Station and Ceremonial Pole, December 2008
[photo by Nick Powell, Antarctic Photo Library]

NEWS

The first LC-130 finally arrived at Pole on 12 November. And there was another the next day, getting (I'm thinking) the last 4 winterovers, including Robert Schwarz, to McMurdo at 0230 on the 14th. Whew!

first LC-130 flight of the 2018-19 seasonAn update on Pole flights (or lack thereof)...the first LC-130 Pole flight of the season was scheduled--and actually happened, on Monday 12 November--I'm thinking that this may be the latest first Herc flight ever. Why...various reasons, the major one being the relocation of Williams Field which didn't get completed until the 4th (the airfield move and other information is discussed in this 23 October Antarctic Sun article). In any case, the first aircraft didn't get to McMurdo until Friday 9 November. From NSF: "This was the first LC-130 flight of the Antarctic research season and officially opened the newly relocated airfield" (photo at left by Mike Lucibella). By the way, all but one of the NYANG's LC-130 aircraft now have those 8-bladed propellers, a modification which began in 2008.

carrying Paul to the LMGPalmer Station update...Paul Kyllonen, age 57, a contractor employee died at Palmer Station due to natural causes at about 1130 local time (UTC-3) on Tuesday 23 October. Here is the preliminary death announcement from the 1 November 2018 Ely (MN) Echo and the 24 October NSF press release. At right, a photo of the Palmer Station community carrying the remains to the Laurence M. Gould (photo by Zenobia Evans). The research vessel had been scheduled to arrive at Palmer Station on Thursday the 25th and return to Punta Arenas on 3 November. There have been previous several USAP deaths on this this side of the continent, but they all occurred aboard ship, either at sea or in Chilean ports.

And the Pole opening flight DID happen, on Thursday 25 October SP time. With a Basler (!) Why? Although the Hercs have started arriving in Christchurch, Williams Field is being relocated a couple of miles, and it won't be ready for a couple of weeks. This 23 October Antarctic Sun article discusses the program's attempt to recover from the earlier weather delays, and it mentions the Williams Field project. Anyway, the first flight brought in 15 people and took out six (that is about the maximum number of pax that can be carried northbound.

Basler landing at Polefirst main body C-17 landing at McMurdo21 October...the past week finally saw some completed Antarctic flights. At left, the first Kenn Borek flight--a transiting Basler from Rothera heading to McMurdo, arrives on Monday 15 October...bringing freshies from Chile (photo from David Wolf, also seen in this 20 October Detroit Free Press hero shot). And at right, a C-17 unloads passengers at McMurdo's Phoenix Airfield (photo from the NSF Polar Programs Facebook page)--one of two flights to arrive from Christchurch on Tuesday the 16th after that record weather delay. By the end of the week, McMurdo saw a total of 5 C-17 and 3 Airbus flights between Tuesday and Saturday, so the main body operations are finally starting to get underway. And some of the winterover Polies could be heading north as early as Tuesday the 23rd. Presumably on a Basler, as the NYANG Hercs didn't start heading south from Schenectady until 17 October McM/Pole time, scheduled to get to Christchurch on Monday the 22nd (18 October National Guard news article).

Updates on the Polar Star...on Wednesday 17 October it returned to its Seattle home port after six months of maintenance at Mare Island, per this Thursday Coast Guard press release. What went on at Mare Island--here is my earlier page of information and photos. Also of interest, for the first time since 1995, this season the Polar Star's 2018-19 mission will not only include clearing the channel into Winter Quarters Bay, but also conducting official inspection visits of foreign Antarctic stations in accordance with the Antarctic Treaty. The inspection visits will involve a joint team of Coast Guard, State Department, and NSF/Antarctic Program personnel, and they will also require specialized training for the helicopter crews and support teams, as the Coast Guard expertise for polar helicopter operations has atrophied since the 2005 closure of the Polar Operations Division at the Coast Guard's Aviation Training Center in Mobile, AL. Source of this info--page 13 of the first issue (Autumn 2018) of the Coast Guard Roundtable newsletter.

14 October update...all Christchurch-McMurdo flights have been cancelled until at least Monday the 14th after what Antarctica New Zealand is calling the "longest delay in decades" for the start of the season (14 October Christchurch Press article), and there are at more than 500 people in (and somewhere near) ChCh waiting to fly south. Reportedly this has broken the record for the longest delay of the first main body flight. Here's an earlier NSF Polar Programs announcement on Facebook. Meanwhile, at least the first of the NSF chartered Twin Otters arrived at Rothera on the 9th (presumably Rothera time).

Robert Schwarz at PoleOther interesting stuff from NSF--this 11 October "discovery" news article about that awesome astrophysicist (and German citizen) Robert Schwarz, who is just finishing up his 14th winter. One of those winters was shared with me. There IS a video as well! At left, a random screen grab.

McMurdo webcam on 9 October9 October...while the weather at Pole isn't THAT bad (well, it is breezy, 16-20 mph winds, overcast, with blowing snow, temperature -47ºF/-44ºC, wind chill -79ºF/-62ºC), it has been very bad at McMurdo for over a week. The first main body flight was supposed to arrive on 1 October. By now at least seven flights have been cancelled, leaving perhaps 300 people stranded in Christchurch. Some of them have been moved out of town to ski resorts and other places away from ChCh to make room for the new arrivals, while someone unsung isn't getting much sleep while reworking passenger manifests and reprioritizing people, only to rinse and repeat. Looking at the McMurdo webcams, things look like they are improving at the moment, but here's what things looked like at about 0500 McM/Pole time on the 9th (right). Of course, when things finally calm down there will be lots of snow clearing and runway work before flights can land. Current predictions...flights perhaps as early as Friday (the 12th) but more likely not until Monday. Oh by the way, here are the NOAA weather sites for McMurdo town and the Phoenix Airfield. Oh, bad weather on the other side of the continent has delayed the transit of the Kenn Borek aircraft from PA/Rothera to Pole. The first of these was originally scheduled to show up at Pole around the 5th.

30 September: the Defense appropriations bill saw final passage and presidential signature this past week. But although it includes funds for Navy shipbuilding, and the Navy is involved with the Coast Guard icebreaker procurement, the icebreaker funding is included in the Homeland Security funding bill, which won't get discussed in Congress until after the midterm elections. So...in the meantime the Coast Guard has renamed the icebreaker program the "Polar Security Cutter" per this U.S. Naval Institute article. Hmmm...

Sunrise dinner 201827 September--lots of news! First, that sunrise dinner happened last Saturday the 22nd...and yes, the sun has been sighted. Dinner documentation at left in a photo from David Wolf--showing the amazing station cake along with Robert Schwarz at front left, IceCuber Raffaela Busse at front right, and SPT guy Adam Jones a few seats behind Raffaela in the white T-shirt (photo thanks to David Wolf). BICEP Array mount being assembledElsewhere (in Minneapolis) pieces of the next newest BICEP Array telescope are being received and assembled at the University of Minnesota. It will replace the current SPUD/KECK telescope in MAPO, but not until 2019-20...so Robert Schwarz will have one more winter on that project. For more info on the BICEP Array assembly, grad student Mike Crumrine has started this blog with more photos and details! And for even more, here's Mike's August paper "BICEP Array cryostat and mount design" with background, history, and photos.

Elsewhere...a glacier update. It seems that the Board of Geographic Names has changed the name of what was the Marchant Glacier. Why? Sexual harassment accusations against Boston University geology professor David Marchant, made by Jane Willenbring who worked with him in a 1999-2000 field camp. Most recent coverage: this 24 September New York Times article and this 20 September E&E News article which depicts the glacier location in the Royal Society Range not that far from McMurdo. Earlier coverage with details: this AAAS/Science news article has more information and links to the earlier story and investigation, which included this December 2017 letter from the House science committee to NSF director France A. Córdova. ambulance loads medical supplies onto the C-17Interestingly, also in September NSF announced new measures to protect researchers from harassment, sexual and otherwise--here's their 19 September press release, and here is the related fact sheet.

