We were originally scheduled to fly out to Pole Friday morning, but a weather delay turned into a cancellation and an extra day in McMurdo.  The weather was fantastic during our scheduled departure time, but there was concern about the weather when the LC-130 was due to come back from dropping us off.  Sure enough, mid-day hit and clouds started rolling in, then some ridiculous winds, in which it surely would have been dangerous to land.  Definitely a good call to keep the plane on the ground.  We're scheduled again for a 9:00 am flight Saturday morning, which should get us into Pole around 12:30 - hopefully just in time to catch the end of lunch.  Since I didn't post them before, here are some photos from my trip into McMurdo.

The C17 that we rode to Antarctica.

Several hours into the flight we reached the edge of the sea ice.

The coast of Antarctica.


Transantarctic Mountains

 as seen from McMurdo.

There are three "conditions" for weather here, and all but the "best" condition have limitations on what you can do outside.  Condition 3 is the best weather, and you can go about doing what you normally do, be that work or pleasure.  (There are actually a number of decent hiking trails around camp, but you need to go through a safety training class to do anything but the short walk to Discovery Hut I did last year and I haven't been in McMurdo long enough to catch a class).  But just because Condition 3 is "good" doesn't mean it's great... it's considered Condition 3 whenever 

  • The wind speed is less than 48 knots (~ 55 mph)

  • Visibility is greater than or equal to 0.25 miles

  • Windchill is warmer than -75 degrees F.

Clearly there's plenty of room for Condition 3 to suck.  Now, Condition 2 is worse, and pedestrian traffic is limited to between buildings only.  Being in vehicles is also restricted to those equipped with radios and those fully enclosed.  Condition 2 is called when any of the following happens:

  • Winds between 48 and 55 knots (55 to 63 mph) are sustained for at least one minute

  • Visibility is reduced to between 100 feet and 0.25 miles, sustained for at least one minute

  • Windchill is between -100 and -75 degrees F sustained for at least one minute.

I'm sure you get the idea for Condition 1:

  • Winds greater than 55 knots sustained for at least one minute

  • Visibility less than 100 feet sustained for at least one minute

  • Windchill is less than -100 degrees F sustained for at least one minute.

If it's Condition 1, you aren't even allowed to leave your building.  Not good.  The entire time I've visited McMurdo (last year and this year) the camp has been at Condition 3, but today the road out to the runway and the runway itself dropped to Condition 2.  My bet given my experience walking between the library and the galley at lunch time in camp (which was still in Condition 3) - it was the wind.  It was absolutely howling today.

Having some extra time in McMurdo meant we could hang out with some friends and colleagues from other experiments and participate in a little Mactown nightlife.  Thursday night we headed to the Coffee House, a great place to get some coffee, maybe play a board game or listen to some live music, or just chill with some friends.  We met up with some EBEX folks, who are down in McMurdo for their Long Duration Balloon (LDB) flight.  


is another CMB polarization experiment like SPTpol, but the telescope actually flies on a high altitude balloon.  While floating 40 km high under a huge helium balloon there is much less atmosphere to deal with so it's almost like being out in space... but not quite.  EBEX might sound familiar to some of you - it's the experiment that mysteriously disappeared along with the semi-truck it was in and its driver on its way to Texas from Minnesota earlier this year.  Luckily after a few stress-filled days the truck was found with the experiment still perfectly safe inside, and now it's here getting ready for a 10-14 day trip around Antarctica floating high in the sky.

Friday night was pub trivia in Gallagher's, one of the other places to go hang out after hours.  The trivia was movie themed this time.  There were about 10 teams, but we really only cared about EBEX vs SPT.  EBEX ended up beating us, 57 to 50 points, but we had a couple of good rounds, including a fun one about movies Tom Hanks has been in.  We did pretty well considering.  Anyway, it was a good way to spend an extra night here.


:  It's now Saturday afternoon, and our flight was again cancelled for unknown reasons.  There are no flights on Sunday so that means we're here until at least Monday morning.  So, I've attached some pictures, mainly from Christchurch, to take advantage of the reasonably fast internet when I still can.  Enjoy.

A fountain in the botanical gardens, Christchurch.

Really cool tree in the gardens.

Ah, living things...  The only living things I've seen in Antarctica so far this year are people.

I wouldn't mind having a house by this pond.  It even has a duck!

Whoever takes care of these rosebushes knows what they're doing.  ALL of the rosebushes in this garden had ridiculous quantities of buds like this one here.

There were dozens of different colored roses, each with their own unique smell.

A phonolite bomb from nearby Mt Erebus, the southern-most active volcano in the world.  This  was part of a 2 meter hunk of volcanic rock flung 1/2 kilometer from the crater rim.

Haven't seen any live penguins yet on this trip, but here's a stuffed one in display in the Crary Science Lab here in McMurdo.