Saturday, June 26, 2010

Alien Worlds

The Moon is back after being gone for two weeks and is it ever bright!  It's like a huge spotlight lighting up the Antarctic ice cap.  It is a big difference from last week when I got lost in the dark when I was only 20 feet from the station stairs.  Today you couldn't get lost unless there was a huge storm and blowing snow.

I don't know if you can see it in this compressed photo, but there is a huge halo around the moon that reaches just to the ice.   The column of light that appears to connecting the moon to the Earth is called a moon pillar.  Pillars are most often seen and photographed as Sun Pillars, but more rarely as Moon Pillars.  It is caused by the light of the Moon being reflected off the ice surface beyond the horizon and back into space. I've never seen a picture of a Moon Pillar before, so this may be a first. The building to the far right is the South Pole Telescope.

And this incredible photo is by Joe Romagnano, who keeps us in fresh vegetables from the greenhouse all winter. It is a 270 degree panorama of the station on June 1.   That is the Moon to the left, and the South Pole marker in the near right.  I remember these aurora very well.  I was outside and remember thinking that they weren't very impressive, so you can imagine how magnificent they can get.  Click the picture for a larger view.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Now for something entirely different. We had our mid-winter egg oiling party last night where we got together in the galley and re-oiled all our eggs. Huh, you are thinking, re-oil our eggs? It turns out that oiled eggs stay fresh for long periods of time. We get oiled eggs from New Zealand at the beginning of the winter (early February) and they will stay fresh until November. We only have to re-oil them halfway through the winter. I imagine most of you living in North America will not have heard of this technique, I know I had not, but by coating the eggs in vegetable oil they stay perfectly fresh without refrigeration.

I am told that oiled eggs are very common in New Zealand and eggs in grocery stores are not even refrigerated. They just sit on the shelf. Think of all the energy we could save in the US if we used this technique.

So every mid-winter at Pole we unbox all our eggs, pick up each one, coat it in new oil, rotate it 180 degrees in the egg crate, and put them all back in storage. And of course since this is the South Pole we make a party of it. To prove that I am not making this up here are the pictures.

Friday, June 11, 2010

I'm Baaack!

Sorry for the long time since the last post, but I was stuck in a mental groundhog day state for about two weeks where every single day seemed like the day before.  I'm in a better mood now and although I can't say every day is a day of exciting new discoveries, things are picking up a bit.  I finished a big project this week and that helped take away some of the same 'ol, same 'ol feelings of the past month as well.

The auroras have been magnificent for the past few weeks and the pictures below only hint at them.  The really great ones I just stared at and didn't go get my camera.  Anyway, it is very hard to photograph them because of the extreme cold.  Even when there isn't any wind the -90 temperatures just make fingers ache in a couple of minutes when adjusting the camera.

We have our big monthly emergency response drill in the morning and the entire station will be taking part.  We have four emergency response teams that specialize in quick response, fire-fighting, trauma and logistical support.  All they know about the drill is that it will involve a simulated chemical spill.  It isn't going to be quite what they expect, but that is the nature of real emergencies.  Everything is set up for them to succeed, so I hope things will go well.  We will have a photographer taking pictures so I may have something interesting to post next week.

Not having seen a single living thing on the station (other than the 46 other humans) over the past four months, not even an insect, I really miss my cats.  I know there is the Antarctic Treaty that bars animals, but a dog or a cat on station would really be good for morale.

Well that's all for today.  Temperature -87F, wind chill -109F, altitude 11,200 feet.  Dark.