Older medevac news I just learned about...on 25 August just after the final WINFLY flight had returned to Christchurch, the C-17 crew learned of a medical emergency at McMurdo. So instead of heading for Guam, they prepared to go south again (at left, a St. John ambulance provides medical supplies to the C-17 prior to the flight south). When the aircraft reached McM, the weather was a bit severe...temperature -65ºF/-54ºC and wind chill -94ºF/-70ºC. But the mission was successful--a critically ill patient (who had just been flown to McMurdo on the final WINFLY flight) as well as another patient requiring medical attention reached Christchurch within 24 hours after the medevac request. The full story is in this US Air Force press release which included the photo at left as well as another photo of the C-17 on deck at McMurdo.

12 September...first, I'll briefly mention that the Pole sunrise dinner is scheduled for Saturday 22 September. More recently...an amazing new map of Antarctica has just been made public. What is called the Reference Elevation Model of Antarctica (REMA) has just been released by a collaboration of Ohio State University and the Polar Geospatial Center at the University of Minnesota. Here's their basic 4 September announcement page, and if you follow the link you will encounter the documentation page with download links. Be careful what you click on--the full image with all layers is more than 43 tb and your hard disk probably will cough at that. But you can get an annotated (with lat/lon lines and info) or an unannotated PDF here. Both are about 48mb. The best article by far that I've seen about this map project is this 7 September New York Times article, which includes sample image grabs from the huge map as well as links to the Minnesota project site.

twilight looms on the horizonlunar eclipse at Pole

3 September...spring is coming, and with it the end of the aurora viewing season. Actually, Pole has been in some form of "twilight" since 1 August, when "astronomical twilight" began. with the sun less than 18º below the horizon. Currently the place is in the midst of "nautical twilight" with the sun between -12º and -6º below the horizon. Back in 1977 we of course didn't have the internet to look this up, but our high-powered (!?) computer had a program that would calculate the sun angles.Anyway, that twilight photo by Johannes Werthebach appeared on the NSF Polar Programs Facebook page among other places. Of course, the aurora shows were "eclipsed" literally on 28 July by the total lunar eclipse. The weather was windy with blowing snow, but folks still enjoyed the show. The photo at right is one of several photos and videos from Robert Schwarz--(more of his stuff here). Mars is above the moon.

Other events that happen this time of year--WINFLY! Perhaps not quite as big a thing these days as there were some winter flights, but between 23 and 26 August there were several flights (delayed by weather of course) by the Airbus 319 and the C-5. Interestingly, it doesn't look like the "frequent flyers" (ie folks with a lot of ice time) get the airliner flights with windows vs the Air Force aircraft. installing new vinyl flooring And at Pole...August saw an actual "Iron Chef" competition in the galley--something a bit more real than the "Iron Chef" videos we used to watch at Pole on Sunday afternoons during my 2008 winter. Also in August, the winter project of replacing the station corridor cement board subfloor and vinyl flooring was completed. This winter the target was the second floor of A3 between Medical and the bridge to B2. The photo at left by Marco Tortonese shows Peter Gougeon and Ted Violette finishing up one section. And a bit earlier, the official midwinter photo was taken on the last weekend in July (more on that later).

Icebreaker update...on 13 August the president signed a $717 billion defense authorization bill, which authorizes SIX new Coast Guard icebreakers, with the first to be delivered in 2023! Of course, there's still the funding bill out there somewhere (?!)...here's the CNBC news article (thanks Chris Rock) and the actual text of the authorization act. Other insight, this 21 August U.S. Naval Institute article, outlining the 3 August Congressional Research Report (thanks to Bruce DeWald).

graphic of a high energy neutrino from a black hole hitting EarthMajor science news! It seems that a high-energy neutrino detected by IceCube on 22 September 2017 was quickly traced by the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope back to a "blazar" otherwise known as TXS 0506+056, a quasar just off the left shoulder of the constellation Orion, powered by a supermassive black hole. Or so it is thought. IceCube, one definition of which is a "neutrino telescope," has a resolution approximately equivalent to the size of the Moon as viewed from Earth, and the TXS galaxy/black hole is about 0.1º away from the track suggested by IceCube. IceCube has detected a few other high-energy neutrinos since it was first in operation in 2005 (with one string operated in conjunction with AMANDA). I won't go further into the scientific details--rather I'll refer you to this page which provides more information and links, including the IceCube press release which featured the rather amazing graphic at left.

Pan Am Flight 50 over Pole, October 1977Historic flights...there have been many many round-the-world flights, but to date there have been only three that have passed over both the North and South Poles. Another one had been announced in October, titled the Polar Explorer, but it isn't happening...that website is dead, and my contact hasn't responded. It sounded like a good idea and I was sorta considering going...its Airbus A340-400 was to leave from JFK on 26 October (CNN news article). The Antarctic overflight segment was to begin from Rio Gallegos and fly over the Antarctic Peninsula, Pole, Vostok, and Casey stations before landing in Perth. Prices were to start at $11,900, with an on-board staff including Antarctic and aviation experts as well as a hairstylist, yoga instructor, wine and liquor specialists, and...aviation author Brian Baum, who at age 18 was aboard the last such flight in October 1977. Oh...the photo at right is Jerry Gastil's photo of aircraft as it flew over us 1977 Pole Souls (I actually did NOT see it). Here's more information about that 1977 Pan Am Flight 50, as well as the earlier flights--Polar Byrd I in November 1968 (still the only tourist charter airliner to land and refuel at McMurdo), and Pole Cat in November 1966.

Icebreaker news: the procurement process for the next generation of icebreakers IS continuing...the latest announcements include this gcaptain report from one of the bidders, Bollinger Shipyards, who would build the icebreakers at their Tampa, Florida yard. There are reportedly 5 bidders, perhaps also including Fincantieri Marine Group (Washington DC), General Dynamics (San Diego), Huntington Ingalls (Pascagoula, MS), and VT Halter Marine (also in Pascagoula). All of these companies were contracted for the initial design studies, per this February 2017 Coast Guard news update. As for the current icebreaker procurement contract status...the latest amendment (13 July) states that the technical proposal is still due on 24 August, but the price proposal deadline has been extended from 24 September to 16 October. Thanks to 2000 Pole winterover Chris Rock for this news!

The Polar Star in drydockMore icebreaker news...in April, the Polar Star (which we all know is America's only heavy icebreaker, recently entered the Mare Island Naval Shipyard (on the bay 25 miles northeast of San Francisco) for what may be 5 or more months of major drydock and yard work. The major stressors...two of three propeller shaft seals failed, requiring some urgent temporary repairs to stem the leakage...and one of the three 25,000 HP gas turbines also failed. Here's my page of coverage, with more photos and links to videos. H/t Russell Rapp for this info!

the proposed SSC additionMcMurdo news...the program has just officially announced approval of construction of the IT&C building...the project can also be described as a major addition to the SSC, as seen in the conceptual photo at right (the addition is to be to the right of the existing/white SSC). Despite the title of this announcement, its text indicates that construction will start in February 2019, as confirmed by a friend in McMurdo. And in related news, in April 2018, Parsons was brought on board as a Leidos/ASC subcontractor (similar to PAE, GSC and the other program subcontractors), to work on McMurdo Station upgrade projects. Here's the 12 April Parsons press release; my full coverage of this is on this page of my my McMurdo site.

midwinter Pole greeting card1 July...happy (belated) midwinter! The big celebration and dinner at Pole happened on Saturday the 23rd. A few days before that, the midwinter photo/greeting card (left) was created...have a look at more about the event!

auroras above SuperdarnAs described below, there haven't been many opportunities to see stars and auroras in the past several weeks. BUT...there were some last year. Denver resident, photographer, and 2017 winterover Hunter Davis was interviewed in mid-June by Denver's channel 31...and of course the interview includes clips of his photos and videos such as the one at right. Have a look and listen!

snow drift in the LO arch15 June...the mostly windy and stormy weather has continued, and that means that there haven't been many chances to see auroras. The full moon at the end of May didn't help either. Among other things, the storm left this interesting drift (left)last week inside the doors of the LO arch (photo by Raffaela Busse from the most recent IceCube weekly news update). During the first full week of June, several daily wind speed records were broken, the highest being 45 knots/51.8 mph/83.4 km/h on 2 June. Meanwhile, the folks at Pole are getting ready and psyched for the midwinter dinner coming up in a week.

