Wednesday, January 31, 2007

More Ice Pix

More pictures for your viewing pleasure. This one contains a bunch of aerial shots which you may enjoy, but a few others require comment. First of all, did you know McMurdo has an ATM? In 1997, I flew down on the plane which had the first Antarctic ATM machine - this one is at least one generation newer than that one.

The plane itself, the Hercules LC-130 is perhaps familiar to many of you - here is ours, and one of several others from the same NYANG unit at Williams Field:

Once inside, we all pack in like sardines. Actually, there is more leg room than on Qantas economy class...

The dark band on this shot is the contrail of our C-130 on its trajectory through the atmosphere.

A few of us were lucky enough to be invited up on the flight deck. I was particularly intrigued by our flight plan.

Hard to believe the flight was just 36 hours ago. It's been a productive day, and now it's time to crawl into my cubby hole and get unconscious.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Settling In

Been here a bit more than 24 hours, and I'm settling in. Mostly I've been preoccupied with debugging a particularly nasty system error in our device driver; hopefully I'll have that wrapped up soon and can join Kael, Keith and Dave in higher-level deployment and testing of DAQ (the data acquisition software).

Once I get acclimated to the altitude I'll be much happier. It's been hitting a bit harder than last year, though I took the diamox they encouraged us to take in McMurdo. Unfortunately the diamox makes my hands and feet and face feel like they're buzzing, which is irritating. And I'm generally out of breath, and have to pee constantly (apparently the body adjusts its pH to the new altitude this way). Out in the Dark Sector (the radio-quiet area where our experiment is) the facilities consist of a "solar" (i.e., painted black) toilet; the solar toilet is essentially an otherwise unheated outhouse with a styrofoam toilet seat built over a half-buried waste barrel. Ah, the life of luxury.

All is pretty good, though, and it's fun to see familiar, sunburnt faces with unwashed hair (remember, 2 showers per week, 2 minutes each, folks!), and the same old tracked vehicles and space-age buildings and the endless horizon and the great big open sky with long simple cloud shapes a seemingly infinite distance away. I'm settling in and with any luck we can start to get stuff done quickly.

Time to catch the shuttle out to the Dark Sector.

Monday, January 29, 2007


Finally made it to Pole early this afternoon. It is always a rush to get off the C-130 and smell and hear and see this place. There is something very special about this desolate piece of nowhere.

My room is in the new station, a very cosy cubbyhole similar to last year's. I went out to the Dark Sector right away and made progress with our communications issues - with luck tomorrow I'll have the problem licked.

My challenge now is getting used to the altitude and getting onto night shift so I can work when the satellite's up.

The team here deployed the thirteenth string of the season just before we arrived. Congratulations to everyone on the summer team, and to Eden for picking the correct number of strings two seasons in a row!!!

I have lots of cool photos from the trip, but until I get them posted, here is one courtesy of and © Mark Krasberg: the plane we came in on, as it taxied towards the station.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Pole Bound

After tonight's "bag drag" (weigh-in for our flight) we are scheduled on tomorrow's 10AM flight to South Pole. Many of my fellow passengers are winter-overs returning from their week long furlough in McMurdo, which they are required to take (presumably so Raytheon can poke at them a bit more, and so they get a taste of something slightly less surreal before the curtain of winter draws shut for eight months).

I did not, in fact, go to Castle Rock today, as we three DAQers had work to do and I wasn't feeling energetic enough for a 5hr or so walk. Instead I took off for part of the afternoon and hiked up Hut Point Ridge Trail for an hour or two. Some of the terrain is a bit lunar-looking, as you can see from the above picture or the third photo set, which I have just uploaded. I did, however, see some skuas and seals, small ponds, strange buildings as you can see from the photos.

Also, this view of McMurdo seen from the hills above gives an idea of how the town is laid out:

For those who may be interested, here are the luxury accommodations in my portion of our McMurdo dorm room (I have three roommates here; won't have any at Pole). Let me assure you I'm more tidy in the real world.

