The sky is beginning to take on different colors at the Pole, depending on which direction you’re looking. There’s a hazy band of orange along the horizon, but facing away toward the station the sky appears blue.
IceCube News Topic: Life at the Pole
It was a quiet week at the Pole. And with some bad weather, it was a good time to roam around and take some indoor photos.
It’s a slow sunrise at the South Pole, with light creeping up from the horizon little by little each day. But even as the twilight approaches and the sky brightens, it’s still dark enough to discern some auroras here and there.
Sometimes the moon is so bright at the Pole that it lights up the dark winter skies. The moon was setting last week, and as it left there was a slow transition to the first visible signs of sunlight along the horizon.
The auroras were still out in full force last week, as if lingering in their farewell before twilight steps up.
That’s a lot of green!—it looks like a backdrop fit for Wicked. But views like this, of strong auroras over the IceCube Lab (ICL), will soon be gone, so the winterovers are capturing the night sky while they still can.
Last week was a mostly quiet one at the South Pole station. With winds blowing up to 40 knots for the early part of the week, people were trying to stay indoors.
It was a busy week all around at the Pole. The IceCube detector itself had a few issues for the winterovers to attend to, while the final week of the Polympics kept them busy as well.
The second annual Polympics (Pole Olympics) began last week at the Pole. This event is a modern competition that includes not only sports but also e-sports and other contests, like sled pulling.
Last week, IceCube's winterovers spent time outdoors taking advantage of the photogenic night skies.
As a thank you for the fine midwinter dinner put together by the galley crew, the scientists at the Pole took their turn at meal preparation. First up was pizza night, with lots of different toppings, including a duck-honey-hoisin pizza that garnered some praise.
Winter is aurora season, which means that green tends to dominate the color scheme of images from the South Pole. But this week, the green is from vegetation—indoors. Check out these cucumbers.
A quiet week at the Pole—but that doesn’t mean that nothing happened. First of all, look at that sky! Lots of stars and swirling auroras, but also a bright rising moon make for a very picturesque setting.
Since the moon was down last week, many winterovers—including IceCube’s—were outside braving the (extreme) cold, looking to catch some good shots of the Milky Way or the aurora australis, also known as the southern lights.
A bright swath of auroras extending low across the sky with a clear view of the Milky Way above—what more could one want (except perhaps to see it in person)? Well, those who winterover at the South Pole station count themselves among the lucky ones.
How does slow equal fast? Well, apparently for fire rescue teams, slow mean smooth, and smooth means fast. Last week, the teams competed for time in donning their gear and saving colleagues from across the gym.
Look what showed up in the dish pits lately. Hmmm. At least this shark infestation poses no real danger.
IceCube’s winterovers just sat down to take in the view after finishing up some outdoor IceAct snow accumulation measurements. It was a view worth sitting down for. But for a relatively quiet week at the Pole, they still found themselves with plenty to do.
It’s still not completely dark, but we know that eventually, and soon enough, the darkness will come to envelope everything.
The extreme environment of the South Pole poses numerous challenges for those who work there, especially during the winter. One difficulty is simply dealing with things that break. You can’t just order a replacement online.
It’s not the first aurora of the season, but it is the first one to be captured on camera by IceCube winterover Kathrin—a pretty, swirling aurora along the horizon, with a bright moon illuminating the icy surface from above.
The sky was still bright enough last week to take a photo of an ozone balloon launch, the first one to send up a special plastic balloon in the hopes of a better survival as it ascends in the cold atmosphere.
There’s still just a bit of sunlight lingering, as seen in the image—what’s not so easily discernible in the image are the stars, but the winterovers report having seen them for the first time in months.
Although the sun has set and winter has begun, it takes a while before it actually gets dark at the South Pole. Twilight is a prolonged process there, lasting weeks. Here there’s still plenty of daylight to see the station as it starts to look nice and frosty without direct sunlight.
IceCube's winterovers had the good luck to enjoy clear weather last week. They were able to capture some dramatic photos of the sunset.
As the sun sinks low behind the IceCube Lab, the building’s shadow grows long—it’s almost reaching the South Pole Telescope, as shown here.
The sun is getting lower and lower, and the folks at the South Pole station continue to get everything ready for winter. The winds were strong last week, on some days making it hard to distinguish ground from sky.
The sun is still out at the South Pole, but it’s getting low in the sky (they have one loooong sunset down there). And it’s cold as usual—a quick run around the block leaves one looking a little frosty.
Last week, with the IceCube detector behaving well, winterovers Benjamin and Kathrin had a bit more time for extracurriculars. They enjoyed a live webcast with a classroom in Italy and tried their hand at mastering the unicycle.
Tradition is strong at the South Pole, and last week was validation of that. After the final plane departed with the remaining summer personnel, the winterovering station crew all gathered in the gym for the traditional screening of all three versions of “The Thing.” They engage in this marathon viewing each year.
Time flies, even at the South Pole. The winterover staff are getting ready for the pending station close—here IceCube winterover Kathrin is parking one of the last Hercs to have landed for awhile.
IceCube winterovers Benjamin and Kathrin are showing off a thermometer reading from last week, when temperatures in Madison, WI, and many other midwestern areas were colder than at the Pole.
Flight delays are not uncommon at the South Pole, which can be frustrating. But sometimes there’s an upside, as there was for a recent cohort of IceCube personnel waiting to leave the Pole. They were rewarded for their delay with a flight out on a Basler aircraft (much smaller than the Herc they were waiting on), which gave them fantastic views on the way to McMurdo Station.
Even though the end of the summer season feels like it’s fast approaching, things have still been busy at the South Pole. Work got underway for both the new surface radio antennas and the new IceAct telescopes.
There were different groups of South Pole visitors last week—some human, and some not. The nonhuman visitor came from Japan—IceCube-san, seen here on the snow outside the IceCube Lab. The other visitors were adventure travelers, who were based at a campsite not far from the station.
Last week at the Pole started in 2018 but ended in 2019. What better way to launch into the new year than by unveiling something shiny and bright? That’s the tradition at the South Pole, with a special ceremony held each January 1 to reset the marker at the geographic South Pole.
There are so many different ways to celebrate the holidays around the world, but there’s only one special event that actually takes you around the world. It’s the occasion of the annual “Race Around the World” at the South Pole—a fun run that circles around the South Pole, traversing all of the world’s time zones.
The second South Pole Overland Traverse (SPOT) arrived and toured the IceCube Lab last week. Defueling the SPOT bladders can be a rough job, especially if the weather’s bad.
Another action-packed week at the Pole. IceCube was relatively quiet, but some amazing sun dogs garnered folks’ attention. The station celebrated the 107th anniversary of Roald Amundsen’s arrival at the South Pole, with the station manager dressed up as Amundsen for a photo shoot at the geographic South Pole.
An action-packed week with summer activities in full swing. There was lots of work in the field—digging, measuring, installing equipment.
What better way to spend a nice sunny day than lying on a blanket enjoying an ice cream cone. That’s what IceCube’s winterovers thought. No matter that the nice day is at the South Pole, sunny maybe but definitely not warm.
Last week, two of three large cargo crates holding new servers and other equipment were delivered to the IceCube Lab, or ICL. Extra hands helped with opening and unloading of all the temperature-sensitive equipment.
IceCube’s new winterovers, Benjamin and Kathrin, are now fending for themselves as they said goodbye last week to Johannes and Raffaela, who finally left the Pole after some delays. (Thanks, guys!)
Last week began with cold, beautiful weather. The sun was out when all four winterovers set off in a pisten bully to visit all the IceTop stations. These trips are part of the regular task of measuring snow accumulation at the stations. Looks like they were having a good time.
And then there were four. Last week saw the arrival of IceCube’s two new winterovers, Kathrin and Benjamin, joining departing winterovers Raffaela and Johannes before they leave the Pole. On their first visit to the ICL, they set up a camera timer to capture a group photo. But the timer was a bit fast for getting back into their planned arrangement atop a giant snowdrift—so, antics ensued.
IceCube was quiet and well behaved last week, but the week was full of all sorts of other activity now that the summer season is officially underway. Here we see IceCube winterover Raffaela getting ready to help park the first passenger aircraft of the season.
Ok, so you’ve completed that giant 18,000-piece jigsaw puzzle, now what? Well, you might not want to take it apart again, at least not for a while. The folks at the South Pole decided to give theirs a place of honor on the wall in the B2 science lab.
Bad weather at the Pole last week kept the first flights from arriving, but it also meant lots of snow shoveling and fuel line testing to continue their readiness for incoming flights once conditions do improve.
While they wait at the Pole for the first arriving flights of the season, there are still chores to do, like snow removal. The snowcat in this image is poised for action.
The main entrance to the South Pole station is known as Destination Alpha—this image shows a view out onto the frosty tundra from there at early sunrise.
The equinox occurred last week, and the sun has finally risen above the horizon. The sky in turn is showing off an array of beautiful colors, providing a nice backdrop for outdoor photos.
Just because the sun’s coming up, doesn’t mean it’s getting warmer yet. In fact, they’ve had some tremendously cold days at the Pole, with the thermometer hitting –100 F last week.
As the sun rises and brightens the sky, thoughts turn to the arrival of summer visitors. Still a ways off, but there is plenty of station prep and cleaning to be done in the meantime. Outside, the IceCube Lab and some other structures are now becoming visible again in daylight.
The satellite dome sits frosted over as it waits for the sunrise—here it’s shown backlit by a full moon. It’s a peaceful scene, which is also how IceCube’s winterovers generally described last week at the Pole.
IceCube winterover Johannes’s camera withstood a time-lapse session outdoors last week—a little frosty looking afterward but still able to crank out some fine-looking photos.
False alarm from week 32—aurora viewing remained in full force last week at the Pole. In fact, the skies were graced with some purple auroras, pretty rare in general, even at the bottom of the world.
Who knows, but it could be that this fantastic shot is the last we’ll see of the auroras from the Pole for a while. So, why not go out with a bang—big, bright, and set against a starry Milky Way backdrop.
It was a pretty busy time last week at the Pole. IceCube’s winterovers had some unrelated hardware incidents that required troubleshooting and fixing, and a trip out to the IceCube Lab. And look what a great photo winterover Raffaela captured on that trip, with the ICL backlit by a full moon.
Last week the weather was a bit mixed, and the winterovers had their lunar eclipse viewing marred by blowing snow. Regardless, they still got together outdoors for a group photo.
So much ice, yet it’s no mean feat to keep a stable water supply for the folks at the South Pole. Housed in the shack shown in this image is a rodwell, which is how they get their water. Hot water is sent down a hole to a cavity deep in the ice, and a continuous flow of water is maintained to prevent the rodwell from freezing.