In other news, a recent paper in Nature determined that more than 3 trillion metric tons of ice have melted away from Antarctica between 1992 and 2017. Two good reports, this one from Live Science, and this one from The Conversation. And from the northern hemisphere, here's the 23 May report to Congress on U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker procurement, from the U.S. Naval Institute.

OAEA 2018 reunion seal29 May update...things at Pole continue to be quiet...but it has been warm of late. Which means it also has been windy. During mid May the winds got up to 30 knots/56 km/h, which meant visibility went down and the amount of required snow shoveling went up. Otherwise and elsewhere, the ninth Old Antarctic Explorers Association reunion was held in San Antonio 9-11 May (logo at right), here's a link to my photo album.

Other interesting Antarctic stuff...icebreakers may be cheaper if bought in quantity. Here's a May U.S Naval Institute article outlining a report to Congress about the heavy polar icebreaker procurement program--buy one for $1 billion, buy 3 for only $2.1 billion. So far, about $360 million has been funded for the preliminary procurement process. And speaking of icebreakers, here from MarineLink is a historical jump back to November 1944 when the first of the four (actually there would be more than four) Wind-class icebreakers was commissioned.

And then there's a hot project called SALSA (!) scheduled for the next austral summer. Actually that is the Subglacial Antarctic Lakes Scientific Access project, which will bore into subglacial Lake Mercer, which lies below the confluence of the Mercer and Whillans ice streams. The project will use a hot water drill similar to what was used for IceCube, and drill a 4000-foot hole to reach the lake. Here's the project website...note that Bob Zook will be involved, as the project will include the deployment of the Deep SCINI underwater ROV--this will be the first ROV deployment into an Antarctic subglacial lake. In 2017-18 a traverse team hauled 500 tons of equipment and supplies to the drill site...here's a great video!

Nicholas JohnsonA bit of iconic history, otherwise elsewhere described as the "WikiLeaks of Antarctica..." is the iconic book Big Dead Place. Author Nicholas Johnson, unfortunately, is no longer with us after he blew his brains out in 2012, but his work survives. And his work has now been given a new lease on life. On 30 April, ABC's program Earshot aired a 30-minute podcast/download which describes and details Nicholas's work, life, and the rest of his story. The interview and accompanying web pages include the voices and photos of several friends. Two ABC links of interest: this page gives basic information about the episode along with links for listening to or downloading the story...and this page gives additional background information as well as more photos. But that is not all. Nicholas' sister worked to get THE BIG DEAD PLACE WEBSITE back up to coincide with the release of this documentary. Have a look! Not everything is there, but there is a lot of the good stuff. The photo of Nicolas at left shows him at work in the McMurdo waste barn in about 2001...it's from Kathy Blumm and used by permission.

2018 Pole sunset dinnerPalmer Station 50th anniversaryThere were not one, but TWO significant Antarctic celebrations at USAP small stations in late March...of course, the expected one was the sunset dinner at South Pole on 24 March (left above, photo by Raffaela Busse). But there was more...on 20 March a major celebration was held at Palmer Station commemorating the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the permanent station! More details of that, as well as links to documentation of the 1968 dedication event...are here.

Other important stuff...the Pole winterover statistics page has been updated for 2018 Check it out!

As I also keep track of NSF's Arctic program, I'll mention that the Arctic support contract is being rebid. It was previously awarded to CH2M Hill for a 4-year base period beginning on 1 February 2012, with options for two 2-year extensions. More recently, CH2M has been acquired by Jacobs in 2017, but the Arctic support contract organization site Polar Field Services has not been updated to mention Jacobs (perhaps this is because the person in the Littleton office who used to update these things, Kip Rithner, is no longer with us. Anyway, the draft RFP was to be issued in April, with proposals due in September and award due in August 2019, presumably to begin on 1 February 2020. Already at least one company (Parsons) is seeking to hire people to work on the proposal. The presolicitation info is here.

Argentine Navy helicopterA bit of news from the Antarctic Peninsula area...a research team from UCSB was studying raised beaches (a sign of historic sea level changes) on Joinville Island just north of the Peninsula. But when it came time for the Laurence M. Gould to pick them up, the sea ice conditions were too think. So instead they were picked up by an Argentine Navy helicopter (right) on 11 March for eventual transfer to the Gould. Info/photos/video....

"Breaking" news from...the Washington DC Navy Yard (my first duty station in my early 1970's Navy days). On 2 March, the official request for procurement (RFP) was issued for from one to three new heavy icebreakers...in what is called the Heavy Polar Icebreaker (HPIB) program. The RFP release was announced in Coast Guard commandant ADM Paul Zunkunft's 1 March State of the Coast Guard address, and described in these Navy Times and US Naval Institute news articles. The official RFP posting is here, although most of the the technical specs aren't/won't be available to the general public. The first vessel is supposed to be available in 2023, and there are provisions for possible armament. While the icebreakers are destined for the Coast Guard, the procurement is being handled by the Naval Sea Systems Command, which has much more experience with the procurement of large military vessels. Five bidders are expected to submit proposals.

partial solar eclipse at Pole18 February...last week of the summer season. As with the first weeks of the season, several flights were cancelled. But there WAS a final flight on Friday the 16th. But first...earlier that day there was a partial solar eclipse (right, photo by Robert Schwarz). More than 40 percent of the Sun was covered! It was a bit hazy as you can see, and the weather continued to deteriorate, so the last flight opted not to do a fly-by. After it disappeared, there were 40 winterovers left behind--this is the smallest winterover crew since 1998--before the elevated station construction got underway.

10 February...the summer season is winding down...people are leaving, winterovers are arriving, and it is cool (-35ºF/-31ºC). The summer construction and science season is over...more details are here.

the Polar Star in McMurdo SoundYes, there was yet another government shutdown, although it didn't last long enough to have any effect on USAP (although I didn't get up in the middle of the night to see if the NSF and Coast Guard websites had been shut down).

Speaking of the Coast Guard, on 6 February they put out this news article about the Polar Star's adventures and misadventures on their 2017-18 trip to McMurdo. The ice conditions were not as bad as last season, but there was that "flooding" and "engine failure." At left, one of many Coast Guard photos (by CPO Nick Ameen) from the Flickr album accompanying the article--this shows it breaking ice in McMurdo Sound on 13 January. Other photos depict some of the repair efforts. Meanwhile back in the USA, the U.S. Naval Institute has announced that the RFP for a new Coast Guard heavy icebreaker is expected this month. I will be watching for that. Hmmm...FIVE prospective bidders?

peak of the McMurdo shipping seasonA wrapup on the McMurdo shipping season...after the Ocean Giant arrived on 19 January (photo below left) and was securely tied up, the "offload" portion of the evolution took only 2-1/2 days. The backload would take a bit longer, but it departed on the morning of 2 February...to be replaced at the pier by the tanker Maersk Peary. At right is a rather unique photo (from Michael Christensen) of the Ocean Giant departing, the Polar Star standing by, and the Maersk Peary lurking until the coast is clear. The tanker would tie up later that day...and stay until 6 February. Here's a webcam view of it heading off in the distance.

22 January...yes, there was a government shutdown. But this time, since the one in 2013, USAP has changed its funding structure so that there is no immediate impact. For a time the Armed Forces Network was shut down, cancelling TV broadcasts to McMurdo, but later it was declared "essential" meaning that folks could watch the NFL playoffs on Monday instead of, say, flying LC-130's to Pole. But it is early yet. In 2013, things went along normally for about a week before things started getting shut down and people started to lose their jobs.

the Polar Star at the pierAnd it IS the shipping season! The Polar Star first appeared off McMurdo around 14 January. By the 19th it was at the pier, checking in before heading back out to continue breaking out the channel. In the photo at left, the Nathaniel B. Palmer is waiting for the Coast Guard to go away so it can dock. The cargo vessel Ocean Giant left Lyttelton on the 18th and is supposed to reach McMurdo around the 25th. And the tanker Maersk Peary is now south of Australia after a stop in Fremantle.

17 January: after the successful lowering of the beer can stairs and adjusting all of the attached piping, some of the attention has turned to doing a bit of jacking and leveling of the elevated station itself. It's early so no photos yet.

But...the calendar and the news bring to mind the discussion of another US government shutdown this week. What might this mean for the US Antarctic program? Too early to tell, of course. And hopefully we won't have to find out. The last time a shutdown actually happened was in October 2013...resulting in major program disruptions and lost jobs--many people already deployed to McM or en route were sent home. Some never were rehired. And the end of the shutdown happened less than 24 hours before the Palmer Station summer science season would have been cancelled. Details!