Tonight we had an interesting science lecture in the galley about meteorite hunting near the South Pole. Crews go out to remote spots (yes, there are places here far more remote than the Pole) and ride snowmobiles side by side for hours on end searching for meteorites atop glaciers which have been exposed by wind. They find hundreds or more per year. Great care is taken not to contaminate the meteorites when they are collected. Some of them have lain on the frigid ice for thousands of years and have never been exposed to liquids of any kind. Some are pieces of Mars or the moon which have shattered off into space due to various impacts and fallen to Earth. Some contain some of the same complex amino acids needed for life.

It will be nice to get to Pole tomorrow (though you never know what will happen with weather or the planes) - I have been traveling for seven days now. Get off the plane, let the cold air bite deep into my lungs, get lunch and a briefing, move into my room, do some laundry, start getting used to the altitude and get to work. Get into a routine, connect with old friends, help the effort along. It looks like we may miss the last IceCube string deployment of the season by a few hours - ok by me, as I have done a lot of deployments, though my travelling companions have not. This has been a very good season drilling-wise, with twelve strings successfully deployed and one more on the way. We need to get to Pole and do our job so that data can actually be collected from the now greatly expanded instrument this Austral winter.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Bad dirt

Annie Proulx has two collections of short stories set in Wyoming. The second is titled Bad Dirt. They are gritty, dark, full of sumptuous detail and compelling characterization. If she were to write stories about McMurdo, I would pick them up in a heartbeat. Some of the craggy, dust-spattered characters here could have come straight out of her stories.

But that's neither here nor there. The big news for the day is: the second set of pictures is up! And, for your entertainment, I'll post and annotate a few of them here as well, starting with...

Interior of "Futuro" flying saucer house by Matti Suuronen, in Christchurch Botanical Garden.

Very large tree in the Botanical Garden. Note diminutive figure of author at base of tree for scale.

The next stage of our commute from Christchurch to Antarctica: a ride in a C-17 flown by the New York Air National Guard.

Arrival at Pegasus field.

En route to McMurdo from Pegasus, we see a C-130 landing at Willi Field. Note picturesque exhaust clouds.

Running water alongside the streets of McMurdo. Temperatures have been in the 30s up to 40F here.

Fish in the Crary Lab aquarium at McMurdo Station. Note open mouth in bottom right image.

Catching my own reflection in window Scott's Hut at Hut Point.

Hundreds of seals dot the sea ice around McMurdo - this group is outside Scott Base (the New Zealand base near McMurdo).

These are only a sample - have a look at the rest.

The morning's adventures consisted of missing breakfast, walking out to Hut Point to look for penguins (no joy), and then getting our safety briefing for recreational travel around the station (i.e. the walk to Castle Rock, which I've never been able to do). After lunch and a nap, I jogged a few hilly kilometers to Scott Base. After McMurdo went out of earshot around the hill behind me, it became utterly silent. Just me, the dirt, Scott Base and the sea ice below, and Erebus to the north, emiting it's white puff of volcanic breath. The only disturbance in the air was a faint, silent breeze. Strange to be in such a big space, as big a space as I'll ever find, probably, with no sound at all but my own breath and heartbeat. We are never truly silent until we take our last breath.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Last Laugh

Hurtling over the sea with sixty other men and women, all of us stuffed into our various unders and fleeces, plus Carhartts, wind pants, military field trousers; red parkas, Swedish Polar research dark blues, paler blue kiwi overalls, ears plugged with foam plugs, noise canceling headphones, or just not giving a damn about the auditory shredding provided by the four jet motors hung from the wings a few meters outside the fuselage, I sit facing sideways once again in the ritual commute South to the White Continent. The C-17 brighter, cleaner and more comfortable than a C-130 or -141. Weather in McMurdo foggy (reprieve from early departure, thank you very much, but loud, drunken kiwi youth carousing outside the hotel at 0545h ruling out more sleep), then clear, then foggy with no wind, then apparently clear enough to inject us all into the airspace between Christchurch and Antarctica. In three hours we will have either landed (my preference) or started our boomerang back north (my prediction). I haven't ever boomeranged before - quite lucky, actually: the record is seven boomerangs in a row for one sorry lot. If the weather deities have mercy on us we will have dinner and bag-drag (weigh-in for tomorrow's flight) in Mac Town this evening.