There were two bingos last week at the Pole: (1) the game, where some improvising was required for the tiles, and (2) the exclamation, which was well warranted for IceCube’s recent multimessenger results.
Last week at the Pole, the weather was perfect for starting out the second half of winter—cold but calm conditions, with some of the prettiest auroras.
The 4th of July is now behind us, but this view of the South Pole station continues with the red, white, and blue theme, while the other side of the station just shows the blue sky and the white snow. These image were only possible due to a bright moon, bright enough to illuminate the tracks in the snow surface.
The recent stretch of bad weather finally broke, showing off some nice auroras. Here, you can make out a bright spot in the sky, which is Mars, soon to reach its closest approach to Earth in many years.
Midwinter is approaching, so the winterovers got together for a group photo that they’ll use to send out traditional greetings to other stations. Looks like a bunch of happy campers.
Nice snow drift! Or sastruga, as one might say at the Pole. This enormous snow structure appeared inside the logistics arch, which is a large unheated storage facility, pushed through to the inside through closed doors. That is one strong wind (or one leaky door).
Since it’s nighttime all the time during winter at the South Pole, it can be pretty dark outside, depending on the weather. But with clear conditions, you can get a wondrous night sky. Here we have the IceCube Lab under quite the starry sky, with the Milky Way in clear view and an Iridium flare making a noticeable mark.
Last time it was frosted glasses, now it’s a frosty staircase. Blowing snow during the recent storms has left its mark on the staircase and platforms of the IceCube Lab (ICL). At some point, that snow will need to be removed—but that’s for another day.
The winds kept at it last week. The blowing snow not only obstructs the view when trying to take photos, but it makes it tricky to see the flags that mark your way in this dangerously cold landscape. The weather did clear at one point, though, long enough to capture some amazing shots of the Milky Way.
A quiet week at the Pole for the detector, but he photos were just striking! Here we have a nice shot of the ceremonial pole marker, with a bright moon situated just behind the sphere and flags flapping in the wind.
Even in winter, you can get an impressive halo—here it’s the moon. Halos are caused by light interacting with ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere, and these circular halos, which can form around the sun or the moon, are called 22-degree halos. They’re fairly common, seen more frequently than rainbows.
Although the sky is not yet dark, auroras appeared for the first time this austral winter. It was a good thing the detector ran well this week, because the winterovers were excited to experiment photographing the colorful night sky.
Didn’t we say the sun had set already? We did. But that doesn’t mean the sky goes absolutely dark right away. It’s a slow sunset, with light lingering even after the sun has dipped below the horizon. This image shows a great twilight shot of a clear sky with some color along the horizon and the IceCube Lab in the distance.
Who needs the sun when you have a moon like this! This image shows the moon hanging low above the Dark Sector, home to the South Pole Telescope, shown here, in addition to the IceCube Lab, BICEP, and MAPO.
At the South Pole, you never know whether the skies will be clear enough to capture a nice image of that last flicker before the sun goes below the horizon. Last week a big storm rolled in that threatened things, but it cleared in time for the winterovers to capture some great photos and bid the sun adieu for a while.
Last week was stormy at the Pole, according to IceCube’s winterovers. Guess that’s where these icy blotches stuck to the window came from. The detector was relatively quiet, but there was plenty of other activity to keep the winterovers busy.
It takes a long time for the sun to set at the South Pole. Maybe just as well for last week. It allowed IceCube’s winterovers to continue taking outdoor photographs of the landscape, and it gave them some light to see what they were doing while out in the field, driving around and measuring the snow height at all the IceTop stations.
The fuel arch under the station is one of the coldest—and creepiest—places at the Pole, accessed from a network of underground ice tunnels. The tunnels maintain an even temperature of around -50 °C at all times.
A quiet week at the Pole. And when the quiet stems from a well-behaved detector, there’s nothing to complain about. IceCube winter Johannes and others took advantage of the remaining daylight to get in some Frisbee while they still can.
That’s it—the South Pole station is officially closed for the season. The few remaining summer people have departed on the last plane out, which brought to the Pole a nice supply of “freshies,” as they like to refer to their perishable produce.
It was a busy week at the Pole. There are always lots of preparations to be made before hunkering down for the many months of isolation and darkness. With the busy airfield, IceCube winterover Raffaela was out helping park a Herc.
The summer season is nearing its end. So IceCube’s winterovers were busy helping summer crew wrap up their tasks. That included some cleaning and recabling in the ICL.
IceCube winterover Raffaela got to see some amazing wildlife on her break, but check out what Johannes spotted on his R&R trip to McMurdo. That’s an icebreaker, which is needed to cut channels through the thick sea ice to allow fuel and cargo vessels to reach McMurdo Station.
When you see mountains and wildlife, you know we’re not at the South Pole anymore. But we are still in Antarctica, and these first few images are from IceCube winterover Raffaela’s R&R trip to McMurdo.
Since the winterovers spend a full year at the Pole, they get to fit in some R&R at McMurdo Station on the coast before the long stretch of winter isolation sets in. IceCube winterover Raffaela was off last week, after a two-day flight delay, leaving Johannes to hold down the fort on his own.
The IceCube detector started out the year with no major issues. Yay! But there was plenty of excitement in other arenas. Everyone gathered at the geographic South Pole for the unveiling of the new pole marker.
Last week was the third annual “Bermingman,” where folks go out into the berms to dig for buried treasure. Things are buried because of accumulated snow, not from actual snowfall but from storms and winds that blow in and deposit snow. In fact, just after the Bermingman, a huge wall of snow appeared on the horizon
If you didn’t have snow over your holidays, you can enjoy it vicariously through these South Pole pictures. They had all kinds of fun in the snow—sledding and tubing, snowmobiling, and running! The sledding worked up their appetite for celebrations.
Last week was a busy one at the Pole. A lot of holiday preparations and some visitors on station, including folks from Arctic Trucks, getting a station tour and giving tours of their vehicles.
There’s always something going on at the Pole, and last week was no different. On the fun side, the winterovers got in some outdoor photography—well, technically indoors for this shot of the icy stairwell down in the fuel arches
The many flight delays this season affected the arrival of not only personnel but cargo, too. It eventually showed up though, and last week IceCube’s winterovers were busy managing it all at the IceCube Lab. It was a lot of carrying and exhausting, but they were still smiling after it was all said and done
It was a busy week for IceCube’s newest winterovers. A plane arrived after a long hiatus, bringing some new folks to the station and taking away last year’s winterovers, finally. But much of the excitement came from alarms going off—the ones for fire were false alarms thankfully. But it gave the new winterovers a chance to apply their training to emergency response operations.
Last week kept IceCube’s newest winterovers busy, but not too busy, with a number of activities. Johannes was on call, and got his first page to deal with a detector issue, but not too big of a problem. Both winterovers were trained on the PistenBully, or snowcat, and then drove around to the IceTop stations to take snow height measurements.
Flight canceled? Well, that happens. But, canceled … again? Welcome to plane travel at the Pole. The changeable weather patterns in the harsh climate of Antarctica make flights in and out susceptible to delays. It’s part and parcel of the whole experience.
Lots of firsts as a new summer season begins at the South Pole. Last week saw the first LC-30 to arrive, seen here as it’s being marshaled in and later after landing and releasing a group of red parkas onto the ice, the first group of many to come. The changing-of-the-guard period at the Pole has begun.
Shoveling snow might not be that much fun, but at least at the South Pole, afterward you can walk away with a pretty “epic” beard, as the winterovers recently put it. Well, if you have a beard to begin with, that is.
After a long, cold winter at the South Pole, it might be hard to decide which is more exciting: the first plane of the season or its contents. Apparently, people get pretty excited at the sight of a bowl of tangerines after going without any fresh fruit for eight or nine months.
Now that you can see what you’re doing outside, it’s time for outdoor activities. Unfortunately, it’s still cold (very cold), and there’s no guarantee that the sun will be out. In fact, here’s IceCube winterover James braving what appears to be rather poor conditions to take some height measurements for calibrating a new IceTop sensor.
The sun sure does make things shiny. The face of the station appears dark and flat, but the “beer can,” the large cylindrical tower on the end that connects the aboveground station to belowground corridors, is glowing in the face of the newly risen sun. So is that interesting snowdrift in the foreground.
Just because the sun is now up, doesn’t mean you can see everything clearly. Check out the poor visibility in this image of a flag line just outside the station, disappearing into whiteness. The 40-knot storm made outdoor work impossible and therefore restricted.
Last week we saw that someone had pulled up a chair to watch the sunrise, this week there are two. And these two people are actually watching the sun—it has been climbing higher and higher all week and is now officially up.
Their time at the Pole may be coming to an end, but apparently their beards are not! IceCube winterovers Martin and James are sporting some fine beards while they happily tackle their work in the dish pit.
Just because it’s light enough to take pictures outdoors, doesn’t mean the sun is up. Not yet—or not officially—anyway. The one and only sunrise each year at the South Pole is a slow process.
Now you see him, now you don’t! Winterover Martin had some fun taking photos at the ceremonial pole last week. Although it was still quite cold outside, the light was sufficient for a much faster a selfie.
With a near perfect uptime and very few detector issues, winterovers enjoyed a quiet week.
Winterovers have been waiting for the sun for many months and the growing anticipation was heightened this week when the temperature reached a frigid -104◦F.
It was a relatively quiet week at the Pole, with most of the action outside. IceCube winterover Martin captured a nice shot of the moon, with halo and moon dogs, over the Dark Sector. You can discern a faint glow along the horizon of an impending sunrise.
No, not yet—that’s the moon, not the sun. But so bright, one would be forgiven for mistaking it for the sun. Not only is this full moon bright, but it’s sporting a nice clear halo, too, providing an excellent backdrop for a shot of the IceCube Lab.
A fairly laid back week, all things considered. The moon was rising, and IceCube winterover Martin focused his camera outside on some snowed-in heavy machinery. Looks like quite a covering for a place that hardly sees any snowfall.
Last week at the Pole, life for the IceCube winterovers was bookended by a very busy beginning and a fun and lighthearted ending. For the first few days, they had to contend with some detector issues arising from run transitions and test runs performed, but all went well. By the end of the week, they were celebrating Christmas in July.
The sun will rise again … at some point. But in the meanwhile, it’s still winter and the skies remain dark. A bright moon had been lighting things up lately, but last week it was gone, leaving it up to the auroras to provide the overhead entertainment.
Although the poker tournament continues, last week’s focus was all about the Games—the South Pole Winter Games, where they had actual medals, a closing ceremony, and even an Olympic flame.
