Katy's South Pole Journal 28 February, 1995
The South Pole station has been closed for over two weeks now, and McMurdo is closed as well, so there won't be any U.S. planes flying over Antarctica until our midwinter "airdrop" in June.
Winter didn't waste any time arriving, either: for the past week we've had winds averaging about 20 mph, which fill every open space with drifting snow. Even on the flat polar plateau, the snow collects into dolphin-shaped drifts called sastrugi. They're beautiful, but they can make the walk to work a real challenge: sometimes they're up to 2 ft high!
The wind also gives new meaning to the word "windchill". Today the ambient temperature is -46 C, but once you add the wind, the temperature "feels like" -77 C, which is about -106 F! Yikes! We're only halfway there, though: soon, the Ambient temperature will be -100F! After that, we don't even want to think about windchill any more!
Here are some questions from Jason Snell:
>What is your daily routine? Well, every day is different, but I'll tell you about a typical work day. Sundays are our only days off, anyway, and they're usually spent reading or playing volleybag! So. I get up later than most people, about 0900. By the time I walk out to the Clean Air Facility at 0930, Jeff has already done the daily checks for all of our analyzers. I look around the horizon for my first weather observation, sweep the snow off the porch and stairs, and then go inside to see how Jeff is doing. Each day we have different calibrations to do or reports to write, but every day I type in the weather observation and then do a Pollak observation. The Pollak is a "Condensation Nucleus Counter" and I'll tell you more about it in a later message, but we use it to count the number of particles in the air. At 1100 I do some Dobson observations: this is how we measure how much total ozone there is in the atmosphere. Then it's 1200 and time for lunch!
Lunch is fun because it's the first time I see everybody each day, and we all sit at two big tables. We tease each other a lot, and catch up on the news, and see if anyone needs help with their projects in the afternoon. For instance, there are several thousand pounds of food waiting to be unpacked and stored, and it would take Emily all year to do it by herself, so every afternoon we have "food moving parties" for an hour or two.
The food is WONDERFUL! We still have plenty of freshies, but even after we run out of fresh fruit and vegetables, we'll have fresh homemade bread and yogurt to keep us going. We've also gone through more cases of Oreos than I can count! Like they say: "Antarctica is a harsh continent".
At 1300 I have to be back at work because that's midnight, in Coordinated Universal Time. That's when I mark the charts, and change tapes or diskettes, and do another Dobson observation, and another weather observation.
The rest of the afternoon is dedicated to special projects, like monitoring balloon flights (another way to measure ozone), or taking snow samples, or cleaning, or sweeping snow, or boxing up things we'll have to ship out next year, or doing outside chores before it gets too cold.
Before heading in for dinner, I do another Pollak observation and send (via Email) data and messages to our NOAA/CMDL headquarters in Colorado. A big part of my job is keeping all of the scientists back home informed about their projects here.
After dinner I watch a movie or read for a while, then I exercise in the weight room or play Volleybag with some friends. Then it takes a couple of hours to answer all of my Email messages (I love it!) and then I usually stay up until 0200 or so, reading and writing. That's why I don't get up until 0900!
>How much contact do you have with the outside world? Well, we have Email, and there's a way we can use the satellites to make telephone calls once per week, or we can use Ham radio.
>Do you receive TV via satellite? No, not at the South Pole. They do in McMurdo, and it is possible to get the connection here, but we just don't have the bandwith, and the satellites are only visible for a few hours each day.
>How do you get along with one another? To tell you the truth, better than I expected! We seem to be one big family, complete with some very interesting personalities. It's neat to see everyone eat together, and pitch in to get things done without even being asked. People are organizing social events from dance and martial arts lessons to french classes, bread baking, pilot's ground school, and a myriad of card games.
Well, that's enough from me, for now. Thanks, Jason, for the questions! Take care, Katy McNitt LTJG, NOAA