Of all the faces on the plane, there are a few I recognize from previous trips, whether from McMurdo or Pole I can't say. There are lots of jokers like myself who do this over and over again. Their reasons vary. I'm not sure of my own reasons; I guess there are many, but I suppose the foremost is simply that it is my job.

Best case scenario is to arrive at South Pole tomorrow, one day behind our scheduled date. Though last night's Thai food is still disagreeing with me enough that I'm not real excited about arriving at altitude, there is much to do now and any more days lost mean, well, that much more pressure when we arrive at Pole to fulfill our goals, which are many, and ambitious. The data acquisition system (pDAQ) is our responsibility, and while the building blocks are largely the same as last year, much of the glue that holds it all together is completely different (better, perhaps, but newer, and therefore probably rich in unexplored bugs). In addition to our group effort to finish, test, and fix pDAQ, I have to fix some low-level communications software, which alone will take hours or days (or possibly more). And we may have a deployment to do as well, plus the usual acclimatisation to the altitude, dryness, the spinning around upside-down on the Earth's very axis (when we finally arrive, I imagine that by turning slightly I will be able to point to each of you up there reading this, just by pointing at a slightly different arc of longitude passing through 90 South).

Last night after sketching along the river for awhile, and our adventure with the Thai food (which was very good at the time, before the late night's rain and the witching hour of stomach churn arrived), we wandered through the immense botanical garden and admired the trees, all of which were beautiful, enormous, and rather different from anything I've ever seen east of the Rockies, or anywhere in North America for that matter). As dusk approached, far away shouts and yells drifted through the garden, which we zeroed in on to find one acts of the Christchurch Buskers' Festival in progress. (Busker == theatrical comedian, I guess.) The performance was based on "The Great Books" i.e., literature, mostly western, and was hilarious, despite a meagre attendance of a few families scattered throughout the grass.

Now we are back once again in our own comedy of errors, courtesy of NYANG (New York Air National Guard) and the weather on the Ross Ice Shelf. Staring at sixty sleepy passengers, the loadmasters dressed in camouflage, several tons of cargo pallets, wondering who will get the last laugh. If the fog does, Sandy still has room at the Devon for us. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking until the station closes for winter.

Postscript: today's score is NYANG 1, weather 0: the weather took a bye this time - we landed in McMurdo after all. However, we're not flying to Pole until Monday. Looks like a weekend of penguins (with luck) and dirt (in any case) for me until then. The outdoor hiking safety lecture is tomorrow, and I have never been able to take that before; we may be able to do the famed castle rock walk afterwards.

There is liquid water running down the sides of McMurdo streets... how strange.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Well, we got briefed, weighed and suited up, but no joy - weather in McMurdo today, so I'm back at the hotel. Got some sketching done while waiting around the CDC though... and I think a nap may be in the picture this afternoon.

Now it's starting to feel like a trip to Antarctica.

First delay

Well, I managed to get up at 0500h this morning for our 0530 shuttle, but after packing out to the kerb to wait for the shuttle (and locking ourselves out of the hotel) we were told by the shuttle driver that the plane was delayed 2 hrs. Now we are back inside cooling our heels until 0730h, or Raytheon calls with more info.

