Winter at the South Pole, Antarctica

Saturday, July 4, 2009

After I got done with my “vacation” in Mcmurdo I had to come back to the South Pole. It was about a month to go before winter started. In the summer period there were about 300 people on station. Once winter starts there was 43 of us. There will be no flights in or out until spring. Winter started the end of February and ended the end of October. It will be dark during the middle 6 months of this time frame. Temperatures will dip as low as -100F, -75C.

The time finally came and this is the last plane leaving the South Pole
The first thing we had to do was spend about a week shutting down all the out buildings and rolling up the hose we used to off-load fuel from the airplanes into our storage facilities. The first week is pretty rough trying to get all these things done.
I was outside a few days for well over 12 hours working trying to get things done. Temperatures were around -40 so it wasnt to cold yet.
This is what you look like after being outside for a couple hours
This is what I looked like after being outside for probably about 4-5 hours at around -40
I ended up with some frost bite on the side of my cheek. You just cant cover everything no matter how hard you try. I found out later putting bits of tape on the exposed areas you cant cover usually will prevent the frostbite.
This is what it took to get ready to work outside.
First I would start with a base layer. it was long underwear tops and bottoms, I used cotton, with jeans over that and a t shirt with just a normal pair of socks for me.
Next was a pair of insulated coveralls along with the insulated booties on your feet
Next came the boots
Its hard to tell but the bottom of my boots was about 3″ a piece, 7cm, to keep you insulated from the cold snow. My size 13, 48 Euro, boot weighed about 9 pounds a piece,4kg.
The next step was a fleece jacket along with a balaclava that I added material to so it would tuck down into you coat and a stocking cap.
Then you put on your heavy Carhart Artic Coat along with glove liners
Finally my insulated gloves and you pull the balaclava up as high as you can and the stocking cap down as low as you can and still see. This is how I looked to go outside to work
What did we do there. well I was there to support the base as an Electrician.
I was doing some construction. There was an underground arch that was to be used for cold storage but needed lights. I had to hang over 300 lights in this arch where it was constantly -40.
This was my workshop, also the lounge
Of course there was plenty of down time to! I turned the building with my workshop into a play shop to.
First I built a hot tub
I had to have help and I think these guys got pretty tuckered out from the work
A little later the hot tub did get used
After we closed the station and I got the hot tub built we decided to have a party but not just any party a white trash party!
I had the machinist make me a mixer from an old water filter container from the Dome
Sometimes we would hang out in the green house!
they had one out building with a little rock wall in it
Played jokes like putting a snowmobile in the cafeteria
Explored the tunnels that led to where we melted ice to get water
Then it branches off to another area where sewage went
We also explored the old tunnels under the previous station, The Dome, before they were demolished the next season
Found a partial bottle of frozen gin
There was another outbuilding set wayyyy away from the station where we had a little wood burning stove
There was also a tent set up in front of the station where we could go sleep if we wanted for a night
Of course I had to try it one night
I stayed surprisingly warm
Finally the sun came back up!
This was our view
This is the station we live in now
This is the old station, now demolished
Station opening is almost as hectic as station closing. Trying to bring the out buildings back on-line and to get everything warm again.
I ended up leaving on a Basler, DC-3
this was the view from the air
After a couple days in McMurdo I left to new Zealand. We had a whole C-17 to ourselves
Thats it! Its a brief summary of how I spent my time in Antarctica. If anyone wants to know more feel free to ask.