DSCS module foundation13 January: here is a glimpse of one of the more visible summer construction projects--a new equipment module to better manage reception of the DSCS satellite. Here's the foundation support structure (from Sayer Houseal)...yes, more photos coming soon. Otherwise at Pole...the berms continue to be attacked...including the third annual Berming Man (no bonfires were created for this event)...and Kelly Brunt's NASA ICESat-2 traverse has completed and the team is back at Pole (latest blog post).

The NGO trekkers continue to arrive and approach as their season starts to wind down. Veteran Ben Saunders reached Pole on 29 December but opted not to continue his planned unsupported trip to the Ross Ice Shelf due to a shortage of food (Telegraph article). And Robert Swan opted to leave his South Pole Energy Challenge trek temporarily as he felt he was slowing the progress. He rejoined his group, along with some "last degree" folks, at 89ºS. They are one of the last 2 NGO teams/individuals still trying to reach Pole. Looks like the deadline for them to reach Pole before ALE pulls out is 17 January. My full coverage of all NGO ventures is here.

the 2018 South Pole Marker2 January...Happy New Year! Of course New Years Day brings with it the unveiling of the brand new South Pole marker...co-designed by BICEP3 winterover Grant Hall and IceCuber Martin Wolf. Here are the details. The quote "By endurance we conquer" is a translation from the Latin of "Fortitudine vincimus" which was the Shackleton family motto. More info with photos...this 6 January Saxony FreiePresse article (in German)--which includes the photo of the makers at right. From left--the fabricator, machinist Matt Krahn, and the designers Grantland Hall and Martin Wolf (Martin's photo).winter photo of the 2018 Pole marker creators

The past weeks have brought significant progress to the summer construction projects--one of these--a significant effort to lower the stair tower in the beer can was recently completed. This was required because the station is settling faster than the vertical tower structure. The project involved setting up screw jacks on each of the ten columns and slowly lowering the steel structure 12 inches in two six-inch lifts. Modifications to the plumbing, piping, and elevator systems were also required. The result--perhaps one or two less stair steps in that torturous stair climb! Meanwhile, the other projects including the ice tunnel wall cutting and escape raise work, as well as the new DSCS platform are also well underway.

The McMurdo shipping season is fast approaching. The first part of that will be the icebreaking by the Coast Guard's Polar Star. It departed Honolulu on Friday 15 December local time (gCaptain article) and arrived in Lyttelton on the 29th. They stayed there for the New Years weekend, during which time some of the crew were to participate in a tree-planting project in the area of last year's Port Hills fire (stuff.co.nz article). They were to head south on 2 January, taking with them a New Zealand naval officer who will be observing things. Meanwhile, the cargo vessel Ocean Giant left Port Hueneme on 2 January SP time and is now heading southwest toward Lyttelton...and the tanker Maersk Peary is heading southeast in the Indian Ocean after transiting the Suez Canal and the Red Sea.

Christmas dinner at PoleMerry Christmas! At right...the Christmas dinner, which happened on Christmas Eve. Christmas morning brought the latest rendition of the Race Around the World. That dinner photo is from Kelly Brunt...she and her NASA traverse team were a bit delayed in their departure, so they were around for the festivities, before eventually setting off around 2 January. As for their traverse project...read on:

Brunt's traverse route16 December...an interesting NASA science traverse is about to get underway from Pole. Glaciologist Kelly Brunt, along with cryospheric scientist Tom Neumann (and a lucky mountaineer and mechanic to be named later) will set out on 21 December in two Pisten Bullys, each towing a magic carpet (plastic sled) carrying their supplies and equipment. This will be a 470-mile 2-3 week traverse. The goal is to provide accuracy assessment and ground truth for the IceSat-2 satellite (which will be launched in 2018 to measure and track ice sheet elevation changes). They will head north initially along the SPoT traverse route, and then turn east to follow the 88ºS parallel to 131ºE, where they will turn south and head back to Pole (map at left). Most of this terrain is unexplored. They will collect GPS elevation data and set up reflector cubes that the ICESat laser beams may be able to find. Both Kelly and Tom are no strangers to the ice--Kelly has worked on various other projects on continent and remotely with IceBridge as well as in Greenland, and Tom wintered at Troll in 2007 before the first year of the Norwegian-American traverse. More project info... as well as their blog!

11 December. By this point the major summer projects are finally ramping up after the early season flight delays. On station, the big ones are the rework of the ice tunnel escape raises (emergency access ladders--something that has been cussed and discussed for several seasons), the upgrade of what originally was the GOES-MARISAT antenna (both of those satellites are no longer around) to handle the current DSCS satellite, and the relocation of the sheet metal shop--the last of the old construction Jamesways originally put up to support the elevated station construction. Meanwhile, on the science side, perhaps the largest project is the expansion of the Askaryan Radio Array (ARA) project from three to six sites--the first major expansion of this University of Wisconsin project since it was originally set up west of the IceCube laboratory in 2011-12.

Otherwise, the first group of NGO tourists visited Pole recently after having been flown in from Union Glacier...and most of the long polar and other NGO treks are well underway (details).

The Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star headed south from Seattle a week ago...as of 11 December they were approaching Hawaii. The cargo ship, presumably once again the Ocean Giant, will be heading south from Port Hueneme at the end of the month.

the traverse vehicles in front of the stationthe traverse en route4 December...the first South Pole Traverse (SPot) reached Pole last Thursday the 30th. Two photos: the one at left is from Sheryl Seagraves, some of the equipment in front of the station shortly after arrival. The photo at right is earlier and also of interest. It was taken by members of the Spectre Expedition team, who met up with the traverse team on about 25 November at about 87ºS. The expedition was headed north to the Gothic Mountains where they intend to do some significant rock climbing...they briefly followed the traverse route, which allowed them to get some serious kiting on the freshly broken tractor trail. The second traverse left McMurdo around the same time, and should get to Pole around the 21st.

Tuesday 28 November: the dearth of flights continued...until yesterday. On Tuesday the 21st was the last ChC-McM flight to bring Polies south--the New Zealand Air Force 757. But they ended up being stuck in McMurdo over the Saturday Thanksgiving holiday, as did the last seven 2016 winterover Polies who'd flown north to McM on the 22nd. But as I write this, an aircraft just left Christchurch, which should get those last winterovers in ChC early Tuesday morning. And the waiting Polies in McMurdo, including a large SPT crew, reached Pole around 2300 on Monday the 27th.

21 November: a bit more of an update on the Pole flights (or lack thereof). As of the 20th there had been exactly THREE Herc flights to Pole...the most recent of which was that DV flight mentioned below. Which had an extremely rough landing...touching down on the last 1000 feet of the skiway. Well, there WAS another Pole flight on 18 November...but it was a C-17 doing the annual airdrop practice, and it obviously didn't land. But it DID stop at McM on its way north to pick up waiting Pole wo's and others and transport them to Christchurch, although they did carry enough fuel to not land on the way north if the McM weather had turned bad. Did the airdrop drop anything useful? No. Just sand or shredded paper (?). Another good bit of insight on the recent McMurdo weather--this blog post from the University of Wisconsin automated weather station team stating that the McM weather at this time of year is the worst that blogger Carol Costanza and others have ever seen. Slight update...this morning, folks were being checked in at the CDC for a southbound C-17 flight...they haven't posted that they were sent back to their hotels, so hopefully they are in the air as I post this.

18 November...and it has been more than a week since there have been any McM-Pole flights...or ChCh-McM flights, for that matter. Bad weather can be blamed for some of this...a couple of days ago McM was in Condition 1. But at other times the weather seemed perfect. So...this has left the remaining winterovers are stuck at Pole, while others have been stuck at McMurdo...not to mention many southbound pax also stranded. The most recent ChC-McM B-757 was just cancelled, and the next McM-Pole flight is currently scheduled for Sunday 19 November...the NYANG normally does not fly on Sundays.

Perhaps the last flight in and out of Pole may have been this one on 9 November. After leaving Pole, McM was socked in so the aircraft and passengers spent the night at the Italian station on Terra Nova Bay. There were no Polies on board, it was a DV flight, so presumably there were USAF public affairs folks aboard...so presumably that's why that article was written.