Fellow Polie Jeff says he's never had a flight to the Ice without a delay. That sounds about right to me as well.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Batteries and Sheep

Photo courtesy and © Kael Hanson

With a day to kill yesterday, Dave, Kael and I put our heads together with Sandy, our proprietress at the Devon, and decided to rent bicycles for a trip to the ocean. Sandy said that there were a bunch of WWII gun batteries worth seeing near the entrance to the harbor where Lyttleton lies, south of Christchurch. That sounded pretty good to us. Within 20 minutes the bike rental guy was there, providing us with mountain bikes, helmets, locks, and a suggested route and we were off, pedaling furiously first through Christchurch traffic, then up a fairly wicked mountain grade, past residential zones at first and then just trees, rocks, wet clouds and, when the clouds parted, amazing views.

The first photo set for this trip will tell the story better than any writing I can come up with - suffice it to say I was pretty astonished that such rugged beauty lay within a vigorous pedal of Christchurch. And, that we were all thoroughly wasted after more than eight hours of biking up and down the mountains south of CHC (sometimes on paths as challenging as a BMX bike course). At one point, as we juddered down an especially challenging path, I jokingly asked Kael if this wasn't one of those team-building exercises to get us ready for the Pole.

Of course, no blog about New Zealand would be complete without a picture of a sheep:

The gun emplacements were also amazing. For reference, they are at Godley Head south and east of Christchurch. We had to get the bikes back by 1830h so we could only see half of what was there. I've seen WWII defensive emplacements in southern France, on Corsica, and in California, and these were much better preserved and much more extensive than any I'd ever seen. The coolest part was a set of underground rooms and tunnels, completely dark (Kael's flashlight and my camera focus-flash kept us oriented). Here's a teaser, but do see the complete set:

Today we get our clothing, if I can actually get my battered carcass going.... Breakfast may help.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

All for McNaught

Since its swing through perihelion a few days ago, we should be able to see Comet McNaught from here. Last night, a decent meal of sushi (punctuated by green tea ice cream to die for), we went looking for the comet in Hagley Park, a large open area ringed by trees not far from the Arts Centre and our B&Bs. As the hot winds from the north buffeted us, we saw Venus, a lovely sunset, and amazing, hurricane-like clouds of the sort I suppose you only get to see in the middle of the Pacific Ocean -- but no comet. We're going to try again tonight. No other plans yet.

It's strange to have summer, an 80 F January thaw... but nice. I'm already starting to get used to it, which is a very bad idea.

Monday, January 22, 2007


Just got back from a tasty lunch at the Dux De Lux followed by a visit to the Christchurch Art Gallery, an attractive little museum a block from the Devon.

They had a lovely show of Giacometti prints, drawings and sculptures. Giacometti and I share a birthday (Oct. 10) and he died the year I was born (1966). His sculptures are haunting and deceptively simple-looking - tall and thin figures standing rigidly erect, features all but obliterated in a field of surface vibration. But I found his drawings and prints even more attractive. Very simple subject matter again: a head, a chair, a small group of figures. But rendered loosely as spare lattices of visceral response to.... something, seen in the few models he employed over and over again (his mother, his brother, his wife, his mistress). Made me want to make etchings again, and lithographs.

Also a wonderful set of small rooms filled with drawings and paintings by the spookily gifted 19th c. New Zealand/Dutch artist Petrus Van Der Velden - in particular, a series of sketchbooks and studies for a painting called the Dutch Funeral. Gorgeous drawings a la Rembrandt or certain 19th c. Russian artists like Ilya Repin, but moodier, darker, quieter, seemingly obsessed with beauty in death and suffering. Some of the sketches were tiny, no more than a couple of inches on a side, brown pages taken from battered sketchbooks... haunting, inspiring, and very humbling.

Tomorrow we have the day off; Wednesday we get our cold weather gear, and Thursday we fly to McMurdo.

The Big (Really really big...) Picture

In case I don't get to it any time soon, Keith has done a decent enough job explaining the big picture of Icecube on his blog.


