chilling feet

chilling feet

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Antarctica: South Pole - It's Starting to Get Cold...

So it has finally started getting proper cold here at the South Pole. Today it was negative eighty-one degrees F with a windchill of negative 120! Woo that's cold. Fortunately the two of us were inside most of the day but the cold storage area I work in is open to the outside and it definitely felt colder than usual. 

This past Sunday, while my beautiful wife was sleeping, I headed out to try out our climbing room. It's pretty small, as you will see in two pics at the bottom, but some one has put a lot of effort into making sure people can keep their climbing skills up.  It is not attached to our main building and is an area called summer camp, which is now mostly comprised of non-heated buildings for the Winter. Fortunately our crew keeps this building heated for climbers and anyone who might want to use some of the weights in the building as well. 

While it was ridiculously frigid this past Sunday and not far from the temperatures I mentioned for today, I decided I've not spent enough time at the geographic and ceremonial poles. With camera in hand I slowly made my way over to the ceremonial pole and took these pictures. As it was such a windy day, I thought the flags looked especially amazing, but the real special aspect to these photos is how low the sun is getting. We only have a few more days of sunlight left and as we circle the sun from a South Pole perspective, it moves closer and closer to the horizon every day. Then we will be super blessed to watch the only sunset of the entire year here at the Pole! Really excited!! 

The first and third photo show all of the flags representing the countries that signed the original Antarctic treaty years ago. Now there are many more but only the original twelve get recognition of being flown at the ceremonial Pole. They look so amazing when one is walking down the hall, or sitting in the galley, and looks out to behold twelve symbolic flags flying in any weather Antarctic dishes out here. While they will come down for the dark Winter months, these flags really give a feeling of international cooperation and act as a constant reminder of how vast Antarctica is as a continent.

The walk was great but right as I decided I needed to head in for warmth my camera decided it too needed some time away from the cold and gave up on me. So in I went to finish my Sunday with some board games, tasty leftovers from the week, and more time with Sarah. 

I believe I promised to add more photos of unicycling from last weeks post, so I went into our unicycling time with a better setting on my camera and with the lights up. The results were fantastic. 
Peter has far surpassed any of the rest of us in our attempts at learning to ride these one wheeled vehicles. He loves to bike and has somehow channeled the balance learned from his two wheeled years over to the unicycle. 

All of our unicyclists have shown great improvements but Gavin is definitely among the top few, only really overshadowed by the ridiculous talent of Peter. Look at that form!

Eric is our fearless unicycling leader. He shows us videos beforehand of people doing things on unicylces that should not be possible. If you do not believe me start doing some youtubing. 

Catherine joined us a week late and of course is still way ahead of me in her learning. She has a way to go before but that does not stop her from pushing off the wall and going for it. I love this shot.

And then there is me. Sarah opted out of this session for a nap I believe. Needless to say this skill is hard to learn. I am lightyears ahead of where I was our first week but there is a long, long, arduous road ahead of me before this is an enjoyable pastime. 

And yes sometimes when you fall the unicycle hits sensitive areas, leaving the rider in need of some reprieve.

Choosing to fall off when things get rough is important, and unlike biking it is more of a step off, usually, then a fall. Things can still get dicey but overall our group has done well to keep from really big falls. They are coming I am sure!

So far unicycling is kind of like golf for me. I am terrible at it but within every session of attempting it there is that one lightning strike moment where everything goes right, if only for a second. I go back to golf again because of one hit when there were hundreds of lousy ones all stringed together. My mind has an interesting self-preservation technique of deleting the awful memories and focusing on the one good one. This shot is that moment from unicycling this past week for me. It is clearly seen I made it three feet from the wall and I have not abandoned my ride yet. One moment later this was not the case but it almost looks like I can do this - almost...not really. 

And then there was the climbing room. Pretty creative no? I took two pics just to show off the room. I am a novice and neither my body nor my mind know what to do. My time on the wall was short and left me way more tired than I thought it could have. Hopefully by the end of Winter I will have some handle on the whole thing. 

Soon we will do some posts on different parts of the station. It has been tough finding time to post and I know family especially would love to see what this place actually looks like. I promise we have a medical focused post coming up along with some great inner station shots. But for now the sun is up and I would like to end this post with one of my favorite shots from this past Sunday.

Standing down wind and freezing my butt off I was enamored with the view of the ceremonial pole. The sun, while fading away and leaving us for months to come (although really it is the Earth turning away from the sun) looked as some powerful being set to devour this land. It seemed as if the wind was blasting out from the sun and as particles of ice or snow blew across the ice there was an ominous feel to the whole scene. 

While it felt that way, of course the reality of our situation is quite different. We will be living in the one spot on Earth where the sun's life giving rays will not reach us for the next six months. Perhaps I should have seen this display as the sun's last warning to flee before the long Winter night grips our station. Being overly confident in our stations tools and equipment, I push all trepidation aside and look forward to the upcoming months with an abundance of excitement. Not many people are afforded the opportunity to see what Sarah and I will see in the next few months. From the setting of the sun over the South Pole to the best displays of the Southern lights in the world to the constellations we will be seeing to much more, we are naturally excited and overwhelmed. 

We will share as much of this journey as we can via photos with you and where the camera fails we will attempt in words.  In the meantime enjoy the wonderful scene from this past Sunday at the South Pole. 

Friday, March 3, 2017

Antarctica: South Pole: Sundogs and Unicycling

One of the fantastic weather phenomenon that occurs here at the South Pole are commonly referred to as sun dogs. Sarah and I first saw our first sun dogs up in the Arctic this past year and they are quite unusual to behold. They look like a rainbow forming a circle around the sun. Here are some pics of one from the other day I took while delivering some good to our cold storage berms outside. 

I think this was the most complete sundog I have ever seen before. Usually I've only seen them when there are arcs of the circle showing on each or just one side of the sun. I was pretty excited to see what seemed to be a sun dog show for one. Now that the station is closed not many people get out towards the berms and as far as I knew I was the only person for at least a half to a full mile enjoying this beautiful sun dog. Who knows, I'm going with it.

So what is a sun dog? There is a link to our local intranet site connected to our meteorology department and they define it like this:

What is a "mock sun"? "Mock sun" (also "sun dogs") is a colloquial term for a phenomenon called "parhelion" which occurs fairly commonly in polar atmospheres. It is a false image of the sun, created by the bending of rays of sunlight within crystals of ice in the atmosphere. Parhelia are usually observed in pairs, one on each side of the sun and at the same elevation. They tend to be red-colored on the side nearest the sun. Parhelia are quite close to the sun when the sun is close to the horizon, but move further away as the angle above the horizon increases.

Totally makes sense now right? It's pretty darn cool for sure.

Well like I said in our last post, Sarah and I are trying to be as active as possible in the South Pole community while we are here. This past Tuesday night Eric started up our learn to ride unicycles. A little crazy - nah. We met and watched some safety videos to ensure we didn't immediately kill ourselves, and then we watched a few videos of people doing extreme unicycling I did not even know existed - like mountain unicycling.

Our pictures and videos did not come out too well from this event but I'll have more good ones is the future. And yes I'm growing a mustache because a beard is not allowed for SCBAs. This means it had to start from the ground up and no easy peasy shaving a beard into a mustache. You're not hard core unless you live hard core.

I could not get the video to load so you'll just have to wait for those.