But that's not to say that there haven't been flights into Pole. On the 13th, the first AL&E Twin Otter showed up from Union Glacier, bringing staff to start opening up the NGO/tourist camp. And the NGO trekkers have already started heading south. Meanwhile, the first AL&E Ilyushin IL-76TD aircraft arrived at UG from Punta Arenas on 4 November--two weeks earlier than last year due to good weather. And the flight brought Ben Saunders, the Ice Maiden team, as well as Astrid Furholt and Jan Sverre Sivertsen".

8 November...as usual, more LC-130 flights had been scheduled in the past week, and cancelled for various reasons, some for weather, some for ??. But the second one finally did show up late evening on Tuesday the 7th, taking about 30 winterovers north. The summer season is well and truly underway.

More strange sad news from Washington state about an old subject...Al Baker's 52-year prison sentence for murdering his reported fourth wife Kathie Hill Baker in June 2012. On 6 October 2017 it was reported that he'd filed another appeal, this time claiming that his trial attorney had been ineffective. ??...read the story yourself in this 6 November Whidbey News-Times article.

Trivia with a bit of an update: to date the NOAA winterover teams have included a total of 13 women over the years. As of now, the 2018 w/o team will consist of two women--both the NOAA Corps officer and the civilian tech. Only once before did the NOAA team include two women--that was in 1993 when there were three NOAA folks wintering. The two women were Katy McNitt Jensen and Kathie Hill, who was not part of the ongoing NOAA global monitoring team, but rather monitoring a separate wind profiling project. Yes, THAT Kathie Hill who was murdered in Whidbey Island, Washington, in 2012...per the above paragraph.

Some older items of interest (other old news is in the archive):

WIRED magazine has a feature article on Jerry Marty, Carlton Walker, and the station construction in the July 2002 issue. Read about the settlement problems...why the place wasn't considered fit for occupancy for the 2002 winter.

no way southPole land cargo traverses in the works...in October 2002 NSF flew a specially equipped D8 from Christchurch to McMurdo aboard a C17...this equipment was be used to prepare a road south towards the Leverett Glacier, eventually hopefully to Pole. This is to augment the LC-130 flights for station construction cargo as well as for ICE CUBE and forthcoming science projects. More information...

Another new science project...in 2002 a 10-meter submillimeter telescope (up from 8 meters!) that will search for new galaxy clusters and study dark energy. Plans were to attach it to the DSL (dark sector lab) University of Chicago press release. It was originally scheduled to have a ground shield that is larger than the Dome (built by Temcor, the same company that built the dome...). The telescope was completed in 2006-07, and the huge ground shield was eventually cancelled.

On 8/13/02 NSF had a meeting with potential contractors and suppliers for a possible fiber optic cable to Dome C. Yes, you read that right (news article). Since Pole is way below the horizon for the commercial geosynchronous satellites, one option is to run a cable about 1050 miles to the newly constructed French/Italian Concordia Station at Dome C. (This station is scheduled for full-time occupancy next winter.) The project calls for several years of studies and trials, with the actual stuff involving traverses to get the cable to Pole and Dome C as well as along the route.

Back in mid March 2002 two other iceberg events happened. First, there was another piece of the Thwaites Ice Tongue (75°S-108°W) about 2100 square miles (Guardian article and archived NOAA press release) which got designated B22. And then there was the collapse of another hunk of the Larsen ice shelf east of the Antarctic Peninsula. The Larsen Ice Shelf B disintegrated within the past couple of months, as evidenced by photos and animations from the NSIDC in Boulder, which also has links to other coverage. The BBC has an excellent article about both events.

The venerable New South Polar Times mailing list moved to a home on Yahoo, thanks to 2001 w/o science tech Andrea Grant. There have been no posts in the past few years, but the archived posts are here.

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) had a major feature on the Pole construction in their December 2000 magazine, including articles by Frank Brier and Jerry Marty. That section is no longer online, although I did archive the original article by Dennis Berry and Forrest Braun (BBFM Engineers, Anchorage) which features the details of foundation design and the jacking systems.

Here is the link to my 1999 Doc Jerri medevac coverage. The spectacular April 2001 medevac flight to Pole is covered here. And my archive of other news, links to press releases, and older media coverage is here.

Other Antarctic news sites...

Explorersweb and its newer offshoot Pythom have been covering exploration news ever since the early 2000's. The sites were originally created by Tom and Tina Sjogren, the "Wearable" expedition folks that trekked to Pole in 2001-02. During the past year the sites have been relaunched...at present (July 2018) it appears that the Pythom.com site is covering primarily space and science news, while Explorers Web continues to cover climbing, water, and polar expeditions, although one needs to use the search bar to locate specific coverage. The Sjogrens are still involved with the site.

Brendon Grunewald's old 70 South news site has evolved into the Polar Conservation Organisation, but it still features some Antarctic and related news from everywhere, although the site is hard to navigate.

The Antarctic Sun is extremely prolific of late. The editor through July 2015 was friend Peter Rejcek, a 2004 Polie winterover.. He's currently a traveling freelancer; some of his work can be found on singularityhub. The current editor, also a friend, is Michael Lucibella. Sun archives run back to 1996-97, the final year when the McMurdo newspaper was a Navy publication, the Antarctic Sun Times. Before then in the old days it went by other names....here is that story.

 NZ Antarctic Philately pages by Steven McLachlan . The news page features many current events through 2006, including many pictures from the various private expeditions at Pole. He also has information on the 99-00 cruises of the Polar Duke south of NZ in support of German and Italian science projects, 98-99 construction of the new base at Dome C...

The Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) published biweekly newsletters on NGA (private) expeditions, cruises and tourist events. Unfortunately this was discontinued in May 2003, and the archives are no longer available. But they do feature a separate news page for the official Australian program.

The NSF Polar Programs (PLR) page contains links and a search engine. Most recent press releases are also here, scroll to the bottom.

The rest of the story... can now be read online or offline in the newsletter of the Antarctican Society. Highly recommended. Here is the latest contact info as well as the historical background about the group.

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Weather information...  has been moved to a separate page.

About the satellites:

dishing it up For most of the last decade until October 2008, things were simple. Pole used the MARISAT/GOES terminal, originally constructed in 2000-01 (left) to communicate with 3 satellites that used to be geosynchronous...here's a May 2000 Christian Science Monitor article about one of them--MARISAT. The RF building and MARISAT/GOES terminal 1 mile south of the station were first turned on in 2001, but they suffered through cold weather mechanical and electronics problems off and on ever since. A radome was added in 2004-05 (photos), but that didn't cure everything...during the 2008 winter the gear drive system failed again...but this time a MacGyver effort by the satcom tech and station mechanics got things rebuilt and running (Antarctic Sun article).

As for the satellites themselves, since they were old the orbits wobbled so the station could see them a few hours a day. MARISAT-F2 (Maritime Communications Satellite), GOES-3 (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, as it was a NOAA weather satellite), and TDRS-1 combined [the links for individual satellites here are to Wikipedia articles] gave a window of almost 12 contiguous hours per day with an original theoretical 5 MBPS transfer speed, which has been upgrades several times over the years to more than 60 MBPS. Most of the increased bandwidth goes to data transfer. The oldest of these three, MARISAT-F2 was decommissioned in October 2008 after deterioration in its telecommand link (Antarctic Sun article). This cut the total window by two hours and the bandwidth by a bigger percentage. A year later in October 2009, the TDRS-1 satellite (or TDRSS-1, depending on the NASA contractor and acronym you ball doneprefer--TDRS is Tracking and Data Relay Satellite and TDRSS is Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System) also disappeared from service. The last TWTA (traveling wave tube amplifier) failed, and NASA moved it to another temporary orbit for decommissioning. The last day of service was 21 October 2009 (NSF announcement and Spaceflight Now news article).