Dawn over the Pacific, and 30 minutes left in the Big Flight from LA
to Auckland. The first couple of hours were the worst. We had to
wait for luggage at the gate for almost an hour and I was already
sore and restless before we took off. But I managed to distract
myself with "Gravity's Rainbow," songs on the iPod, a decent dinner,
a glass of Australian chardonnay, and, most helpfully, Gregory's
suggested Tylenol PM which put me out while trying to focus on the
first few minutes of "Miami Vice."

So the upshot is that I managed to sack out for at least 1/3 of the

... now I'm safe in Christchurch having landed perhaps 30 minutes
ago. Staying at my favorite hotel, the Devon, and not flying until
Thursday. So it's time to relax and enjoy summer for a few days (it
was rainy in Auckland, but it's hot and sunny here).


Under way at last.

My flight to LA leaves in 40 minutes - the first of five flights, a migration of sorts. Flying south for the winter. Well, summer...

This is trip number six; as such, what I write about won't be a complete blow-by-blow as I have done in earlier years (see the links to previous years on the sidebar), but you will get to see the trip digested through the eyes of an "old hand." To get in the mood, let's start with a few excerpts from my first trip, ten years ago...

December, 1996.


8:47 AM New Zealand time, Aukland airport.

New Zealand is cool!!!!
Everyone drives on the wrong side of the road. It's green and wet.
A cyclone is expected to hit tonight. I totally love this place already.
Gotta go, we're taking off.


I think I have found the one place in the world more beautiful than Wisconsin. Way better than Hawaii, California, Switzerland... we'll have to see about France.

On the coast near the Aukland airport, tiny green trees stick out of the shallow water like little puffballs. Everything is green and lush, a shock after Wisconsin. Apparently it frosts only a few times a year, and those are the bad winters. Lots of tiny roads and houses
scattered about on irregularly-shaped land. Impending cyclones with 150 km/hr winds provide added excitement. I believe our aircraft took off just ahead of the storm.

Before takeoff, I thought we had a problem--smoke or steam was drifting into the cabin above our heads through long slits. No one else seemed to mind, so this is apparently normal. Maybe they want to keep people from drying out. I sure could use a hot bath, come to
think of it.

Horse racing and cricket figure predominantly in sports news in the New Zealand Herald.

On the airplane telly last night (gotta start talking like the locals) there was a blurb on some sport that looked like it might be rugby, but I couldn't tell. It was total mayhem--people running and kicking a football-like thing, catching it, tossing it around. Pure action but much more three-dimensional than soccer or football; it looked more like the pure hand-to-hand combat that all sports must have arisen from. [It was Australian Rules Football.]

Time for the second airplane breakfast of the day. I'm having fun!

4:45 PM, Jan 1, 1997, Hotel California, McMurdo Base, Antarctica
Temperature, about 30 degrees F.



"Few people have ever seen this," said Neck [our pilot]. I felt amazed that I had ever doubted that I would want to make this trip.

What began as a faint line of mountains gradually became a spectacular view. As we approached, I studied the approaching topography on the navigation chart, noticing the special symbol for crashed aircraft, and finding where one lay on the map not all that
far from where we were flying. But the view soon overwhelmed my interest in the chart. I took many pictures which I hope will mitigate my inability to describe the mountains and long, winding glaciers. I [tried to see] the aerial view with both scientific and artistic eyes. Looking at rivers of ice and the clouds that flowed around them, I could see that ice and clouds/air have a lot in common in appearance and underlying form. Both flow through available channels, though on different timescales, and reflect the light hitting them with so much purity that one is not distracted by color, and can appreciate the near-still dance of pure form.

Especially beautiful were the contrasts between the raw, jagged faces of exposed rock and the breathlessly smooth contours of white, flowing ice, occasionally ripped in striations caused by sudden shifts of inclination in flow.


