New adventures afoot...

New adventures afoot...
where in the world...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Well, my time at South Pole is done.  It was high time to get out to somewhere warm with more than a handful of colors (and textures, smells, feels, sounds, tastes, etc) to inspire the imagination.  I arrived back in New Zealand on 2 November and hightailed it to the west coast of the south island... to the "Beach Bach".  Aptly named it was my haven for four days of sleeping, eating, dozing in the sun, eating, getting into a bed pre-warmed by an electric blanked (New Zealand's version of bedtime heaven), watching the waves, napping... it was awesome. 

Kitchen area of the Beach Bach

View out the kitchen window

The most amazing sweet warm bed upstairs in the bach

The view out the bedroom and effectively from the bed... ahhhhhhhhhhhh

Then drove up the coast to see Karamea and walk the first bit of the Heaphy Track... an otherworldly landscape of palms, tree ferns, sand, and the lushness that is New Zealand coastal forest.  Again, awesome.

Just one of the amazing west coast beaches to be found...

Tree ferns!

Wee ferns!  (well, this one really wasn't so wee-- about 5' across... but the rhyme sounded good!)

Wee moss on forest floor.  Just be glad that I'm not posting all of the macro plant photos I took.... geeking out about the small stuff was a hugely satisfying part of my vacation!

More ferns!

oh gosh, still going...

Nikau Palms, the most southerly palm species to occur in the world... they're beautiful.

Last one, enjoy them while they last!

The start (or end) of the Heaphy Track... it was an otherworldly environment with all the lushness on so many different levels.

Look for the small stuff...

Then Robert arrived in NZ, and we promptly decamped to Australia just in time to catch the solar eclipse just north of Cairns.

The astronomer-photographer getting everything just right for the totality at our beach command center just north of Palm Cove

The totality as seen through my wimpy point and shoot.  It was cool how it was dark where we were but you can see where some of the sun is still shining to the left of the photo...

A very happy astronomer-photographer (and his groupie) after a successfully-viewed full solar eclipse totality.

Then we went hiking in the Daintree Rainforest, and skipped down the coast enjoying some quiet time at an amazing B&B overlooking the sea at Yorkey's Knob, did a little diving on the outer Barrier Reef, went sailing in the Whitsundays, and had a 4x4 'adventure' tour of Fraser Island, the world's largest sand island.

Part of the rainforest schtick is that many trees develop buttress roots-- helps them get more oxygen in the typically saturated soils.  May also help w/ support in the shallow soils but apparently it's more about oxygen. 
More cool roots.

A forest dragon.  They don't move much which allowed us to get great close up photos.  It's about 3' long with tail.

Zen spot in an otherwise hostile environment... in Queensland just about everything will hurt you...

The view from our balcony at A Villa Gail B&B, Yorkey's Knob.

One of the amazing beaches seen during our sailing trip through the Whitsunday Islands.
Green ants (taste like limes according to Robert) and the leaf nests they make... standing on guard ready to attack me if I got any closer...

Our ship, the Solway Lass, over 100 years old (and still solid!)

Crazy squiggly bark on a eucalyptus tree, Fraser Island

Happy on Fraser Island
Crazy feeding/filter balls from different sized crabs, Fraser Island

One staghorn fern, out of about 10 other similarly massive ones that were all perched on a huge tree.  It's about43' across at least...
 Then we finished out at Lake Tekapo back in New Zealand for some amazing dark sky star watching.  Google for "Fraser Gunn Astrophotography" to get a look at what we were seeing... he's a friend of Robert's that does a lot of observing and photographing of the night sky.

Lake Tekapo... by twilight.

Heading off to a couple of weeks at Mesopotamia Station, a sheep station (or ranch as we call it in the states) in the high foothills of NZ's southern alps.... then finally back to the states in early January.  Yahoo for all of it!

Monday, October 22, 2012

The sun is up and it's time to go!  Spring has sprung and it's crazy time, getting ready for the influx of new folks and packing up to end our stay.  Tonight is the final harvest of greenhouse produce, it's looking so good in there it'll be sad to see it all go.

A final view of the chamber before we eat it all!  Aren't he orange nasturtiams (left in photo) awesome!  The flowers taste so good...

Some final touches for the greenhouse, an awesome painting by Mel Ordway-Cook, one of our chefs.  It'll add much needed color outside of the greenhouse, directly across the hallway.