During the 2009-10 summer some field tests were conducted using the Intelsat/Paradigm/Astrium-operated Skynet-4C British military satellite, which was slowly increasing in visibility at Pole. Here is the October 2009 contract award announcement, a 2010 announcement from Intelsat, and a more detailed 2010 Intelsat report on the initial testing (interestingly, these satellites use the Oakhanger ground station southeast of London in the UK--while working for Ford Aerospace I visited that station in 1980 as part of a US Air Force satellite contract I was then involved with...and Philco-Ford, NATO-IVB antenna inside the GOES radomea predecessor to Ford Aerospace, actually manufactured the first Skynet satellites in the 1960s). The Pole equipment was designed, some equipment was bought (January 2011 SPAWAR request for information), a dish and receiving system was installed in the large radome with the GOES dish during the 2011-12 austral summer (Skynet and GOES are in opposite directions), and USAP bought time on the satellite. But when the installation was completed, the satellite could not be located. Turns out that the Skynet orbit had been adjusted so that it was behind MAPO, so the earth station would need to be relocated. Instead, arrangements were used to use a different satellite from the same family, NATO-IVB, and tests were conducted successfully during the 2012 winter. For a time it was being accessed using the antenna in the GOES radome (left, photo from Bartley Davis). I'm not sure of what ensued, but in any case Pole is now using the Skynet-4C for more than 4 hours per day (such as this one). NATO-IVB was launched from Cape Canaveral in 1993. The SKYNET-4C is still available for use as well, but this would require a new antenna installation at Pole.

Until midwinter 2016, in addition to NATO-IVB, Skynet, and various TDRSS satellites, Pole was using GOES-3, which provided a 1.5 Mbps inbound and 1024 Kbps outbound data rate for about 6 hours a day. But during 2015 tests were conducted on the DSCS-III-B7 satellite which was slowly drifting into view. Then, on 29 June 2016 NSF announced that the GOES-3 satellite was being decommissioned...and being replaced by the much-better-bandwidth DSCS-3 satellite. More information on the demise of GOES is here...and here's an October 2016 Lockheed-Martin press release describing implementation of the DSCS satellite. As for the shrinking constellation of NASA TDRSS satellites--they have been TDRS F3, TDRS F4 (until it was retired in 2011), TDRS F5 (scheduled for retirement in November 2014--August 2014 USAP service announcement), and TDRS F6 via a second antenna terminal, the SPTR-2 (South Pole TDRS Relay) link completed during the 2008-09 summer (right, a construction photo from Dave Smith; here are more), and here is an April 2009 USAP page with a link to an Antarctic Sun article--lots more info. These satellites often are available for much shorter periods on an ever-changing schedule, and at a greater expense to NSF. They provide a 5 Mbps IP data link, and a separate 150 Mbps one-way (northbound) link for bulk science data. Not all of the "above-the-horizon" time (what typically appeared on the old scroll satellite availability page) is actually available to USAP--the program aims for about 4 hours per day, and at the time this created a complex daily scheduling job for a friend in Denver.

A significant upgrade to what we once knew as the MARISAT-GOES terminal was begun in 2016-17 to improve its capability to handle DSCS-3 traffic--presumably that project will be completed in 2017-18. And currently in June of 2017, the DSCS satellite has been unavailable due to some major issues with the terminal in Christchurch...apparently major enough to require special NSF funding (approved) and ITAR approval (pending). AARGH!

In addition to the larger geosynchronous satellites there is, of course, Iridium, which is always available for official/emergency phone calls. Additionally there is a data link consisting of 12 Iridium phones, each capable of a 2400 bps data link, which are multiplexed to produce a 28 kbps data link. For a time USAP used this for 24/7 email (for small emails <50k or so), but that has been discontinued. More recently, the IceCube project has implemented other mail/text systems using Iridium. Other resources linked here:

-the recently upgraded and enhanced USAP satellite information pages with links to the weekly satellite schedule PDF file as well as this systems architecture diagram.

-a brief NSF 2006 Powerpoint presentation by Erick Chiang and Pat Smith, titled "Data Communications Supporting Astronomy/Astrophysics at South Pole Station" which addresses the conditions and future plans at that point in time.

-a May 1995 report by Bob Loewenstein, Bill Smythe, and Brent Jones, Science Requirements for South Pole Station Computing and Communications. Some interesting facts, figures, and historical background. 1 GB/day of data transmission--hmmm, where would that leave IceCube?

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SPORTS (?!)

The 2018 Antarctic Treaty consultative meeting (ATCM XLI) was held in Buenos Aires between 13-18 May. Once again I saw absolutely NO media coverage...and a review of the papers presented confirmed the reason for the lack of media interest. I always look for a Russian report about the Lake Vostok drilling project, but for the second year in a row there was no coverage. The 2019 meeting will be 1-11 July in Prague, Czech Republic. Here is the official Treaty home page. From there you can navigate to the final reports, or you can search the various meeting papers by selecting the "Meeting From/To" and/or the submitters.

Nowadays there are a number of commercial marathon/ultramarathon ventures in the Antarctic...most commonly sought out by people who want to complete a marathon on all seven continents:

  • The oldest such event--the Antarctica Marathon--is actually held on King George Island, just off the Antarctic Peninsula. The first such event was on 28 January 1995; the 2018 event happened on 16 and 17 March. There were 112 marathon finishers for two separate races depending on vessel arrival; the winner was Todd Lubas with a time of 3:07. The fastest woman was Wendi Campbell with a time of 3:58 (all results). There were also 83 half marathon participants including 2 DNFs. In 2019 it is scheduled for 17 and 18 March...there are actually two separate vessels bringing contestants from Ushuaia to KGI for two separate races on those dates--there is a limitation of 100 runners for each race. Each trip includes 3 days in Buenos Aires before the race as well other exploration of the eastern Antarctic Peninsula after the race. The course starts and ends at Bellingshausen Station (the Russian base) and passes several other bases. It is organized by Marathon Tours & Travel in Boston; event registration includes a cruise ship voyage from Ushuaia--the event is sold out for 2019 and 2020, although they are accepting waiting list entries. The entry fee is only $250, but the total registration cost another $6,990 or more per person double occupancy (ex Buenos Aires) (there are no single occupancy cabins) for the vessel accommodations and other insurance, tax and visa fees. In 2017 there were 114 marathon finishers. The male winner was Luan Huynh from Aalborg, Denmark, with a time of 3:24:22, and the female winner was Lesley Mettler Auld from Seattle, in 4:06:14. There were also 21 half marathon finishers. Eight finishers of the races were from the Chilean and Chinese bases on KGI.

  • At Union Glacier (UG), the fourteenth Antarctic Ice Marathon was held on 24 November (UG time/UTC-3) 2017. This is currently the only "Antarctic marathon" actually held south of the Antarctic Circle and on the continent. There were a total of 58 competitors in the various events, including 38 men and 15 women who completed the marathon distance of 26.2 miles, and 4 men and 2 women who opted for the half marathon. The men's winner was Frank Johansen of Denmark with a time of 3:37:46. The woman winner, Kelly McClay from Beverly, MA, finished in 4:56:37. Twelve of the runners were raising money for the Navy Seal Foundation in honor of Brian Hoke, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2016. There was also a new event, the Antarctic Mile, run by Irishman Paul Robinson (who was not otherwise a competitor) in a time of 4:17.9. Impressive! For 2017 the 100k was held separately in mid January. There were 10 total competitors including Richard Donovan (yes, THAT Richard Donovan, winner of the first such event, the only NGO marathon held at Pole, in January 2002). The male 100k winner was Belgian Kurt Alderweireldt with a time of 11:13:53; the only woman participant was Jennifer Cheung from Hong Kong, she finished in 18:34:54. The 2018 marathon event is scheduled for 13 December; no future 100k events are scheduled at this time. The 2018 marathon or half can be booked for a mere €15,000 ex PA; here's the site with more information as well as the race results. This event has been held annually at PH/UG annually beginning in January 2006...but there actually have been fourteen such events staged by ANI/ALE--the first one was staged to finish at Pole on 21 January 2002...there were five finishers in that event, and no small amount of controversy (my coverage). The controversy resulted in a hiatus in what had been planned to be an annual event. In 2011, organizer Richard Donovan participated, with a 100 mile run in 24:35:02, and he completed the 100k in 2017 with a time of 21:05:34.

