We're not too far from the station.
(180deg turn) But you don't have to go very far before you can look out and see nothing.
Mark is talking to the guy who has only kite-skied one day before! He's planning on going 700 miles to the coast!
But this is his guide. He's got the world-record for kite-skiing to the coast in 5 days.
We watched these guys try to get going for about an hour.
I think the kites are pretty impressive. They eventually got going.
Karen and Bob Paolos preparing to depart.
Mark and Per Olof, waiting to see them off.
Karen took a bottle of SP snow as a souvenir.
People departing.
Karen waving per Mark's strict instructions.
Someone decided that all drinks should be stored where my feet go.
The station's exercise room. Another one I haven't used.
You can stare out the window as you bike in place.
A map of Antarctica on the ceiling. It is lacking a "You are here" sticker.
An IceCube display in the entry way.
Shots around the station.
One of the lounges. Nice TV for movies.
SP markers from past years.

The palm trees add a lot of character.

IceCube Laboratory (ICL)

The shuttle dropped us off in the middle of nowhere.
This is the IceCube Lab (ICL).
The "dust logger" on the floor and the acoustic pinger hung up. For measuring how far light and sound travel in ice.
A cross-section of the cables we use. Zoom in and count how many wires there are.
Karthik at work.
These are the computers that power and operate our detector.
Our big cables coming in through the 'silo' outside.
Me recording highly valuable scientific data. The coat is to protect against static electricity.
Look at all those wires.

I hope you know what you're doing, Mark.

Mike Kleist, the cable guy, waiting to shuttle a few of us around.

Drill Camp, part 2

Moving the hose reel at the drilling site.
This is called the TOS, the tower where drilling and deployment take place.
Lots of cable and hose reels.
And heavy equipment for moving it all around.
The hand-held version of the IceCube drill.
Me and the drill.
Mark, don't get run over while trying to take pictures.
Tom Ham lining up the reel.

Prepping the cable.

The TOS again.

Snow-sculpting contest

The actual South Pole!

The "ceremonial" South Pole!

This is the so-called Sun Dog, visible when there are lots of ice crystals in the air.
Staging DOMs before they go down the hole is the DOM-handler's job.
The videographer with our winterover on the left. The back of Prince Albert II is on the right. That is the flag of Monaco on his sleeve.
Per Olof, an IceCube prof in the white jacket explains IceCube to the prince on his left.
The back of the prince as he signs a DOM. I'll look for someone else's photos from the front (and when he had to lick the marker to make it work!).
Newest Photos
The South Pole Telescope, for doing microwave astronomy.
DOMs waiting to be put away for the winter.
The IceCube Lab.
This string is fully deployed and tied off. The refective surface down the hole is already ice.
Waiting for the "cable drag."
Cable reel shots.
We've got to get that cable up over the building... We've forsaken numbers (they're too 'political') and named this "Hole L."
The forklift is named Wall-E. I still have to watch that movie.
I had to write down all these DOM IDs, and my hand was about freezing off, so I started taking pictures instead.
Unfortunately the middle-bottom DOM doesn't have an ID listed so I had to open the box and write down the ID anyways. My pencil was broken too. Long day.
Mike, Kirill, Ryan looking up cable to the surface junction box in a pit.
My face after snowmobiling.
I was just walking around, minding my own business when I came across these people.
At least one of those people is a physics professor from Berkley.
This guy looked really grumpy after I took his picture. I don't know if you can actually grill anything out in the summer camp...
I was supposed to photograph the cable stress-relief system for next year. Now you get to see it.
Drill camp in full hot-water-making operation.
SPT with moon. First time I noticed the moon was up.
"Hole L" after the TOS has been moved.
I imagine the winterovers sitting out on these chairs on the patio sipping coffee, watching the sunrise of the year.
Kirill pumpin' gas. I heard someone spilled gas on their skin, it evaporated almost instantly and gave them nasty frostbite.
This is the greenhouse.
A solar-heated outhouse, with the ICL in the background.
Loading DOMs into ICL for winter storage.
Thanks to the Raytheon General Assistants for assisting.
I don't know what this balloon was for. It doesn't look like the weather balloons.

Ice Tunnels
The entrance to the ice tunnels.
Don't ask me...
That thermometer says -62F.
You could climb up in a few spots and appear somewhere around the station.
A momento left from the winter crew a few years ago.
I honestly feel as cold as that pig head. My eyes were freezing shut.
This is the rodwell. It creates the water supply.
Me and Pearl. The lens is foggy from changing temp by more than 100 degrees.
The old dome.
A box of pretzels, meat, and snow. Just add heat and you have a meal!
Wait, let me put up my goggles.
There we go.
Karthik about to pose with the dome.
You can see how much snow buries the dome. They just dug it out this year.
And I finally got some shots of myself at the real South Pole.
A plane took off right behind me a few seconds after these photos... it would've made for a great shot.
This was sometime past 1:00 in the morning...
On my last day at SPS, these guys showed up in Toyota pickups! I heard they broke 4 axles and tied ropes between the trunks to pull the leader out when he fell in a crevasse (which happened!).

The Oden, Icebreaker

The Oden, a Swedish ice-breaker, breaking up the ice in the harbor. I watched through a telescope for a while.
There was also a navy oil-tanker at the pier.
No spooning on this side - too public.
We flew with the Royal New Zealand Air Force, straight back from support flights in Afghanistan.
RNZAF fly-boys with Erebus, quiet in the background.
This flight was so packed and uncomfortable. I'm just glad it is over.

Sea Ice

But I did get these great shots of the sea ice as we were leaving.
The plane was banking so much during this shot that it looks like a satellite image from straight above.