We passed close by town before landing on the skiway on the ice sheet beyond. From the air (and from the ground too), the town itself looks more like a collection of industrial freight boxes on black dirt and rock than a real town. It is, however, an actual town, with
a peak summer population of 1200, a post office, a bank, a chapel, bars, apartments and dorms, laboratories, "roads" (stretches of dirt that people drive on, as opposed to stretches of dirt people don't drive on), a hospital, and a power plant. As far as I know, the only thing McMurdo lacks is a cemetery. None of this is really apparent to the new observer from the air, cockpit view notwithstanding.

We passed the town and the rocky point it is on, and descended to the runway just behind it. All this while the crew was going through their landing checklist, acting very efficiently and professionally. I always like to see people do something they're good at. And it was
of course a tremendous thrill to see the runway rise up to greet the aircraft with a soft thud. Suddenly we were sliding down the ice, slowing down with reverse thrust, watching odd, orange tracked vehicles and equipment slide past. We went to the end of the skiway,
turned 180 degrees, and parked. Not long after, I thanked the crew, and the other "beakers" [scientists] and I were led out on the ice towards a van with big tires and high suspension (like most McMurdo vehicles). It was quite warm, warmer than the Wisconsin I had left
just a few days ago. I looked around. There was a great expanse of ice, and then mountains across the bay; nearby, the black hills hiding McMurdo from us jutted into the white plain. A single seagull or skua stood not far away. I was very excited. I had landed on The



I dozed and listened to music for a few hours, unpacked a few things, and pondered my situation while taking several trips in the snow out to the toilet and shower shack. It was there I met the guy who told me about the piss cans [makeshift chamber pots]. We also talked
about other things about the Ice in general. I told him my impression of McMurdo was better because there was scenery there. He replied, "There's scenery here, too. All you have to do is close your eyes." Words to live by.

There really is no scenery here. It's like being out in the middle of a frozen lake, except there is no end to it! The dome, various buildings, odd tracked vehicles known as "sprytes" as well as other trucks and construction equipment, the runway, and the ceremonial and
true geographic poles, are it. They are within about a mile of each other. This is a small speck on an immense plain of ice. To think that Scott and his men made it here on foot boggles the mind. (Amundsen, who beat Scott by a few weeks, used sled dogs both to move
men and gear, and to feed the men as well towards the end of the
expedition. Amundsen made it back alive. Scott didn't. The station
is named after both of them.)

Fast-forward to 2007.

Airborne now en route to LAX, listening to "Dub Side of the Moon," a thoroughly postmodern Reggae-Floyd mash-up (thanks, Todd) on the new red Nano courtesy of Santa Jobs and the Apple-cheeked elves of Cupertino. Fell asleep already before takeoff, and realized as I
awoke to the trill of the engines that I could happily stay asleep until magically waking up in my small room in the A wing of the station, go for a quick jog on the treadmill, take my 2 minute shower, and start working. Sad, eh? I'm ready to be there before the trip has even gotten under way. I may think I know what to expect, but I know enough to know that there can be surprises(*) good and bad when traveling to the Ice. If nothing worse than previous
years occurs, I'll be perfectly content. Once I get to Christchurch I'll be in good shape. The concatenated series of three flights (4+13+2 hrs) is the hardest part of the trip.

((*)surprises I or other colleagues have experienced en-route: wandering herds of penguins; tours of Scott's Hutt; unexpected cabin depressurizations; being invited to sit in the cockpit during landings; flights "boomeranging" (having to turn back due to weather or mechanical issues); scenic flights over active volcanoes or through canyons; and, of course, sitting around Christchurch or McMurdo for hours to dozens of days, waiting for the weather to clear
or for a needed replacement aircraft part to arrive from somewhere in the US military's global infrastructure.)

For newcomers to the blog, the flight sequence is ORD->LAX->CHC->MCM->NPX: Chicago to LA to Auckland, NZ to Christchurch, NZ; get extreme cold weather (ECW) gear, fly to McMurdo station on the edge of Ross Island, then to South Pole. Acclimate to the altitude, then accomplish miracles.