  • Another event, also on King George Island, is the White Continent Marathon (with a half-marathon and 50k), which has happened in January ever since 2013. Sponsored by Minneapolis-based Marathon Adventures, it includes return flights between PA and KGI and a day of camping on KGI either before or after the race. For 2019, participants are to gather in PA on 12 January, with the flight window to Antarctica between the 15th and 19th. The event also includes participation in a Punta Arenas marathon. The price starts at $8,950 ex PA. The 2018 event happened on 30 January--the marathon winners were Wlodzimierz Grocholewski (M), from Poland, with a time of 3:31:47; and Filipa Elvas, age 41 (F) from Portugal, with a time of 5:06:36. There were 38 marathon participants as well as 24 other participants in the 50k, half marathon, and 10k. For the inaugural of this event in 2013, the PA marathon turned out to be the day before the flight to KGI, and things got interesting on the ice--the race was on 27 February, or at least most of it. Because of deteriorating weather on KGI, the marathon was cut short after only 17 runners had finished because "the pilot wanted to leave" (blog post by participant and SERIOUS runner Joseph Coureur). After runners were given an opportunity to complete their remaining distance immediately after arriving back in PA, there were a total of 44 marathon finishers, including 9-year-old Nikolas Toocheck of Pennsylvania Runners World coverage). The winner was 31-year-old Steve Schaefer of Philadelphia (there were also 21 half-marathon finishers).

  • Another one out there is the "Last Desert" ship-based ultra; this is one of the 4 Deserts 250 km events. Their first event was the first "Gobi March" in 2003; the first "Last Desert" (Antarctica) event was in 2006 when 15 runners completed the first ever 100-mile (160 km) race on King George Island, Deception Island, and at Esperanza, the Argentine base located on Hope Bay at the north end of the Antarctic Peninsula. Since then the event has a total of 250 km at multiple sites, selected based on weather conditions. The Antarctic event happened again in 2007, 2008, and every other year since then. In November 2016 the event had 61 participants. That year there were six planned stages in different locations--each is a loop of varying length that runners had to complete as many times as they could under the time limit (or until the stage was ended due to weather). Oh, all competitors have to carry all of their food, camping gear, etc. (except water) for the entire race. In past races, the winning rank was determined on how early one completes 250 km on the various stages. In 2016 The first stage was a 14 km loop on 21 November on King George Island; stage 2 the next day was a 3 km circuit at Telefon Bay on Deception Island; Stage 3 the following day was at Paradise Bay on the continent; stage 4 on the 24th was a 4 km course at Dorian Bay on Wiencke Island in deep snow; it was cut short after 3 hours due to high winds. The 5th stage was a 3.1 km loop on Danko Island on 25 November--on this day the first four competitors reached the winning 250 km total. The sixth and final stage was on the 26th--a 2.4 km loop on Half Moon Island. All 61 competitors completed the entire course, and eight of them reached the 250 km goal. More links--the official 2016 news from each stage, and the blogs of some of the participants. Oh, one other thing...potential participants must have first completed two of the three other 4 Deserts events (the Atacama Crossing (Chile), the Gobi March (China/Mongolia), and the Sahara Race (Namibia) before being permitted/invited to participate in the Antarctic events. The 2018 series begins with the vessel departure from Ushuaia on 23 November 2018. Ex Ushuaia cost is $12,900.

  • A new promotion in 2015 was the Antarctic portion of the Triple 7 Quest--which actually promised seven marathons on seven continents in seven days (!). Needless to say, Mother Antarctica intervened...their flight to the KGI marathon site on 14 February boomeranged 20 minutes before landing, and the participants didn't make it there until the 16th...the race was the next day. I haven't seen any results, but one of the participants, Kim Pursley of northern Maryland, was featured in this Baltimore Sun article. In 2017 the package was a trip to seven marathons on seven continents in January and February. In 2018 they expanded it to "8 marathons/8 continents/8 days" by adding Zealandia (aka New Zealand and its mostly submerged "continent") to the mix. The 2019 series starts in Auckland on 8 January and ends up on KGI...that race is actually also the White Continent Marathon (and half marathon) on 15 January mentioned above. The other races are also all distinct races organized by/in the various host cities. Registration is $15,995 which includes hotels and Antarctic flights but no other airfare. Unfortunately, the web site doesn't include any information on previous participants or winners. As of October 2018, the 2019 registration is closed and they are promoting the January 2020 events.

  • After seeing this 19 January 2017 Washington Post article, I've learned that there's yet another "7 marathons in 7 days" package venture out there--the World Marathon Challenge, which first happened in January 2015, with 12 full and half marathon participants. By 2018 there were 50 full, half, and wheelchair marathon participants. The 2018 male winner was Irishman Gary Thornton with a total time of 22:26:16, and the female winner was an American, Becca Pizzi, with a total time of 28:32:35. The 2019 event starts with the Antarctic marathon at Novo on 30 January...with races at Cape Town, Perth, Dubai, Lisbon, Cartagena, and Miami on the next six days. The 2019 price is €36,000 which included all flights except getting to Cape Town and getting home from Miami.

  • The apparently defunct Maraton Antartica, organized by a Chilean company, was to be its second year in 2014. That event was to have been on 28 February, but apparently it didn't happen, nor, apparently, did the one scheduled for 1 March 2015, which still appears on the website. It was also to be on KGI, including full and half marathons and a 10k--the next one is on 1 March 2015. The announced price was US$3,400 ex PA, including the flight to KGI, the same-day race, and a same-day return to PA. They were planning on a maximum of 60 registrants; as of late November there were only 5. In 2013 there were about 20 participants in the 3 events, most of whom were from Chile (there were 2 Australians, no North Americans). That race was on 28 February, the day after the aborted White Continent Marathon...and it was also cut short by weather, with no marathon finisher.

As for nongovernmental visitors to Pole, the 2011-12 season was the biggest ever for Pole, as it had been the centennial year of Amundsen's and Scott's arrival at what has been called an "awful place." But folks continue to show up. There are two principal tourist operators--flights from Punta Arenas to Union Glacier and beyond are operated by Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions (ALE) (which has now fully assimilated Adventure Network International/ANI). ALE continues to be actively booking tourists. The other operation is based out of the airstrip at Novo (Novolazarevskaya), a Russian base which is served by flights from Cape Town. It is operated by Antarctic Logistics Centre International (ALCI), which does not in itself offer tour services, but rather it works with other tour agencies such as White Desert, has established a tourist destination "Whichaway Camp" near Novo (no, nowhere near the Whichaway Nunataks) with penguin colonies and mountains nearby. TAC also operates its "Oasis" guesthouse about 10 miles from Novo at Schirmacher Oasis. Novo is a 3000m blue ice runway originally built by ANI near the Russian Novolazarevskaya base, in the past it was known as Blue One, and on some maps you may see it designated as "White Desert." Perhaps the most serious travel agent booking Pole trips is the Chicago-based company Polar Explorers...they are booking trips to Pole via PA/Union Glacier starting at around US$50,000 ex PA.

Here's the current listing of NGO treks/ventures planned for 2018 or later years...(expedition links from previous seasons are on the news archive page; see these links).

Announced for 2018-19:
 