Let the games begin! The South Pole Winter Games, that is. They feature an eclectic line-up of events, including vertical tower sprint and photography. IceCube winterovers James and Martin signed up for some individual trials but also formed a team to compete in volleyball.
Last week the IceCube detector had almost perfect uptime. There was also a continuing poker tournament, a birthday celebration, and auroras that appear to be getting into the 4th of July spirit.
What a busy week at the Pole. It was Midwinter there, marking the halfway point of the long, dark winter. They held their traditional viewing of “The Shining” and celebratory dinner, including salads, menus, and fancy décor. Also last week was the culmination of a station-wide facial hair contest.
The moon was up last week, making it quite bright outside—it almost looks like sunshine. But it’s winter at the Pole, and IceCube’s winterovers have been busy. They had to trek out to the ICL for one thing or another, and they also performed some regular maintenance procedures on DOMs, both in the ice and in IceTop
Another busy week for IceCube’s winterovers—they were paged several times to deal with crashes and other irregularities. Despite the activity, the detector was quite stable with minimal down time. The station had a special Memorial Day lunch last week, complete with hamburgers and hotdogs. And auroras!
Last week, IceCube’s winterovers were quite busy. There were a few battery and other power supply failures to troubleshoot and reckon with, and a couple of other minor detector issues—all resolved smoothly though. In station life, they celebrated The Big Lebowski Night and international Towel Day.
Last week at the Pole saw the start of a new physics run and some other detector maintenance tasks. Meanwhile, the bright moon had set, allowing auroras to take over the skies once again. And take over they did.
There are privileges that come with winterovering at the South Pole. Being able to step outside and gaze up at spectacular aurora displays is one of them. Working in the dish pit? Well, maybe that’s on the other side of that coin.
If you find yourself at the South Pole, and the sky above you is sparkling with stars and shimmering with auroras, you might just want to lie down and stare straight up for best effect. That’s what winterover Martin did recently, seen here in front of the flags at the ceremonial South Pole.
It surely is a staircase to the stars. That’s the ICL’s staircase, set against a backdrop of bright auroras low in the sky with a wide swath of the Milky Way above. Last week at the Pole was very much like the previous one—a well-behaved, quiet detector and an active night sky.
Arms up—let’s hear it for auroras! With an extremely stable IceCube detector that needed little attention last week, IceCube winterover Martin was able to train his focus on the glorious skies.
Last week’s photos from the Pole were full of blue and green. The first visible auroras were out, and they appeared as bright green swaths and swirls against a blue sky. A bright full moon and a tiny speck of Jupiter also made appearances.
Another amazing week at the Pole—not only was the detector performing well but the twilight photographs continued to be stunning. IceCube winterover Martin captured another great time-lapse shot of a NOAA weather balloon launch along with some striking images of the station and the IceCube Lab.
The sun has set, they’ve held their traditional sunset dinner, and yet … it’s still light outside. Well, that’s twilight. Even after the sun falls below the horizon, the scattering of light in the upper atmosphere illuminates the lower atmosphere and the Earth’s surface.
This photo at sunset is a picture that paints a thousand words, reminding us that the South Pole is technically a desert. The windswept snow forms into sastrugi, or sharp, irregular grooves and ridges on the hard snow surface. They can create interesting shapes and take on strange appearances, sometimes looking a bit like waves crashing to shore.
Pull up a chair—sunset at the South Pole takes weeks, not hours. And why is that? Because the Earth’s rotational axis is tilted, the poles gradually proceed from full exposure to full shadow (and back again) as the Earth travels around the sun.
A tree grows at the South Pole. Well, not really. It’s not an actual tree (rather, a sculpture made of copper), and it’s definitely not growing. But it looks like a tree—great photo!
Up until almost the last minute, the summer activities at the Pole kept the IceCube crew busy. This summer, a dozen IceCube researchers and staff, from eight institutions and six countries, spent some time at the Admundsen-Scott South Pole Station to perform maintenance and operations for IceCube and help prepare for a future deployment of the Askaryan Radio Array (ARA) detector. A PolarTREC teacher, Kate Miller, also traveled to the Pole to join the team, contributing to an extensive educational and outreach program that is still in progress.
It was rather overcast last week. In fact, in this photo of the IceCube Lab (ICL), it’s almost hard to tell where the snowy landscape ends and the cloudy sky begins. This view of the ICL is from the vantage point of the geographic South Pole.
Another week, another sun dog. This nice photo taken of sun dogs at the Pole also shows off a blue sky, some low-lying clouds, and the South Pole Telescope far off to the left.
A clear sky last week showed off some faint sun dogs around a bright sun. Clear skies also made for fine flying conditions—the last flights to leave the Pole took off last week. The station is officially closed for the season.
Shadows are getting longer as the first large group of summer workers heads out from the Pole. Soon enough the flights will end, leaving the winter crew alone for the dark months to come.
Winter is just around the corner, but the South Pole greenhouse doesn’t know about it. Fresh vegetables are growing in there. IceCube winterover Martin had some greenhouse training last week, and harvested a striking (but not very ripe looking) tomato.
Doesn’t it sometimes seem that folks at the South Pole are always smiling? Well, for many, getting to spend time at the Pole—extremely cold temperatures notwithstanding—is the dream of a lifetime. Still, this group shot shows summer crew about to leave for warmer climes. Maybe that’s why they’re smiling.
Last week’s photos sum up the main activities for IceCube folks currently at the South Pole—snowmobiling, shoveling, and sunbathing.
Wait a minute—seals? penguins? at the South Pole? Well, you’re right to wonder, because the climate at the South Pole, in central Antarctica, is too harsh for survival even for animals adapted to lower temperatures. But winterovers deserve a break from Pole life when possible, and IceCube winterover Martin made it to McMurdo station last week for a few days of R&R, where he was able to capture penguins, seals, and a skua—all in the same shot.
A relatively quiet week at the Pole … but sunny! IceCube winterover Martin captured a bright, radiating sun as it appeared to rest on the roof of the IceCube Lab (ICL). Sunny or not, no flights made it in or out last week, postponing Martin’s week of R&R that had been scheduled.
The year’s end doesn’t mean an end to the work going on at the Pole. Last week, continued detector upgrades and some inventory tasks were on the work roster. There was also considerable progress made on a new IceTop snow-depth sensor project, documented in this image.
Last week, Christmas was celebrated in many parts of the world, and that includes the South Pole. They had a makeshift “cargo” tree, presents for the winterovers, a fancy dinner—complete with a printed menu and assorted European desserts, and a party in the gym.
It might be cold, but it’s summer at the South Pole, and the sun was out in full force, captured in this image of the IceCube Lab (ICL) with a striking mass of clouds cutting a swath through the sky.
A busy week at the South Pole, but not too busy for fun and games. Last week they held a foosball tournament at the geographic pole. In fact, it apparently was the first international southernmost foosball tournament, period. And IceCube winterover Martin was one of the winners. Yay, team!
Not many people have the opportunity to go to the South Pole. It’s remoteness and extreme climate make traveling there complicated, and access to the South Pole station and other research facilities at the Pole is restricted or limited at best.
Have we mentioned all the cables? Well, there are a lot of cables in the IceCube Lab, and sometimes they’re a bit in the way, as they appear to be in this image of winterover Martin trying to get at something in the computer rack that needs attention.
Ok, they’re gone, but you can see them one last time in this photo taken mere moments before they left. Who? IceCube’s outgoing winterovers, whose departures from the Pole had suffered some delays. The group photo includes IceCuber Ralf Auer, just arrived on the plane that was soon to take Christian and Mack away, along with current winterovers James and Martin.
Last week at the Pole was a week of no airplanes. Not only did that postpone the departure of current IceCube winterovers Mack and Christian (who was captured in this image expressing his feelings about the delay), but it prevented US Secretary of State John Kerry from making a scheduled visit to the South Pole.
Last week brought two new IceCube winterovers (James Casey and Martin Wolf) to the South Pole, fresh and ready for action. Outgoing winterovers (Christian Krueger and Mack van Rossem) were still at the Pole, available to provide some welcome training before they leave the ice (which can feel as though it may never happen, with only 3 of 12 planned flights making it last week due to one issue or another—such is life at the South Pole).
Come summer, station personnel eagerly await the first provisions of “freshies,” as they’re called at the Pole. Despite continuing delays last week, a couple more planes have come and gone, leaving a few new faces along with the fresh fruit and bringing the station population to over 50.
This nice sun halo (properly called a 22º halo) that appeared directly above the IceCube Lab meant that there were ice crystals in the atmosphere, one of the reasons that the skiway wasn’t seeing enough action last week. Some folks were all packed up and ready to leave, but no plane was there to take them away as the flight schedule kept being pushed back due to weather. Such is life at the South Pole.
Last week at the Pole, the first two planes of the season arrived (and then departed again—both had short stays). They were small planes, but still, any plane landing at the Pole these days is an exciting event after the long, dark, quiet winter.
Although the South Pole is essentially a desert, a hefty accumulation of snow occurs on and around the buildings there each winter. How is that? Well, it’s the wind. Antarctica is a windy place—even with so little precipitation, it features some extraordinary blizzards thanks to strong winds.
With the sun out, you can see again—and here we see all the flags surrounding the marker at the ceremonial pole. They didn’t just appear out of the darkness, though. They were recently replaced for the summer season after being taken down for the winter.
Flags serve an important purpose at the Pole, marking out routes between places for when visibility is poor. Here you can see the IceCube Lab (ICL) in focus behind a flag line in the foreground.
Up, up, and away. That’s a NOAA balloon launch shown in a time-lapse photo—pretty nice! Last week at the Pole was all about the camera.
A new temperature record for 2016 was set at the Pole last week—a low of –107.9 °F. The extremely cold temperatures didn’t stop one station inhabitant from climbing the outdoor staircase is short sleeves.
One unique aspect of living at the Pole for a year is experiencing only one sunset, at the equinox in March, and only one sunrise, which occurs in September, while you’re there. Since the sun rises just once during the whole year, it’s kind of a big deal. It’s also a slow process, with daylight increasing little by little as the sun’s arrival nears.
Despite the encroaching twilight, this photo of a Scott tent near the South Pole marker also captured some faint auroras. Auroras have been caught in many shapes and forms, conjuring up cinnamon rolls and question marks, but in this case, it’s a grumpy face. At least, once it has been suggested, it’s difficult not to see it.
A full moon is doing just as good a job as the sun in lighting up the sky. Here the moon, surrounded by a clear halo, is shown hiding behind one of the frosty towers of the ICL. A large snow drift looms in the foreground.
The igloo—the prime attraction at the South Pole for the last few weeks—is no more. But before “disappearing,” its existence was memorialized in some final photos. Here you can see it with the names of its builders carved into the side, and it appears to almost glow from the soft white light from within.
