Happy New Years from the South Pole!Most Polies celebrated New Years last night, even though the official station party was held one night earlier (because management felt it was more convenient that way). Of course, management had a rough go of it when their views collided quite rudely with reality. Most people ended up celebrating both nights. After all, it hardly makes sense to ring in January 1, 2008 on December 31, 2007 but if there was a party on December 30, 2007, who were we to complain? It was a good excuse to go out both nights.
As someone pointed out today, we could really celebrate New Years all day today since we are physically located in all time zones simultaneously. We just choose to observe New Zealand time for the sake of convenience.
The night before the big celebration found me in the dish pit again. Most of the DAs (dish assistants; God forbid someone or something here doesn’t have an acronym) got the night off so it was another night where the community was requested to pitch in. One of my coworkers snapped a photo of myself and one of the station’s carpenters during a lull in the action. It’s a small photo, so I’ll point out that I’m the guy in the yellow plastic apron.
Every New Years Day the South Pole marker is moved in a small ceremony. The previous year’s winterovers design and manufacture the South Pole marker during the winter and their design is unveiled during the Pole marker ceremony. For those who don’t know, the Pole marker is moved every year because the ice sheet that covers Antarctica moves roughly thirty feet a year relative to the ground over which it flows. I should also point out that there are two South Pole markers. The geographic pole marker can be seen above. It marks the actual South Pole. The ceremonial Pole is a reflective silver sphere that rests on top of candy-cane striped Pole surrounded by flags of various nationalities. Traditionally, it is within a hundred yards or so of the geographic South Pole. Most people get their pictures taken with both Poles just to cover all the bases. You can see the array of flags surrounding the ceremonial Pole in the foreground of the picture below. That’s the station in the background, obviously. The array of windows in the corner nearest the ceremonial Pole is the galley. It’s always good entertainment while we’re eating to watch people taking their photos at the Pole.
Today also saw a quite unusual series of events here at the South Pole. When the LC-130 Hercules aircraft shuttle people and supplies to the Pole from McMurdo they almost never shutdown their props when they’re on the ground here at the Pole. Rather they run all four engines the whole time they’re on the ground. Tonight, however, we have not just one but two Hercs parked on the tarmac for the evening. One was on the deck here at the Pole and and the other was enroute when the airfields at McMurdo were swallowed up by the weather and visibility was reduced to near zero. The plane that was on the deck took off and headed for McMurdo, hoping that the weather would clear during the three and one-half hours it would take to complete the journey while the Herc enroute to the Pole continued. Eventually, the Herc trying to reach McMurdo was forced to turn around and head back to the Pole for the night. In talking with people who have been here for many years, it is very, very unusual for something like that to take place. Quite frankly, it looks very odd to have two Hercs sitting in the aircraft pit without their props turning. A scene like that at Williams field near McMurdo where the Hercs are based is normal, but here it is not. You can see the planes in the photo below with the station’s satellite radome and RF building in the background.