Jenny Davis
a 33-year-old London-based lawyer turned athlete (she completed the 250km Marathon des Sables in 2015), recently announced that she's planning a solo/unsupported/unassisted trek from Hercules Inlet to Pole beginning in November 2018 (subject to securing the remaining funding). Here is an 11 October self.com article which describes the venture, her training, and her nutrition.
Joe Doherty
age 25, a former Boy Scout from Andover, England, has announced the first scout-led Pole expedition for 2018-19. He, along with 27-year-old Oliver Robinson from Portchester, are planning an unsupported trek to Pole beginning at the Messner Start and finishing at Hercules Inlet. The venture, titled Hampshire Scout Expedition (HSX), has been in consideration stages for several years. In February they did a training expedition in Norway. Here's a 12 May BBC News article.
Colin O'Brady
originally from Portland, Oregon, has set off on a solo unassisted/unsupported Antarctica ski crossing, beginning at the Messner Start at the head of the Ronne Ice Shelf (82ºS-65ºW), traveling to Pole and thence to the head of the Ross Ice Shelf at the foot of the Leverett Glacier (which of course implies that he's using the South Pole Traverse route from Pole. Colin has previously completed the "Adventurers Grand Slam" which includes reaching the Seven Summits and traversing to both the North and South Poles (these were "last degree" trips). He was dropped off at the starting point (along with Lou Rudd) by AL&E on 4 November SP time.
Lou Rudd
a British Army captain, has announced a planned unsupported solo crossing by the same route used by Henry Worsley in his fatal crossing attempt in 2015-16--from Berkner Island to the Ross Ice Shelf via Pole. In 2016-17, Lou led the SPEAR 17 expedition of British Army reservists in a ski trek from Hercules Inlet to Pole. Here's an 18 April ExplorersWeb interview with Lou about the venture. Interestingly, while all of his publicity indicated he was starting at Hercules Inlet, he was dropped off at the Messner Start on 4 November. As of 16 November I haven't seen any blog posts from either Lou or Colin, but are they racing?
Eric Larsen
has also jumped into the "speed record" thing...he suddenly announced that he will be tackling the Hercules Inlet-Pole speed record. He's trekked to Pole before, most recently in 2014. Here's a 12 November ExplorersWeb interview with him. The link above is to his blog; this 11 November blog post describes his plans in a recreated press release. He left Boulder, CO on the 13th and arrived in Punta Arenas on the 14th local time.
Masatatsu Abe (Japanese language site)
a 35-year-old Japanese rickshaw driver, is planning a solo unassisted/unsupported walk from the Messner Start in 2018-19, in preparation for a longer venture in 2019-20 when he intends to retrace the steps of the 1910 expedition of Japanese Army lieutenant Nobu Shirase. He's been planning this trek for several years. I see no recent blog posts on his website, but this 15 November 2018 ExplorersWeb interview/story about him and other explorers indicates that he was in Punta Arenas buying supplies. Here is a 2 November ExWeb interview with him.
Clean2Antarctica
is a planned return drive to Pole (745 miles each way) from Union Glacier by Liesbeth and Edwin ter Velde of the Netherlands, using the solar-powered "Solar Voyager," a vehicle towing 2 trailers with 10 solar panels, as well as vacuum solar tubes for melting snow. Here's a June 2018 CompositesWorld article about the venture--it also describes the preliminary seagoing component of the project--a tall ship voyage to Patagonia with a crew of students and young professionals. They set out on the first leg of the trip--from Amsterdam to Tenerife in the Canary Islands aboard the Morganster on 29 August per this DutchNews.nl article.
The All Women Expedition to Antarctica (AWETA)
is a planned venture to be led by Malaysian Sharifah Mazlina (full name Sharifah Mazlina Syed Abdul Kadir), who previously made a ski/sailing trip from Pole to Patriot Hills in 2004-05, guided by Mike Sharp. This time she will be leading 5 other women on a trek from Union Glacier to Pole beginning in November 2018. One of the goals is to retrieve a time capsule she left at Pole in 2004...while leaving another one to be uncovered by future generations of Malaysian women, perhaps in 2050. Two news articles--this one from This Week in Asia describes her 2004-05 venture, and this one from the Sun daily has more details about the training and the upcoming trip. Not much detail available from the website...the FAQ is presented in Malay graphics.
Baz (Barry John) Gray
is a 26-year veteran of the Royal Marines Commando currently living in southwest Devon, England. His current plan is a 2-season venture: in 2018-19 he will ski alone/unsupported/unassisted from Hercules Inlet to Pole, and in the following season he plan is an 1800-mile solo ski crossing of Antarctica from the north end of Berkner Island to McMurdo Sound, via the Shackleton Glacier and Pole (note...Shackleton's 1907-09 expedition used the Beardmore Glacier to get to the plateau). He'll be supported by AL&E out of Union Glacier...so of course they would need to pick him on Ross Island at the end of the 2019-2020 trek. Not all of his website (such as the map) has been updated to reflect his travel plans announced on the home page, but he has established a couple of fundraising sites.
Jan Meek
from the UK, announced in January that she was planning to lead a 5-woman team, dubbed the "Polar Maidens," to the South Pole in 2018-19. Still not much information from her about her detailed plans, other than she plans to take "the 200-mile trek that Robert Scott didn't survive in 1912" in this 2 January Richmond & Twickenham Times article. Jan, who completed a trek to the North Pole in 2008, will be 73 years old when this happens. The most recent info on this project comes from this July 2018 Times of India article which does not elaborate on the expedition plans...but it does say that the trip will include a total of six women--including two from India--Madhabilata Mitra (age 36) of Kolkota and Tanvi Buch (24) from Mumbai. The other women are Caroline Gereaty (60) from the UK, Aileen Crean O'Brien from Ireland, and Canadian Denise Martin. Jan Meek is 74. Aileen Crean O'Brien is the granddaughter of Irish explorer Tom Crean who participated in both of Scott's expeditions as well as Shackleton's 1914 failed venture...see this 20 September Irish Independent (Dublin) news article, which describes the venture as a 150-mile traverse.
Eirliani Abdul Rahman
from Singapore, still hopes to be the first woman from that nation to visit Pole--her plans now are to do it in 2018-19. She'd originally proposed this for 2016-17, to be guided by Sarah McNair-Landry, but that didn't happen. And there's not much more about her plans other than media such as this 9 August Straits Times article. In March and April 2017 she was training in Canada, and more recently she's been dragging truck tires around. She now works for the Kailash Satyarthi Children's Foundation, and she plans to move to the US to work in their Washington, DC office.

Planned or possible in future seasons:
 
Southpole2020
is a 2019-2020 expedition being planned by Wendy Searle, a mother of four from Salisbury in the UK. It is to be a 400-mile trip from the Ross Ice Shelf "coast of Antarctica" up a never-before-climbed glacier to the plateau and thence to Pole. Still unnamed is the experienced polar guide as well as the rest of her team. In May 2018, Wendy completed a 27-day crossing of the Greenland ice sheet guided by Lou Rudd. And here's an interesting guest blog post she wrote before the Greenland crossing about "how to go to the toilet in the Arctic" and other relevant topics.
Olivia Gourley
currently 14, from Stewiake, Nova Scotia, is planning a Pole trip in 2019-20 along with her 41-year-old father Chris. Not a lot of details yet, but the two intend to start from the Union Glacier base and ski to Pole alone and unsupported/unresupplied. At age 11 Olivia had major spinal surgery to deal with scoliosis (abnormal spine curvature), but the following year she was fit enough for a 5-day hike with her father in high-altitude Peru. More here from this 22 August Halifax Chronicle-Herald article.
Ryan Newburn
an 26-year-old adventurer from Papillon, MO (a St. Louis suburb) has announced plans for a 600-mile trek from Union Glacier to Pole in 2018-19. He's been quite active in the past, having completed the 1900-mile Te Araroa trail across New Zealand in February 2016. There's actually nothing yet on his website about the planned trip, but he had been discussing it in 2016 on his public Facebook page, and more details are in this 27 June Papillon Times article. In July and August he was spending time in Canada, Iceland, and Greenland, but no new mentions of the Antarctic trip. I'd say this is doubtful unless he posts more info soon.
Kate Leeming
an experienced long-distance Australian cyclist and tennis pro) has proposed her South Pole bicycle trip for several years now. Earlier this year she seemed to be thinking about 2018-19...the Pole is still on her bucket list but not on her schedule for the coming year. Her most recent training for this was a long cycling venture in northwestern Canada in early 2017. Old plans called for her to be supported (presumably still on snowmobiles) by expedition leader Eric Philips and filmmakers Claudio Von Planta and Phil Coates. She would be riding the first-of-its-kind 2-wheel drive bike, built by Steve Christini in Philadelphia...it uses a series of gears and shafts to power the front wheel. In 2013 she trained with it in Svalbard. Her route is uncertain, but it could be the South Pole Traverse route from McMurdo via the Leverett Glacier. This photo from her web site shows her bicycle; the silver tube visible on the right side of the front fork contains one of the drive shafts which transfers power to the front wheel.

Here are my records of the nongovernmental expeditions (skiers/hikers/kiters/drivers/sledders etc...) for: 2017-18, 2016-17, 2015-16, 2014-15, 2013-14, 2012-13, 2011-12, 2010-11, 2009-10, 2008-09, 2007-08, 2006-07, 2005-06, 2004-05, 2003-04, 2002-03, 2001-02, 2000-01 and 1999-2000. Keep in mind that the older expedition web sites tend to disappear, although I keep many of the links around for historical interest. Note that the 2000-01 Russian "Millennium Expedition" (skydiving/ballooning) is covered on a separate page.

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