The igloo from last week is finally finished. What began as an afternoon project ended up taking an entire week (well, high winds were partly to blame). In the image, you can see the igloo lit from within, and perhaps even discern that there are only few blocks missing to complete the ceiling.
That’s not the IceCube Lab all frosted up in this photo but the ARO (Atmospheric Research Observatory) building, with its LIDAR beams shown shooting straight up into the sky.
Station life was quiet at the South Pole last week, but not too quiet. They celebrated Christmas in July with a special dinner. Popular in many parts of the world, for various reasons, Christmas in July is only one of numerous celebrations held throughout the year at the Pole.
In summer at the South Pole, the traditional place for photo ops is the ceremonial Pole, where a mirrored sphere is mounted on a post and surrounded by a semicircular lineup of flags. But in the dark of winter, any place is as good as another as long as you have a nice aurora as backdrop
The sky was not disappointing anyone last week at the Pole; it had it all—stars, Milky Way, and auroras. Work-wise it was rather quiet for IceCube’s winterovers. But they had other activities going on, including emergency response training and showcasing their LEGO creations in a blog post for LEGO fans.
South Pole, dead of winter, no sun for months. So, that rules out a rainbow in the above image. Instead it’s an aurora, but it was doing its best, with its graceful arch, to imitate a rainbow.
It’s the middle of winter at the South Pole, and not only is it dark outside, but there are restrictions in place to keep it as dark as possible (exterior lights limited to a red spectrum, to reduce interference) for the benefit of research projects that rely on the dark night sky.
Last week, they were observing midwinter at the South Pole station, which traditionally includes a fancy dinner and a viewing of "The Shining."
A completed jigsaw puzzle serves as a base for holding a sizeable LEGO creation. This model looks to be of London’s Tower Bridge, but perhaps someone should talk to the LEGO folks about designing one for the ICL (the IceCube Lab). Wouldn’t that be fun?
Last week at the Pole the entire winterover crew got together to take a group photo. They normally do this each year, but not always with such spectacular results. This year they chose an outdoor venue with an aurora backdrop.
Station life was quiet last week. Outside, the auroras kept themselves a bit quiet, too. Instead, folks were treated to a nice moon halo on display.
Space: the final frontier. These are the images of IceCube winterover Mack van Rossem. Well, he’s not in space, and he may not exactly be “boldly going where no man has gone before,” but he is spending a year in one of the most remote locations on Earth—the South Pole.
Not a particularly busy or hectic week at the Pole—quiet punctuated by work, or work punctuated by quiet, depending on how you look at things. Now, depending on where, not how, you’re looking, you get to see where the action is this time of year at the South Pole.
Under a sky lit by auroras, you can see the path through the Dark Sector, bright enough to make out the flag line for quite a ways into the distance. It’s a different story when there are no auroras or bright moon to illuminate things.
It’s aurora season at the South Pole. Two lone figures—both of IceCube’s winterovers—were out on the ice capturing images of the night sky. Although it’s a night sky, that tells us nothing about what time of day it is since it’s winter there and the sun remains down for about six months at a stretch.
IceCube winterover Mack’s Ecuadorian devil’s mask looks extra devilish under the red lights as he stands for a photo in his cold weather gear after coming in from outside.
IceCube winterover Mack van Rossem stands, with a full moon and the IceCube Lab (ICL) in the background, all geared up and ready to tackle IceTop measurements. Nice mask!
With the darkness of winter settling in, it’s time to cover the windows. It’s also time for winterizing outdoor equipment and vehicles. Although a large fleet of vehicles is needed for summer activity, most of them are left idle for the winter.
It was a relatively tranquil week at the Pole, but not without its interruptions—April Fool's Day pranks among them. The waning light in the sky is beginning to lend a little eeriness to photos.
A mushroom cloud … at the South Pole? What’s going on down there? What’s going on is actually a rising full moon getting distorted by the atmosphere. Pretty cool image.
With so little time left above the horizon, the sun is making a nice spectacle of itself at the South Pole. Here we see it bright and orange and surrounded by a clear halo as it hovers above the satellite stations.
Last week there were a few alarm calls in the cryo building. The first one interrupted an outreach webcast, and then there was another one later the same day. The photo shows the emergency response team on their return from one of those calls. You can see that the sun is still out, just a few degrees above the horizon.
On a clear sunny day, it’s easy to make out the buildings at the end of the road to the Dark Sector, but the flag line is set up for the winter months, when darkness and extreme temperatures reign and you really can’t afford to get lost out there.
There’s a beautiful half moon in this image, can you spot it? Well, it is a little small in the photo—but sometimes we don’t notice the moon out during the day because we’re not expecting it. However, we shouldn’t be surprised see it then, since it’s often visible.
Chairs and sofas (and mattresses!) have been set up in the gym, all for the sake of movie-watching comfort. It’s unclear how they vied for best seats. But some padding or support is imperative when you’re going to hunker down for three movies in a row—or rather, three versions of the same movie. Yes, we’re talking about The Thing, the traditional entertainment springboard to ring in the beginning of the winter season at the South Pole.
A cloud of snow dust appears in the wake of the last flight out of the South Pole for the season. Well…almost. It was supposed to be the last flight, but unforeseen circumstances (they do crop up every so often) caused a few summer personnel to delay their departure a few more days. Delays can be a nuisance, but so close to the end of the summer season, they’re even more likely to produce anxiety since in winter there’s no leaving the Pole once the last flight has gone.
Maybe we should all do this with our packages from now on. Mail and cargo arrived last week, and someone set out the contents of one of the boxes quite decoratively for the photo. To efficiently unload the goods when they arrived, they formed an assembly line going up the stairs to the station.
Last week, the South Pole traverse finished unloading the supply of fuel it had brought, transferring it all to the tanks on station. They should be all set for winter, which is long at the South Pole and is fast approaching.
When traveling to the South Pole, you have to be prepared for delays. But last week it was the station, not the travelers, that was not quite prepared—with a summer population close to its limits, it had to creatively house dozens of passengers left behind from departing planes that boomeranged.
Four new arrivals reported to the South Pole ready for duty after experiencing considerable travel delays. They donned their white lab coats and got to work, performing test runs and installing cabling (looks like fun!)—and they even fit in some time to join a scheduled outreach webcast to talk about their work and travels.
Now you see it, now you don’t. These images show the spot of the geographical South Pole, just before and after the old marker was removed. At the beginning of each year, a new marker is situated at the current location, which shifts constantly due to the movement of the ice sheet.
Every New Year’s Day, they have a celebration at the Pole in which they plant a newly designed marker for the location of the ever-shifting geographic pole. The spot is repositioned annually due to movement of the polar ice sheet at about 10 meters per year.
Last week saw the arrival of IceCube’s second winterover, Mack van Rossem, finally (an unusual glitch this year left IceCube with only one winterover until now). Mack got to jump right in, driving the scout for the regular December snow survey. He also arrived in time for traditional holiday events and festivities.
It was a rather busy week at the Pole. Besides people coming and going, there was the first IceCube webcast of the season, with a school from Wisconsin and two schools from Greece joining the event. An unexpected fire drill was also held last week. It turned out to be a timely drill, since the next day a genuine fire alarm sounded, triggered by a faulty oxygen sensor, not by an actual fire.
We’ve discussed sastrugi before, but this one deserves special attention for its shape. It sure does look like a frozen finger, doesn’t it? And it’s pointing the way to IceCube.
The number of IceCube personnel at the South Pole station during the past few summers is nothing like it used to be. Back in the days of detector construction, the number of staff on the ice would be in the double digits at this point. Instead, this week’s current count is six, including the recent arrival seen in the photo.
We weren’t kidding that there are a lot of training sessions for activities at the Pole. Last week saw some more training—fire fighters in search and rescue missions. Afterward, they all lined up for a group photo on the stairs outside the ICL.
There are training sessions for just about everything that goes on at the South Pole. Dropping cargo from an airplane is no exception. Last week, a C-17 performed the annual air drop training, shown here against a spectacular blue-sky backdrop just after releasing its cargo, which can be seen as a tiny speck off to the left, slowly parachuting to the ground
A steady wind shows the flags at the ceremonial South Pole aligning themselves quite neatly. Flying conditions were good for most of the week, with several incoming flights bringing more summer visitors to the Pole, including the first IceCube team members to join the winterovers this season.
Clear weather allowed most of the scheduled flights to make it to the Pole last week, with a stream of new arrivals from each plane. Inside the galley, the new summer crowd and the few remaining winterover staff do a good job of filling up the space.
It’s that time of year for the “changing of the guard”—for IceCube’s winterovers, that is. Last week, Christian Krueger, one of IceCube’s 2015-16 winterovers, arrived alone and can be seen walking back from the plane alongside Stephan Richter, current winterover, who was on hand to greet him.
IceCube winterover Stephan Richter took this wide angle shot of the South Pole station's galley---in a completely empty state, not likely to found this way much longer since summer personnel will be arriving soon. The galley will be a bit busier with the expanded station population.
The first planes of the season have arrived at the South Pole. Two planes landed last week, first a Basler (bearing gifts) and later a Twin Otter, shown in this image.
The winterover crew gathered at the geographic South Pole for their annual group shot.
It was a relatively quiet week for the IceCube detector, but busy in general for the station. It’s that time of year, post sunrise, when preparations for summer arrivals are in full swing.
The last thing you want to forget to pack when you’re off to the South Pole for a year is … your lederhosen. Afterall, Oktoberfest is among the many things that winterovering folks celebrate at the station.
With the sun now up, outdoor preparations for summer activity at the South Pole station will move into higher gear. Calm weather last week provided an opportunity to groom the skiway, shown in this image, where the Earth’s shadow is still visible in the sky as a blue band just above the horizon.
Sunrise is slowly coming along at the South Pole, with some refracted light showing over the horizon on clear days. The impending orange glow appears to be approaching the ICL in this image.
The landscape at the South Pole continues to brighten, making it perhaps harder to ignore the extent of snow accumulation at the IceCube Lab. But snow removal wasn’t on the table last week, which was a quiet one all around for the IceCube winterovers.
Although the sunrise is still not officially here, the South Pole is enjoying a period of twilight. The horizon is clearly visible in the direction of the sun and is showing some characteristic orange color. The photo shows this nicely, with the added effect that reflection in the station windows gives the appearance of a clear view through the windows of the continuous horizon.
The South Pole station’s windows were exposed last week, after being covered up (decoratively, we might add) for over four months now. Outside, it still looks more like night than day, but things will gradually brighten up, and then the windows might need to be covered for a different reason—to promote a better sleeping environment.