Hope to post some photos of The Last Harvest and related festivities.  The last Farmer's Market will be this Friday, maybe even after our first summer crew arrives... they won't get to see the greenhouse in action, but they'll get to enjoy the fruits of the labor.

One more cool thing, have done a couple of Skype sessions with schools back in the states-- talking about hydroponics, what we grow here, and of course about how cold it is outside.  We're growing pretty much the same things that the Alpine Middle School is growing in Alpine, Texas.  Can't wait to see their school garden in person!

Hope to post more info about the greenhouse in coming days but for now there's a link to the right that has some basic info about the chamber and the systems used to grow the plants.  Cheers!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

OK, so this is weird but someone has decided to impersonate me.  You know you're famous when... What a laugh (sort of)!  To set the record straight...

The impersonator has posted themselves, username AntarcticaAma, on the site IAmA/reddit (I don't really know what these things are, a friend of mine just sent me the link because he works with me and knows that this isn't my doing)... and this person has put themselves out there saying they run the greenhouse at the South Pole and is answering questions about the station, life here, etc-- but this person is a FRAUD. 

Their answers are incorrect, incomplete, misleading, and they don't even know how to spell or even spell the contractor's name that is their supposed employer.  So those of you that have commented on reddit that the person's proof seems false... well, my blog is real-- though not a site-- and AntarcticaAma isn't the person that's actually here running the greenhouse.

If you read this and actually do have questions about life here, the greenhouse, etc, and want real answers, please ask and I'll do my best to respond... since just recently I learned how to find the 'reply' function to answer peoples' comments.

So, happy fraud-busting and may we all find a lesson somewhere in here about believing (or not) what you see, read, hear about, etc...

:) jos

And PS, if anyone knows how to post this info on IAmA or reddit so AntarcticaAma can be exposed for a fraud (and so I can dissociate myself from their answers/representations of life here) please let me know!  Thanks!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The sun is up!  The end is really coming, the cycles really do continue to, well, cycle.  The amazing laser horizion shot was taken by Kris Amundsen at about 3am one morning a couple weeks ago.  Pretty stunning.  But now, after a several-day storm of high winds and white-out conditions, things have cleared and now we actually see the sun above the horizon.  Missed all the crazy refraction and green/blue flashes to the white-out but nevertheless it is quite nice to see the lovely rosy/golden glow on things-- as the photo below is trying to show.  Plus a snow-scape fresh from the storm before the sun starts to ablate the snow (that's evaporation of snow/ice rather than actual melting...) 

You can actually see what it looks like here in real-time via the NOAA webcam on top of the ARO building (seen reflecting the new sunlight in this picture).  The webcam looks back at the station.  Check it out!

Some folks have asked what exactly is it we do down here for our 'lives', in addition to our work of ultimately supporting the scientific research that goes on.  Well, what follows is a smattering of leisure-time activities but by no means all examples.  Just a bunch of fun, really.  Enjoy.

Bingo is a regular event during the winter... this was earlier on in the season and the theme was "Skua"... come dressed or somehow utilizing our Skua resources (Skuas are scavenger gulls that live closer to the coasts... so our Skua embodies the concept of "don't need it, leave it; need it, take it", one person's trash is another's treasure sort of thing.  In the winter there's a room dedicated to Skua and various boxes for Skua toiletries... so here Jono wears his skua-ed pants and tshirt while kneeling to use JP's skua-ed dental floss...

We play radio darts with other stations around the continent-- someone has a turn, throws a dart, and reports that over the radio to the stations on line.  Of course everyone is honest about what they shoot... bullseyes and all.  The story goes that one British station 'played' for years, kept winning, and in the end no one had actually ever touched a dart!  Or so the story goes...

Cynthia points out her just placed, I mean thrown, bullseye... clear evidence of her skill and prowess as a dart player.

We were able to watch the EuroVision finals (not in real-time though of course), and voted and everything.  We did ont agree with the official outcome, I think we put the Russian Grandmothers on top though Sven the Swede was proud of his country's claim to fame.  This was a major effort in cross-cultural education for us Norteamericanos... they've got a good thing going in EuroVision.  Here Carlos and Sven give their best Jedward imitation... they need a little work on hair and costume though...
Jedward in all their glory...