A suitcase, a small backpack and a manly-purse are my only luggage items. Packing light is a challenge and a pleasure. Most of the way I won't have to schlepp the big bag, but a long schlepp it is indeed, and I know what not to take now. Colleague Bob Morse told me, "all you really need is a toothbrush and some underwear." He's not far off. A laptop and a towel are the other necessities, though some people manage to do without the laptop (how?) and one colleague I know forgot his towel and had to suffer through until a fellow South-bound traveler could liberate one from a hotel in Christchurch for him. Some things I do take I wouldn't have thought of on the first trip: spray bottle for extra humidity, clothesline for same (most
clothes hang dry in <8 hrs in the driest, highest desert in the world). An extra bag to store summer clothes and other stuff I won't need in Christchurch, and for gifts on the way home. Similarly, I give back perhaps 1/3 of the ECW gear in Christchurch, since I know I
won't wear it.

As the engines gunned for takeoff from Chicago I thought of the software tests on "new DAQ" we have been running for the past few weeks. Three or more of us in separate offices, separate cities, tethered together by online chat and daily conference calls, putting the software out on the "runway" (a bunch of networked computers), giving it lots of gas, and watching with bated breath to see if it took off. Cheering when it did, sighing when it crashed and burned, sending us back to the proverbial (digital) drawing board. It's not exactly the way you build jet engines -- thankfully, I thought, as we soared into the skies above O'Hare.

Or is it?

A few small personal and work goals for the trip:

- Help to achieve and maintain hitherto-unseen stability and elegance in the data acquisition (DAQ) software;

- Stick to a routine of sleep, meditative stretching, and running that keeps me healthy and positive. Keep up my running conditioning for Shamrock Shuffle and '07 Chicago Marathon;

- Maintain good-natured and constructive dialogue with colleagues. Steer as clear as possible of any of the ugly politics that tend to crop up during summers at Pole;

- Finish or at least take a good whack at Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow," a brown-paged paperback copy of which I "borrowed" from the AMANDA lab in MAPO in the Dark Sector at Pole in 1998. I'll be leaving the book (sans overdue book fines) behind in the library in
the new station. I like Pynchon but have had trouble finishing anything except "The Crying of Lot 49." But I've beaten Stephenson's amazing Baroque Cycle (almost 3000 pages) twice now, so I may be ready for the "'Rainbow," and if I can finish that maybe I'll try "V" again or his latest brain-bashing brick of a novel;

- Keep moving my drawing forward in bits and pieces. It has been a real source of pleasure of late to return to drawing. My focus has been on figurative drawing from life and from imagination, steered by a measure of storytelling or narrative intent. Originally I was going to make this a blog of drawings, and I may post some drawings if they "work," but I'm going to leave it open-ended for the moment. But I have four sketchbooks and plenty of implements to play with;

- Get completely caught up on episodes of Battlestar Galactica (my new favorite guilty pleasure);

Of course, the first goal (doing the actual work) will probably take up 99% of my time and energy.

Other differences between this trip and last year:

- I'm supposedly lodging in the A wing rather than the B wing of the station - which may mean a larger, or at least a quieter, room.

- The new gym (and, in fact, the remaining half of the newly-constructed station) is available.

- I have no management responsibilities, since Kael (IceCube DAQ software lead) is coming at the same time - whew!

- This trip is shorter by a week - also a good thing. Anything shorter than three weeks is perhaps not worth the long slog to the Ice. Anything longer starts to feel too long, though I've done six weeks and, of course, some people go for a year or more....

About this blog: apologies in advance if things are not explained enough or background details (such as what we're building) go missing - if people have specific questions, they're more than welcome to write -- I'll try to answer them here. Check out the old blogs too.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Video tour

Fun little YouTube video tour of part of the old and new South Pole
station courtesy of colleague Keith Beattie:
Video, Part I and Part II