The sun is not yet up, but the sky is definitely brightening in its direction. The image below, however, shows that it’s still early twilight and generally quite dark at the Pole. This photo was taken at the same location and time as the one above, just in the opposite direction—quite the contrast.
The previous week’s feature image showed the South Pole Telescope with the moon setting behind it. Here we see it again, but set against an aurora backdrop while its dish is scanning the sky for CMB (cosmic microwave background) mapping.
It’s still dark at the South Pole, with sunrise not for a while yet. So don’t be confused—that was the moon, not the sun, setting behind the South Pole Telescope. Once it had set, some bright and lively green auroras took over the sky.
Last week at the Pole they had Christmas in July. Since the seasons in the Southern Hemisphere are the reverse of the Northern Hemisphere, many southern locales celebrate in July or August so that they can have a wintry feel to their festivities. The South Pole station had a tree, presents, and plenty of sweets on hand for theirs.
You might not know you’re at the South Pole from the photo of this watermelon. But there it is, growing in the greenhouse at the station, only a little bigger than a tennis ball at the moment. With it’s supportive, handmade hammock, hopefully it will reach a nice size and ripeness for the crew to enjoy.
It’s dark at the Pole, and even a headlamp’s light only goes so far. Paths to outlying buildings are lined with flags before winter arrives, when there’s still sufficient light for the installation. On a moonless winter night, though, there’s no question that the flag line has a value much greater than the sum of its parts. It’s a real lifesaver.
They’re watching something—but what? This is the communications (or “Comms”) office at the South Pole station. Not normally the site for recreational activities, but last week it played host to participants in an international darts tournament among the Antarctic stations.
Ah, the 4th of July—barbecues everywhere, even at the South Pole. But, not only is it winter there now, with snow and ice, it’s been extremely cold lately, with long stretches of low temperatures, down to below –100 °F.
IceCube winterover Erik Beiser was captured in the above image silhouetted by the rising moon while out taking aurora photos himself.
If you blur your vision slightly, the green tablecloth might be mistaken as grass and the entire scene as one of a summertime outdoor picnic. But it’s still winter at the South Pole—midwinter to be precise, one of several milestones they traditionally celebrate with a special dinner.
South Pole … greenhouse? That’s right. One of the coldest places on the planet hosts a very nice, warm greenhouse, replete with tomatoes and leafy greens. It’s a jungle in there.
They’re getting fancy at the Pole—wide angles showing off curves and long exposures leaving star trails in the night sky. With its long stretch of darkness broken only by spells of auroras or the rising of a sunlike moon, winter makes the South Pole a captivating place.
Is that the sun or the moon? That’s the moon alright—since it’s still winter at the South Pole, we know the sun has set and won’t show itself again for awhile. But with such a bright moon, you can see for quite some distance.
The auroras have been been bright and lively lately. And even though this one curves downward, it does not bring a frown to mind. In fact, in the the full-sky panorama view it converts to a smile.
Last week was fairly quiet as far as the IceCube detector went—no major happenings there. But the sky, on the other hand, what a scene! The auroras (australis, that is) were particularly brilliant and striking.
With the sun gone, they can cover up their windows all they want to prevent indoor light from getting outdoors, but they can’t stop the moon from shining. And last week, the moon was out full force, illuminating some interesting structures in the landscape.
Winterovers at the South Pole keep their emergency response skills fresh by holding regular drills. Last week was the missing person drill. And even though they are in the Dark Sector, where outdoor lighting is generally eliminated in winter, they had to turn flood lights on the outside of the station to be able to safely guide the drill team back.
IceCube’s winterovers spend about thirteen months at the South Pole, trained for and ready to tackle a variety of situations needing their attention. Some weeks are very busy, and some weeks less so, but there is always something going on.
Although there is still a little bit of twilight left in the direction of the sun, the auroras have made their appearance at the South Pole. And the winterover team was treated to several good displays this week.
Have we mentioned that the ICL (IceCube Lab) is a rather photogenic building? I think we have, recently—and although the sun has now officially set, there was still enough residual light last week to get a nice shot of the ICL—in shadow with a clear, colorful sky behind it.
Very little snow actually falls at the South Pole. Antarctica as a whole is the driest continent on Earth, and the South Pole, with its high altitude and distance from the coasts, receives the least precipitation. Yet, there is snow everywhere, blown in from elsewhere, and drifts can quickly become unwieldy if not dealt with.
The sun takes its time setting at the South Pole. And even after it has officially set, there remains an afterglow in the sky. This lingering light and some low horizontal clouds produced a beautiful orange backdrop last week to some of the dark sector buildings.
With the equinox last week, the annual sunset dinner was held at the South Pole station. It’s a celebration for a unique sunset that most of us don’t get to experience—where the sun sets slowly over time and, once set, does not reappear for another six months.
Close up, with the sun behind it, or from a distance, with the sun shining upon its face, the ICL, or IceCube Lab, is a rather photogenic building, with its blue, elevated structure and shiny, symmetrical towers. A low, bright sun makes its towers gleam, and the shadows that it casts stretch on and on.
The temperatures have been dropping, into the –50s °C, while the sun continues to get lower in the sky. These overcast photos give a sense of the impending darkness.
It was a week of acronyms and snow surveys. Each year at the Pole, before the darkness of winter sets in, IceCube winterovers take advantage of the still available daylight to complete tasks that can’t be managed well in the dark. This week, one of those chores was surveying snow depths from accumulations around the IceTop stations. They got going after they drove an LMC out of the VMF.
What’s the easiest way to get a nicely centered picture of an approaching airplane on the ice at the South Pole? Have it taxi straight toward you. Here's the last Herc of the season to arrive at the Pole, just as it came to a stop.
The week began with some extra-nice halos and ended with an exodus of most of the summer people at the Pole. In between, there was typical detector maintenance as well as continued snow management around the IceCube Lab.
Giant spools sure do serve as a great photo prop. Now empty, these spools had a previous life, brought to the Pole full of cable and ready for action, for use on IceCube and other nearby experiments. But then what to do with them?
Last week we saw a sun halo, and a few weeks back we saw the newly inaugurated South Pole marker. Lo and behold, they have come together. Great shot!
This “ring around the sun” is a halo, an optical phenomenon that occurs from light interacting with ice crystals in the atmosphere. It’s not an uncommon phenomenon, but for those who have never seen one, it’s quite something to behold. Halos can appear around the moon as well as the sun.
At first glance it looks like IceCube winterover Stephan has sprouted some new teeth at the Pole. But they’re just ice clumps, not to worry. Stephan got them while he was participating in a half marathon—and out in the extreme cold, with temperatures around -30 °C, this is not an event for the faint of heart.
Tagged any good muons lately? Maybe you just aren’t using the right equipment. Last week at the South Pole, IceCube folks set up equipment for some muon tagger runs—special calibration tests of the IceTop stations. You can see the various components that they set up, with the IceCube Laboratory (ICL) some distance off in the background.
Although you might expect that it would remain fixed, the marker at the geographic South Pole is moved on a regular basis. Since the polar ice sheet is constantly shifting, at about 10 meters per year, the marker at the South Pole must be relocated to maintain its position. A new marker is crafted each year and inaugurated in a special ceremony on January 1st.
The year wrapped up nicely at the South Pole, with the traditional holiday dinner and the Race Around the World on Christmas morning. Both of IceCube’s winterovers participated in the run. Other winterovers were busy constructing a handsome gingerbread house for seasonal charm.
Summer upgrades to the SPS (South Pole System), part of IceCube’s computing infrastructure, were completed this week, and two IceCubers who had been working at the Pole, Ralf and James, left for warmer climes.
Indoor tasks can be done just about any time, but for outdoor activities you need some cooperation from the weather. A bright sunny day makes things better still. Even with a few bouts of bad weather that caused postponements, there was plenty of outdoor work accomplished this week.
Just in time for Thanksgiving dinner, the South Pole traverse arrived, bringing fuel that would otherwise have had to come by plane. IceCube winterover Stefan skied out to check it out
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s … no, wait, it’s just a plane. Actually, it’s a particular plane—a C-17, a large military transport aircraft—training for air drops over the South Pole station.
Last week, winterovers Erik and Stephan arrived, and this week Dag and Ian are leaving. Here they are, all four together out on the ice for the last time.
Another summer season at the South Pole station means another changing of the guard for IceCube’s winterovers. This year’s Erik Beiser and Stephan Richter have arrived, two fresh faces ready to embark on their yearlong adventure, while Dag Larsen and Ian Rees, last year’s winterovers, made their final preparations for leaving the ice.
There’s a bit of prep work involved in getting the station ready for its summer opening. IceCube winterovers Ian and Dag used this time to perform an IceTop snow survey and to finish up snow removal around the ICL.
For a place that receives so little precipitation, there’s an awful lot of snow around. So much snow that bulldozers are sometimes enlisted to move it out of the way, as shown here in front of this parked Basler jet. Planes can get stuck at the South Pole for days on end due to bad weather. And if high winds are part of that bad weather, then snow accumulation can be a problem.
After the sun’s arrival come the planes. The first of the season to reach the South Pole were a pair of Twin Otters, one of which appears parked in the accompanying image. Behind it is a Basler jet—a somewhat larger ski aircraft—shown just as it was landing, a few days later.
Water restrictions prompt innovation. When already limited showers get rationed even further, as they have been recently at the South Pole station, you start thinking of ways to work around the problem.
Ah, the things we take for granted. Sunshine might be one of them. Running water might be another. At the Pole, sometimes you have to do without.
Now that the sun is back at the South Pole, there’s nowhere to hide. You can walk outside and see everything—everything that was there in the darkness all winter long, like buildings and fixed structures, as well as other things that weren’t there but have recently reappeared, like the flags at the ceremonial pole.
After months and months of darkness, it’s no wonder that the sun’s return to the South Pole is anxiously awaited. Finally, thanks to sufficient ambient light levels, the current winterovers can get a nice group photo outside.
As dawn approaches, the sky is cast in a glow that reflects off the sides of the South Pole station. Inside the station, they’ve begun to remove the window covers that remain in place all winter, there to minimize light pollution for sensitive experiments at the Pole.
There’s the moon, but where’s the sun? It’s coming, it’s coming. At the South Pole, the sun rises only once a year (and it sets only once a year, too).
As with any week at the Pole, activities involved a mix of work and play, from maintenance on a large Cat loader to announcement of results from the Winter Antarctic Film Festival.
If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. Not so for auroras. These spellbinding light shows come in various patterns, shapes, and colors. They might appear as bright, strong bands of color, stretching across the full sky. Or as wispy, cloud-like streaks, confined to a single quadrant.