Music is an important part of the experience down here and though there aren't too many musicians on station this winter we had an open mike night... with synthesized DJ music, three bands, some spoken word/poems, and over all a really good time, even some dancing!

There are some after-hours culinary adventuring... several creative efforts by Cynthia Chiang including these 'breadgehogs' (helped by Jase Grimm one of our chefs).

There was a Yuri's Night celebration-- occurred on all seven continents, a world-wide remembrance of Yuri Gegarin and his momentus first flight into space and the whole space exploration movement.

The B3 lounge, aka Club Deep Freeze.  Various space-themed attire was highly encouraged and well represented.

Can't have a space party without a space craft (and the token aliens...)

Preparing for take off...

For the 4th of July the VMF (vehicle maintenance facility) put on a pig roast barbeque... with their custom-made grill just outside of the heated shop building, but inside the protective arch (no wind but just as cold as outside... which is on the other side of the big doors to the right of the picture)

Meat on the spit.

Cap'n Jack Sharp, VMF supervisor; lead roaster, carver, and pirate.

The VMF cleaned out their shop to accommodate the party, but didn't get rid of everything-- like the LMC tracked vehicle behind the beverage sled.  In this bay of the shop, they set up Corn Hole, with boards painted by our talented Mel Ordway-Cook, one of our aptly-named chefs

An excellent bird'e eye view of the shop... corn hole was in the left-hand bay while below here was horseshoes... complete with sand pits and smack talk.

Shawn Duheme our crafty mechanic set up a home made cotton candy contraption (again with art by Mel, we're so lucky!)  A heat gun warmed up a spinning metal cylinder that once you poured dyed sugar into it, would heat the sugar till it melted and streamed up into the cardboard casing, to be twirled up onto a stick.  Cle-ver!

Robert is amazed.

We had a special guest, one of Cap'n Jack's faves...

THere's a fair amount of sports activity that goes on... here we see a volleyball game in process (some of the people are blocked out but this was only a 2 on 2 game of the Sunday 'pro league'... while the 'all comers' games are on Thurdsay nights... we've had a few six on six games here recently-- great to see folks come out.  The exercise gym above the full court is heavily used as well, various groups doing P90X, Insanity, TurboFire, yoga, and personal programs... it's a fit bunch this winter! 

Hockey with home made sticks was popular for a while before a few injuries set in.  There's also relatively regular basketball, dodge ball, and badminton.

Every winter there is a design contest for the next year's Pole Marker-- which is placed during an official ceremony on the first of the year.  That is during the summer seasons so the winterovers aren't acually present to see the placement of what they consider to be 'their' pole marker... but that's what makes it special to have both crews be part of the marking of the geographic pole.  The placement changes each year due to the continual movement of the ice so that adds to the 'special' feeling of the marker ceremony.  This is the marker made last winter by the machinist Steele Diggles (stunning acid transfers of the two famous "south pole achieved" photos-- Scott's party here on the one side and the Amundsen group on the reverse).  This marker was placed at the Pole on 1 January 2012.  The new marker, being made currently from a design by this winter's machinist Derek Aboltins will be revealed to the public on 1 January 2013.

Drive-In Theatre has been very popular this winter, with a couple of our two-day weekends (very rare) packed full with movies shown on the 'big screen' (sheets tacked to the rear wall of the gym). We move couches and recliner chairs into the gym and they galley sets up a nice table of goodies (even 'fresh' cold UHT milk and warm cookies for one of them!)

We also had a pool tournament-- about 24 people participated!  Two leagues, two matches per league per week... went on for a few months.  A nice way to get the crowd out, interact with folks you don't often see in the course of your work (even though we all live in the same building, between 50 people we all actually work quite independently and don't always see folks from other departments or shifts very often depending on peoples' schedules... when they eat, if they come out for community events, etc.)

The final match...

And the final winner, Greg Cocco.

Most recently we had our Sunrise Dinner which, in a neat departure from the regular fancy dress up and dining tradition, was 50's Diner themed, with Grease showing in the background during the meal.

Menus as place mats, with kiddie activities on the back and crayons provided at the table!

Johnny in full bus-hop, waiter attire

And the galley crew:  Mel, Jase, and Kasia (Spencer is just peeking over Jase's shoulder...)
 Good times in a great place.