Tuesday, August 16, 2011

One Year Later...

On August 16, 2010, I arrived at McMurdo Station. Today as I left work, I looked up into the sky and saw the first nacreous clouds of the coming spring (if you can call it that here). These clouds signaled to me that I've completed the annual cycle and come back to where I started. They reminded me of my arrival last year, fresh from a warm Colorado summer, suddenly experiencing cold that I'd never felt before. This year, the cold doesn't seem so bad; the human body has an amazing ability to adapt. And, truthfully, I'm not exactly where I started. Aside from experiencing midnight sunshine and midday stars, I've discovered an openness and stillness (Antarctic winds notwithstanding!) that exists down here that I've not found anywhere else I've lived. I don't miss the technology that I had previously attached myself to—this is not to say that technology is bad; after all, I'm writing these words on a computer and posting them to the internet—nor do I miss the busyness I had imposed on my life. It is refreshing to have stepped away from it all for a time and found internal space which I usually don't see because I'm distracted by so much else.

Thank you all for sharing this blog with me! I'm happy that so many people have enjoyed reading about and seeing the photos of this amazing part of the Earth. I will be here until October 17 at which point, Larry and I and another friend named Brian will be going to Thailand for scuba diving and Australia (yay for getting to all seven continents!) for sight-seeing. Oooh, I can't wait!! Until then, I will continue posting, so stay tuned for more! :-D

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Astronomy Photos

One of the most exciting aspects of not having the sun is that you get the stars all the time! On top of that we've had regular auroras and a lunar eclipse in June. Here's a sampling of photos from other people on station. Unfortunately, my camera is not designed for long-exposure night photos (which is what it takes to get pictures like these). However, other people caught these events on film and placed them in a shared folder on the McMurdo network. I'm not able to give credit for most of them because I don't who took them, although if you are reading this and see your photos here, let me know and I'll add your name.

First, here are several photos of the aurora australis (southern lights). Sometimes auroras can be sharply defined and brilliant, and other times they can be fuzzy and faint. Most of the ones I saw were green but occasionally I saw white and red auroras too.

These next three photos were taken by DJ Jennings, one of the contractors down here who spends a lot of his spare time taking photos around station. He has a special camera lens that can turn an entire 360-degree view into a photo. At his website, you can see other photos of Antarctica taken this way. Some of them have rotating views as well.

In June, we witnessed a total lunar eclipse. We only saw the first half because clouds rolled in while the moon was in shadow. Someone took several photos of the moon as it darkened, and the last picture shows the moon completely in shadow. The reason it looks red instead of black is because the sunlight that passes through the Earth's atmosphere is reflecting off it. For some reason, this reddish light is only visible during totality.

Before the eclipse...

...moving into the Earth's shadow...

...and totality!
One day, there were floating ice crystals in the air that caused all the lights on station to project vertical beams upward and downward. I'm not sure how this works, but the effects were amazing! Thanks again to DJ for these photos.

Here are three more pictures to finish off with, the first two of which I believe were taken by our medical doctor, Dan Su.

The Milky Way
Stars over Ob Hill
The moon peeking out over Ob Hill.

Only five more days until the sun comes back!! :-D

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Picnic in the Greenhouse

One of the special events open to winterovers at McMurdo is the occasional opportunity to have a picnic lunch in the greenhouse. As exciting as it is to experience winter in Antarctica, it's refreshing to spend time among other living things. The greenhouse is not very big, but it is packed full of trays of vegetables, including lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, and bean sprouts. Much of this food is grown for Midwinter dinner, but occasionally there will be enough lettuce to have a salad for dinner one night.

Rows upon rows of green, leafy things!

Emily runs the greenhouse which includes feeding and watering the plants, keeping things clean, and shoveling big piles of snow which build up quickly in front of the greenhouse entrance. It's a good bit of effort; even on the Condition One days when most of the station is off work, Emily has to take care of the plants, and that means lots of shoveling. Thanks for all your hard work, Emily!! :)

Oh, how warm and cozy it is in the greenhouse!

Gareth, Kyle, and Larry enjoying their lunches

Kyle is definitely happy to be here. :)




JalapeƱo peppers!

Chard! (I think...)

Lots of lettuce!
After eating lunch, Larry fell asleep in one of the hammocks... 

...as did I.

Mmmm... so cozy with a full stomach. :)

The last vegetables from the greenhouse were harvested this week, and we won't get any more fresh vegetables until Winfly, which begins two weeks from today. It'll be so nice to eat fresh food again on a regular basis! :-D Many thanks Emily for all your hard work! :)