Kids, don’t try this at home. At least not without proper equipment. Here some winterovers are learning to use what they call the “confidence chair,” a specialized piece of equipment for evacuating injured people from multilevel buildings.
Sun or moon? From the photo it’s hard to tell. It sure looks like a bright sunny day, but this is the South Pole, where it’s still winter and the sun has not yet returned. That’s the moon lighting up the sky—amazing how bright it can seem.
It’s the photographer’s trifecta for wintering at the South Pole—a shot of the sky with a star-studded background, a nice aurora effect, and the Milky Way visible. You can’t beat that.
The auroras tell you it’s winter at the South Pole—you can’t see auroras there during the summer because the sun is out the whole time. But in winter, the folks who station at the South Pole get to witness these auroras in all their glory.
It looks as if the smoke stacks are releasing a plume of green smoke along with their stream of exhaust, but it’s just an artifact of the camera angle. The green splash across the sky reminds us that it’s still aurora season at the South Pole.
Winter is long at the South Pole, at least when measured by the last plane out and the first plane back in. That’s roughly eight to nine months with no one (and no things) coming or going, quite a long period of isolation for the 40 or so winterovers at the station. You need a large store of provisions to cover the crew’s needs during that time.
How to make any 4th of July celebration special? Start with a dish decorated in red, white and blue.
Since bundling up to go outdoors is a bit of an ordeal, you don’t want to have to make unnecessary trips out to the ICL if you can avoid it. But there were a few of those unavoidable trips for the IceCube winterovers this past week. One was to replace a modem because of problems with an Iridium link.
Last week we mentioned that they were celebrating midwinter at the South Pole, but we didn’t really cover all the festivities. First, there was the traditional viewing of “The Shining,” Stanley Kubrick’s classic horror movie about an off-season caretaker in an isolated (also cold and white) location.
Life at the Pole may be different than life elsewhere, but some things are the same just about everywhere. One of those things is celebrating holidays. Who knows? Maybe holidays are even more important when you live in small, isolated communities. Last week, at the South Pole and all over Antarctica, they were celebrating midwinter, a cultural event held in many places around the world in recognition of the winter solstice, an astronomical occurrence.
This photograph of the ICL (IceCube Lab) almost looks as if it’s set against an artificial backdrop, but it is just the eerie effect of the sky lit by a rising moon.
Dag Larsen and Ian Rees arrived at the South Pole in November 2013. The brand-new winterovers had already been working for IceCube for a few weeks in Madison, learning all the ins and outs of their new job. Now they were ready to take over for Blaise Kuo Tiong and Felipe Pedreros, who had been at the Pole maintaining the detector for the previous 12 months.
Some very bright auroras have been unfolding in the sky above the South Pole lately. But that doesn’t mean the only way to see an aurora is by looking upward. Here’s an aurora reflected in the metallic sphere atop the marker at the ceremonial South Pole.
It looks like IceCube winterover Ian Rees is back to taking photographs. A good thing, too, or we wouldn’t have gotten this image of a nice aurora filling up the sky over the ICL.
A bright moon hovers above a row of summer camp buildings at the South Pole. It’s not summer there now, of course, but with such a brightly lit sky, the winterovers may be having flashbacks to a time not so long ago when the sun shone down on this camp. They still have a way to go before the sun rises here again, with lots of photos to take in the meantime.
What better time and place for an outdoor astronomy class than midwinter at the South Pole? Clear skies present a group of expectant gazers with a multitude of stars for their viewing pleasure.
It helps for IceCube winterovers to be handy and versatile. With no incoming supplies during the winter months, they have to make do with what they have on hand—if they need a new tool, they craft it, or if something breaks (or rips), they fix it.
Now there’s a flashy aurora! You know (and it’s not hard to imagine), they say a photo really can’t do justice to these aurora australis—to how impressive they really are when viewed in person.
This is what the ICL porch looks like as it gets darker outside, bathed in red light (just two short weeks ago things looked a bit different). For the benefit of research projects that monitor the sky during winter darkness, outdoor lighting at the South Pole is minimized and kept to a red spectrum, which reduces interference.
See anything? Well, there is something there, in this season's first photo of an aurora from the IceCube winterovers. Many more aurora shots to come, guaranteed.
The IceCube Laboratory (ICL) is home to a computer complex that collects and processes data from the experiment’s optical sensors buried in the ice.
The darkness of night tells us that we’re in the Earth’s shadow. But who thinks about the Earth’s shadow during the day? Actually, it’s often visible but we fail to recognize it.
So many images from last week … where to begin? The IceCube winterovers captured quite a few shots of the sun as it continued to set. Looks like they also built an igloo.
Surprise, surprise—a little creature snuck in to the South Pole station, presumably in the last fresh food shipment. “Dustin” the moth was found fluttering around the lab.
It’s a small community wintering over at the South Pole—they help each other out. When not immediately involved in their detector duties, IceCube’s winterovers might be found volunteering their assistance with other scientific projects.
What is this? And where would you find it at the South Pole station? It might remind UW–Madison folks of the “What are you looking at?” feature in Inside UW–Madison, a weekly newsletter that periodically spotlights a cropped photo for which readers can guess the campus location.
At the South Pole, apparently there’s “cold” and then there’s “really cold.” IceCube winterover Dag’s frosted visage tells you he’s in cold country, but his open coat perhaps gives away that it’s not yet “really cold.”
It’s not dark yet, but the temperatures have been dropping. They’re back to being lower than they are in the Midwest, as it should be, unlike last month where some record low temperatures created days where the South Pole was a relatively warm place.
The South Pole station is gearing up for its seasonal closing. There are still flights coming and going—the plane above is shown offloading fuel supplies—but they will eventually end as the season closes and weather becomes inhospitable to aircraft.
IceCube winterover Ian Rees was invited to fly around in a Twin Otter and photograph South Pole buildings from above. Here’s a nice aerial shot that he took of the ICL (IceCube Lab). You can clearly see the shadow of the aircraft as they passed by.
Signs are everywhere. When you’re lost or unsure about which way to go, a sign with an arrow can be very helpful.
A weird-looking contraption hanging from a frame, three kneeling people huddled on the ground, a tank-treaded vehicle in the distance, and snow as far as the eye can see. What’s going on here?
What’s new at the Pole? Well, some new people are there—it’s still summer, so groups of people are still coming and going.
Out with the old, in with the new. This might pertain to many things as one year changes to the next, but at the South Pole it also applies to the South Pole marker, which indicates the spot of the geographic South Pole.
The Race Around the World, an approximately two-mile course at the South Pole, is one that some folks take seriously, with planning and preparations aimed at bringing them across the finish line first. After all, the prize, an extralong shower, is something anyone living at the South Pole station would covet, as shower time is rationed there.
The summer season isn’t long at the South Pole, from about late October through early February. Folks typically arrive in shifts, spending a few weeks, give or take, working at the Pole. But delays are common, whether coming or going—and when they happen around the holidays it can be all the more frustrating.
It was a week filled with movement outdoors. First up, snow needed to be moved. A survey was done of snow depths over the IceTop stations, and excess snow was removed. You can see the IceCube crew in the snowcat, or “pisten bully,” (above) while out on their rounds.
It looks like IceCube winterover Ian Rees is practicing a good luge position, but he’s just taking advantage of his perch to capture photos. He’s lying atop some boxes bearing new equipment as part of an extensive server upgrade. This photo gives the sense of peace and quiet, but they’re moving and the flags are up, so with a little effort you might imagine there to be some wind noise.
That’s IceCube winterover Ian Rees (facing) near the drill while it’s being prepared to access a rod well, which is a deep cavity used to melt ice for drinking water. Rod wells are named after Paul Rodriguez, an Army engineer who developed them while at Camp Century in Greenland in the early 1960s.
Open coat? No hat? It must be summer at the South Pole. Well, although it’s sunny outside it would probably be a stretch to call it warm, for those of us not used to it anyway. Dag Larsen, one of IceCube’s two winterovers for this season, has finally arrived (above), and he may or may not be used to the cold, but one thing is sure—he has plenty of time to get used to it.
Outgoing winterovers Felipe Pedreros (left) and Blaise Kuo Tiong (right) greet newcomer Ian Rees (center) on his arrival. Thanks to Felipe and Blaise for a great year of photos and reports, and welcome to Ian and Dag (Larsen, still to come), fresh and ready to capture the year’s adventure ahead.
It always seems as if they have just about everything at the South Pole, but apparently they didn’t have a unicycle. Until recently. Winter is officially over, and new arrivals to the station have come bearing goodies of all sorts, from “freshies” to toys—like this unicycle, which IceCube winterover Blaise is testing out in good form.
Life’s a tradeoff. At the South Pole, when winter comes to a close, you trade cold, dark, isolated for (still) cold, but bright, and less isolated. With the sun out, you also get sundogs—scientific name, parhelion. The tradeoff there? No more auroras for a while.
A few short weeks ago this scene would have looked quite different. But now the sun is out, full force, and the snow is bright white. The camera was apparently caught in a stare down with a Basler ski-plane that was stranded for a few days at the Pole due to bad weather.
Greenery, and flowers, … this doesn’t look like much like the South Pole. But this photo was taken at an important place in the South Pole station—the greenhouse. If it weren’t for the greenhouse, they wouldn’t have any fresh vegetables during the long winter.
What do a rock, an egg, and a kiwi all have in common? They can all be found at the South Pole. Maybe not readily or easily, but they were all found at the South Pole recently. This rock was discovered outside on a snowdrift, a finding that spurred some scientific tests to examine the nature of the rock.
Now that looks like the sun—finally! It’s rising up over the flags at the ceremonial South Pole.
The sun is rising at the Pole, but this once-a-year occurrence is a much more gradual happening than the once-a-day occurrence most of us experience (or don’t, if we sleep through it, as the case may be). Here, increasing sunlight lets you clearly see the flag path leading to the Dark Sector.
There is little to no snowfall at the South Pole—it’s basically a desert. But there is a lot of snow on the ground. High winds carry the snow that does come down all over the place, leaving drifts that can bury equipment or even buildings.
Sky-watchers around the world were anticipating this close encounter of celestial objects last week. It was the conjunction of the moon and Venus, and the South Pole was a great place to capture a shot. Check out some other photos from the week—the conjunction, snow drifts, and glowing horizon. Nice scenery, whether you’re just watching the sky or launching balloons.
All appears to be tranquil, but there was more commotion than usual last week. A power outage occurred at the Pole that affected all the facilities at the station, including the IceCube Lab, or ICL (shown above).
The sun has not officially risen at the Pole yet, but things do keep getting brighter. Outside that is. Inside? Well, maybe thoughts of the sun’s arrival led to thoughts of summer foods.
The yellow light cast on the ground makes the scene look almost like a sandy beach, with a shorefront edging into dark waters. But it’s just an illusion, we’re still at the Pole. That’s SPTR-2, one of the South Pole satellite domes.
It’s still dark at the Pole these days, but knowing that the sunrise is not that far off, station staff are taking every opportunity to capture some great night photos.
A failed Acopian power supply is on the table for investigation. The IceCube winterovers have a broad range of job duties, but of course maintaining (and fixing if necessary) all of the computer hardware involved in collecting data from the detector is a high priority task.
Since December is a summer month in the Southern Hemisphere, many countries like Australia and New Zealand hold Christmas in July events in order to have a Christmas with a wintry feel. They were celebrating Christmas in July at the Pole last week, but of course their climate is always wintry so maybe it was just an excuse to bake some sweet treats.
The South Pole has been described as an otherworldly place. So it’s befitting for those working there to take a moment once in a while to just sit and contemplate their surroundings. Especially when there’s some natural light to see by—the moon can really light the place up.
Don’t let these bright lights in the South Pole station gym (nice facilities, huh?) confuse you—it’s dark down there. Winter at the Pole means six months with no sunlight at all.
Which to marvel at more—the dark, star-studded sky or the fantastic aurora shimmering up from all along the horizon? Being able to step outside and regularly witness these amazing light shows is definitely one of the perks of winterovering at the South Pole station.
They work hard, and they play hard. This week, play involved some billiards—the annual tournament is on. IceCube winterover Felipe is concentrating on his next move.
They’re halfway there! It’s midwinter at the South Pole, and they’re celebrating.
It was the first winter open mic session and IceCube winterover Felipe was behind his drums and cymbals. They really do have everything down there, don't they?
Could they ever tire of viewing auroras at the Pole? Hmm, not sure. But regardless, they do have other things to do besides stare up at the sky. First, there’s work. Then, there are extracurricular activities. ...
A green sky flecked with swirling patterns of white lines. That’s what you get from sixty 30-second exposures taken through a ceiling dome at the South Pole station and made into a composite image. The IceCube winterovers have been capturing some amazing photos at the South Pole.
Antarctica is often described as the coldest, driest, and windiest place on earth. Cold and dry might be hard to discern from photos, but windy? These flags give it away—here, they’re taking a real beating. The group photo below (also with flags flapping away) was orchestrated to commemorate the invention of the Ethernet 40 years ago (they’re posing with a long Ethernet cable held between themselves). The photo garnered a response from the inventor himself, Bob Metcalfe, then at Xerox PARC.
There was plenty of action this week at the Pole, indoors and out. Inside there was crocheting and a 5K race. Outside the auroras continued, bigger and brighter than ever.
The aurora season is in full swing at the South Pole, as exemplified by this photo taken of the ARO (Atmospheric Research Observatory) building, bathed in a green glow. ARO is an NSF facility that supports long-term climate research programs. The building is located about 500 m from the main station and, like other outlying buildings, has no running water or sewage system. Hmm, guess you’re not making ice cream out there. But, back at the station, it looks like the IceCube winterovers’ foray into ice cream making continues—flavor of the week: Aurora Green Tea with Fresh Lavender.
What’s this? Almost looks like a sample from the sushi plate (yep, we’ve already confirmed they eat well at the Pole) fell off outside and rolled around in the snow. But no, it’s yukimarimo. You heard right—a real word for a real thing—tiny, lightweight tumbleweeds of the Antarctic.
The auroras were busy this week, curling themselves up to look like cinnamon rolls. The IceCube winterovers were busy as well with several videoconferences, some with schools in the US and one with The Mind Museum in Manila. The photo below shows Blaise and Felipe (left to right) posing recently at the geographic South Pole (no, the pole marker is not bent, it’s just a wide-angle shot). There’s also a great shot of some sastrugi (we’ve learned about them before) pointing their way to the moon. Finally, check out this short time lapse video of an aurora unfolding above the moon—next best thing to being there.
Here they come. The auroras, that is. Although the sky is still allowing the sun’s presence to be somewhat felt from just below the horizon, it is also giving the winterovers their first glimpses of these special treats—from faint, wisping hints to full-on sprays of color.
This week had all the usual stuff—you know, calibrations, detector statistics, data handling, that kind of stuff. But it also had … Yuri’s Night. This is a global celebration held each April 12th to commemorate Yuri Gagarin, first man in space and an inspiration to many of the adventurous sort. The whole station observed the occasion with music and costumes.
It’s cold and icy outside at the Pole, but not inside—although the blue tint of this image peeking in through an outside window of the ICL (IceCube Lab) might give the impression otherwise. The ICL is home to a serious cluster of computers, for the South Pole or anywhere. Below is a less formidable sort of computer also at the Pole, but just decorating someone’s desk. It’s a cardboard replica of the 1960s educational toy Digi-Comp I, a fully functional mechanical computer. Nice, just not up to snuff for IceCube’s needs. The kitchen seems to be a happening place lately. This week yielded authentic Chilean empanadas.
With the sun just below the horizon and a full moon in the sky, this landscape could be confused for a daytime shot. It was a quiet week for the detector but there was plenty going on to keep folks busy at the station:
-- a night off for galley staff brought other “chefs” to the kitchen for pizza making,
-- Easter egg decorating meant a hunt for “neutrinos,” and
-- World Table Top Game Day spawned a round of Carcassonne, a medieval-themed board game.
You’d think it was science and adventure that lured these winterovers to the Pole, but it looks like it might be the food. Those are some nice looking plates. Each year the station holds a special celebratory dinner—the sunset dinner—the last one before the sun leaves them for a good long while. That’s something worth celebrating.
Someone is up high, quite high in fact. That’s the ARO (Atmospheric Research Observatory) tower, a good spot for surveying the landscape. ARO is a National Science Foundation facility used in support of scientific research related to atmospheric phenomena. Its long-term research program measures trends of important trace gases and aerosols and investigates the influence of these gases and aerosols on the Earth's climate. They aren’t measuring gases inside the South Pole station’s greenhouse, but look what’s going on in there—lots of growth. What a difference two weeks make.
The lowering sun is providing for some great photos, like these long shadows in front of and behind the IceCube Lab (ICL). The winterovers spent some time doing various things out in the cold this week. They raised their country flags—Chile, the US, and the Philippines—on the roof of the ICL. They also helped out their neighbors in the SPUD experiment, moving a 300-lb mirror off the detector array.
What’s green and frilly and grows at the South Pole? Outside, nothing, but inside, we’re talking lettuce. Leafy greens, cucumbers, tomatoes…even cantaloupe—a variety of produce is grown in the South Pole greenhouse. These are the only fresh vegetables available from about mid-February to mid-October for the teams wintering over at the station. The sun has been getting lower, and they will soon be entrenched in their six months of darkness. Some fresh vegetables will at least brighten up their plates.
There’s work and then there’s play. And sometimes play can take a lot of work. Like building an igloo at the South Pole, for example—check it out. You can see it in progress during construction, above, and the view from inside, looking through the “sun roof,” after completion, below. The IceCube winterovers had cold temperatures and wind chills (below -60 °C) for their work, too, which was also outdoors this week. They performed a snow survey, in which they had to measure the height of all the posts located over the IceTop tanks (IceTop is the surface component of the IceCube detector).
A great shot of the last LC-130 leaving the station. It marks the beginning of the winter season, in which the Pole’s population remains steady, this year at 44 people. No one will be coming or going for a while, not until flights begin to arrive again October. About half of the winterovers are shown outside on the ice, below. And as tradition dictates, they ring in the beginning of winter with a showing of all three versions of the classic Antarctic horror film “The Thing.”
Everything coming to or leaving the Pole goes through McMurdo Station on the coast. And it’s a busy place—a complex logistics facility that includes a harbor, three airfields, and a heliport. Winterover Felipe Pedreros recently traveled through McMurdo and captured this shot of the Nathaniel B. Palmer, an icebreaker designed and built specifically for use by the U.S. Antarctic Program. Below is an aerial view captured on the flight to McMurdo.
For some, ice cream is a summertime treat. For others, it’s good just about anytime. Looks like the folks at the Pole fall into the “others” camp. They have ice cream on their menu daily, and this batch, made with liquid nitrogen, appears to be particularly rich and creamy. But there are healthier foods to be had as well. With a little help from the greenhouse, which is just getting started with some of their seedlings, they might be eating kale chips (or debuting some kale ice cream?) before too long.
A solemn ceremony was held at the South Pole to commemorate the crew of the Twin Otter, a plane that went down on its way from the Pole to Terra Nova Bay. Members of the ARFF (Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting) team stood at attention for the changing of the flags. Below is a photo of the remaining summer crew at the South Pole station, a healthy number that will shortly dwindle down to about 50 or so for the long, isolating winter season.
They are set up well at the South Pole station, with comfortable (enough) living quarters, tasty meals, and engaging activities. Included in the many happenings are interesting science talks and lectures. This week they had a few—two talks from a former astronaut/current medical director and a talk on cosmology from a collaborator of the SPUD telescope.
The IceCube winterovers have plenty of darkness to look forward to in the coming months, but in the meantime they’ve been outside in the sunlight doing all sorts of things. Filming a plane taking off, shoveling snow, and taking IceTop measurements. And with the sun out, they sometimes capture a photo of a sun halo, in this case (below) a double halo.
A flurry of activities marked the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013, a marathon and a golf tournament among them. There was also the traditional ceremony to remark the geographical South Pole. On the first day of each year, a new physical pole marker, which is designed and built by the previous season’s winterovers, is put into place during this annual event. The top view of the 2013 marker is shown above, while below you can see part of the marker’s underside, engraved with signatures.
Remember, at this time of year the sun doesn’t set. If you can imagine lying on top of the South Pole station and staring upward, then click here for a great time-lapse view of what you’d see over the course of 24 hours.
Not sure what the costume is all about, but these people are clearly running a race. Around the world that is. Well, through all the world’s time zones to be more precise. It’s an annual holiday event at the Pole. Although you could technically get through all the time zones in a small circle right around the Pole marker, the official race course is about 2 miles long and covers many of the major “sights” at the Pole.
Antarctica’s a cold continent, and all of the activities at the South Pole would not be possible without abundant sources of energy, which must be transported in. Since all supplies to the Pole come from McMurdo Station on the coast, the “South Pole Traverse” was developed as a viable option to reduce dependence on airlifts, which are routinely delayed due to inclement weather. The traverse is a compacted snow road extending almost 1000 miles from McMurdo to the South Pole. Here you can see the convoy (also referred to as the traverse) arriving with its wide loads. You might imagine its slow pace—it takes about 40 days to reach the Pole. The bottom photo clues you into the first image, the continent-shaped topper on a flagpole, not necessarily apparent from its close-up view.
There won’t be too many more shots of this South Pole marker. Each year, on the first of January, a ceremony is held in which a special new marker is placed at the spot of the current geographic South Pole. Since the polar ice sheet is continuously moving, at an approximate rate of 10 meters per year, there is no fixed spot on the icy plateau that corresponds to the actual, or geographic, South Pole. (However, there is a ceremonial South Pole location that is stable, marked by a different fixture and surrounded by the flags of the Antarctic Treaty nations.) Both spots are great for taking photos, and with the sun out 24 hours a day you can even take photos at midnight, as evidenced below.
It’s official—Sven and Carlos, IceCube’s winterovers for the past year, have left the Pole. Here they are smiling for the camera before leaving, while below you can see from Carlos’s body language as he walks toward the plane that leaving is not a happy event. Nevertheless, they’ll have countless memories from their time as winterovers, guaranteed from the many photos they took to document their experiences. Felipe, just starting his winterover duty, can add playing the drums at the Pole to his list of memories-in-progress.
A nice halo sets a peaceful scene from the Pole, but it has been anything but quiet around there these days. Planes landing and taking off. Summer people arriving, winter people leaving. Hugs and photos.
The time has come for the changing of the guard. IceCube’s next two winterovers, Felipe Pedreros Bustos and Blaise Kuo Tiong, have landed at the Pole.
With the first planes of the summer season come an influx of new faces and fresh products for the South Pole station. Remember, this is the first time in over 8 months that anyone new has been able to arrive at the Pole. That changes the atmosphere. Twenty-nine people got there just in time for a Halloween party. The more the merrier.
This week saw the first planes arriving for the summer season at the Pole—that’s pretty thrilling when you’ve been basically isolated for eight months. Along with that excitement was some less captivating indoor and outdoor measurement-taking. But then there was cake, too, and if cake isn’t exciting enough in and of itself, it looks like the lingering smoke from the candles might have been.
The winterovers report a rather uneventful week at the Pole. Nonetheless, beautiful pictures abound. The skiway is prepared with flags for the upcoming arrival of the first planes of the season. The newly risen sun is not only creating vertical beams, halos, and long shadows, but it is finally high enough to infiltrate the game room.
The IceCube winterovers share space with other folks stationed at the South Pole during the winter months. Here’s the station meteorologist getting a reading from the Campbell-Stokes recorder—a rather low tech contraption designed for recording hours of bright sunshine. With the recent sunrise it’s been getting warmer at the Pole, making a number of outdoor activities more pleasant, or even possible, like traveling by snowmobile.
The sun has risen at the Pole. The ICL (IceCube Lab) is shown basking in the sun while the following image displays the long shadow cast on the ground behind it. Although the sun is now out, that doesn’t mean it’s always showing—clouds and blowing snow can do a fine job obscuring it. Here below, though, it is being blocked by the stairs of the ICL. You might be hard-pressed to identify these as stairs. Completely covered in accumulated snow, there is barely a slit for the sun to peek through. The smoke from the power plant, bottom, offers a better glimpse.
It was a windy one at the Pole—tattering flags and threatening to ruin the one and only sunrise. With just one sunrise to look forward to, it is probably the most highly anticipated event of the year for the winterovers. Fortunately the weather behaved in the end, just in time to capture a nice shot of the sun making its appearance.
The sun is getting ready to show up. With only one sunrise each year, it’s naturally cause for some celebration. At the Pole, they have a sunrise dinner as part of the festivities. Of course, the sun doesn’t just pop up suddenly, it slowly manifests itself with colored bands along the horizon. It’s appearance, however, can be obscured by heavy cloud cover or strong wind gusts.
This photo of the station manager placing a flag at the ceremonial South Pole exemplifies the cold, windy week they just had there. Cold…wind…so what’s new? Actually, one piece of news is that their freezer broke down, requiring them to remove all the food and take it outside for safekeeping. A fine solution given the location, but solving one problem did create another—ice cream that couldn’t be served without an extended warm-up.
These are sastrugi. Who doesn’t love to learn a new word? Sastrugi are wavelike ridges of hard snow formed by the wind. Visually they are reminiscent of sand dunes but they are not as easily shaped by the wind as sand is. It’s pretty light in this photo, with the sun beginning to rise at the pole, yet the moon is still hanging in there at the moment—enjoy some more of the views.
One of the IceCube winterovers stands in front of the IceCube Lab with outstretched arms to …
a) sing the aurora’s praises,
b) perform daily calisthenics, or
c) scare off potential migrating birds.
Well, whatever they’re doing, they have quite the backdrop for doing it—frost-covered research lab, long-stretching aurora, and star-studded sky. Here are some more photos from the week, showing the moon, stars, and auroras, as well as the beginning signs of the sun’s appearance.
It’s not just ice and starry skies. There are people down there, and look what they’re up to—a regular old county fair, pie eating contest and all. They also share power plant watch duties—the photos below show the way there and the generators found inside. It all seems relatively ordinary, until you go back outside and take in glorious scenes like these.
IceCube winterovers were busy this week with various sessions for emergency response team training—fire, trauma, and technical rescue. The night sky was busy, too, filling itself up with stars. Here they are over several views of the South Pole station. The bottom photo shows the starry sky above the turn off point to the IceCube Lab on the Dark Sector road.
It was an uneventful week for the winterovers, but not for the moon. Here’s a bright moon if you’ve ever seen one. And out in the open, as opposed to the images below. First up is a peekaboo moon behind the South Pole Telescope. You can even see a smattering of stars. Then there is a mostly hidden moon, backlighting the TDRS (Tracking and Data Relay Satellite) antenna, first with the beacon on and then with the beacon off.
Cold, windy, with the moon back up. We have two photos of balloon launches this week. Above we see a NOAA ozone balloon about to go up. Below is the daily weather balloon before its launch. Missing are images of “Super hero bingo night.” The fun never stops down there.
What is it? It looks cozy, like when kids throw a sheet over some chairs for a make-believe fort. But this one is definitely not for make-believe. It’s an inside view of a Scott tent set up at the South Pole – actually used (as in slept in overnight) by winterovers as part of their survival skills practice. And here’s the view from outside the tent.
Cold goes to colder, as they reached their lowest temperature yet at the South Pole this winter, going down to -76 °C, or -104.8 °F. Uneventful in terms of extracurricular activities, but captivating as far as auroras go. Lots of them to admire and to muse upon, like the question mark looming large over the IceCube Lab.
The US flag flaps in the wind, as it undoubtedly did in many places across the US on July 4th, only at the South Pole it was lit by a bright moon with a lunar halo. Although there, too, they had a BBQ to celebrate festivities on the 4th, it wasn’t on an outdoor grill. Why not? (whisper…It’s cold down there!) However, the cold temperatures—well, at -42 °C, warm by their standards—didn’t stop IceCube winterover Carlos Pobes from completing a half marathon outside.
A quiet week at the Pole. Still, there’s always maintenance to be done, like status checks of the emergency fuel tanks (below, top) and a monthly fire alarm test at the IceCube Lab (below, bottom). Quiet, yes, but bright—perfect conditions for a walk.
The official midwinter date is a big event in Antarctica. The various stations throughout the continent celebrate and exchange special greeting cards, as shown posted on a wall at the Amundsen-Scott station where the IceCube winterovers are located. There they had dining, dancing and a movie (the traditional viewing of “The Shining”) to cap off their weekend celebration. And auroras, of course.
That’s the setting moon in the background and a snow-covered Scott tent in the foreground—the tent so named for the design used over 100 years ago by Robert Scott in his attempt to be the first person to reach the South Pole. They had a cold week at the Pole where they broke a record low from 1966 with a temperature of -100.8 °F, allowing the notorious 300 club to reconvene. A spectacular aurora display shines over the South Pole Telescope below.
The moon shines over the power plant just outside the South Pole station, illuminating the plume from one of the stacks. Power generation is a necessity at the South Pole just as it is elsewhere. How else would the winterovers be able to participate in videoconferencing events (several of which were held this week with some schools in Spain)? Outside the station, a large group of station winterovers congregated for a picture at the Pole marker, with the moon doing its best to help out.
The moon is back up at the South Pole and casting its bright glow on the structures below, here on a pair of satellite domes. Indoor activities for the winterovers included emergency response team drills, a South Pole marker design competition, and a Eurovision party. Below are two more images in the same color scheme—a moonlight halo and the South Pole station basking in moonlight.
"Good auroras this week." I’d say. Here you can see them over the South Pole Telescope, and in the image below over the IceCube Lab. Besides aurora gazing, the winterovers were busy with several outreach events and training sessions for trauma and rescue. Oh, and cartoon character bingo.
Not only is it cold, but it even looks cold—notice the flag flapping wildly in the wind. But a starry, aurora-filled sky like this could maybe let you forget the cold for a while. Maybe. Anyway, there’s warmth indoors, where the winterovers can be found doing the non-winterovery things they do, like washing dishes and celebrating birthdays. Nice cake.
There may be no sun but that’s a pretty bright moon. The Super Moon, or “perigee moon” as it’s more technically referred to, shows itself over the IceCube Lab. The light that it cast allowed for skiing without headlamps. An afternoon ski is a traditional Sunday pastime at the Pole.
A relatively quiet week at the Pole. Cold, too, although no record breakers. That happened a few weeks ago when there was an early record of –100 °F, which warranted a celebration of the 300 Club (those crazy brave enough to subject their bodies to a 200 °F sauna followed by a trip outside to the –100 °F temperature).
Seems like it was a busy week at the Pole for IceCube’s winterovers. They participated in the UWRightNow project, held a trauma team training session (any connection?), and capped it off with some special social events, including Saturday Pub Trivia. Meanwhile, on the outside, the auroras kept on coming.
The Antarctic Sun, a publication of the United States Antarctic Program, covers the first plane to land at the South Pole for the 2011-2012 austral summer.
At the South Pole, the June solstice marks a very important shift in the season; it heralds the return of the sun. Needless to say, it warrants special celebration. This article by the Christian Science Monitor explains the festivities and the reason behind them.
With all major IceCube construction completed, the on-ice population will see a sharp decrease, with 30 already scheduled to depart. Consequently, the IceTop headquarters, also known as the "Purple Palace," has been emptied and disassembled.
It was a beautiful Christmas Day, sunny and with no wind—perfect conditions for the Race Around the World.
A great take on traveling to the Pole and how IceCube is providing the infrastructure for a dark matter detector