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


construction and demo plans for McMurdoA bit more information about the McMurdo upgrade...NSF released the draft environmental impact evaluation in February, although I just recently found it. Lots of detail about schedule, planning, and the specific projects--as well as discussion of future projects not officially part of the approved AIMS project. Here's the link. The graphic at right is from the report...note that it differs a bit from some of the earlier information I've seen. For example, the VEOC is depicted with a rectangular footprint, whereas earlier preliminary design drawings showed it as a T-shaped structure. I'll add more details as I wade through the environmental statement (which the US presented at the recent 1-11 July Antarctic Treaty meeting in Prague).

A side note...last year there was NO tanker delivery to McMurdo...only the one cargo vessel. In 2019-20 there will be a tanker, as well as TWO cargo vessels. One will be the traditional vessel doing a return trip from Port Hueneme...the other will be a one-way southbound charter to deliver supplies, materials, and construction equipment for the AIMS project.

IceCube is getting an update! In June, NSF formally approved funding for a $37 million install seven new and deeper strings near the center of the existing array. This will enable the detection of lower-energy overlap with the detection ranges of other neutrino detectors around the world. The project won't actually happen until 2022-23, but preliminary planning last summer involved the digging out and inspection of the IceCube drill camp modules which have been stored on the berm. Several new detector types will be used, including some being tested for a still-out-there IceCube-Gen2 project. Coverage from IceCube includes 2 16 July press releases--"NSF mid-scale award sets off the first extension of IceCube" and "The IceCube Upgrade: An international effort", as well as this article from the Wisconsin State Journal.

coldest temperature so far this yearWhile much of the United States was dealing with hot triple-digit (ºF) temperatures, South Pole saw its first triple-digit temperature of the winter on 18 July (left). This was the coldest it got, and the -100 lasted less than a day.

Surprise visitors...the international team "One More Orbit" overflew Pole on 9 July as a part of their record-setting globe circumnavigation over the poles. The 8-person crew aboard a Gulfstream G650ER jet started and finished from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and completed their trip in 46 hours 40 minutes 22 seconds, including 3 "pit-stop" refuelings in Punta Arenas, Mauritius, and Kazakhstan. They beat the previous record by almost 6 hours...and the crew was the first to include 2 women--another record. Here's an MSN news article as well as the project website, which includes a map of their flight route. While over Pole, some of the winterovers had an opportunity to speak with the pilot over radio.

Interestingly, there will be another overflight in November...postponed from last summer, by pilot Robert DeLaurentis in his much modified Gulfstream Turbo 900 aircraft. The project, titled "Flying through Life," will not be a record-setting attempt...rather a 3-month project involving stope in many countries as well as overflights of both poles.

midwinter greeting cardMidwinters Day is happened! Technically it occurred at 0354 22 June South Pole time...some of the traditional midwinter events (such as showing "The Shining" happened last weekend. The big midwinter dinner happened on the 22nd. At right is the midwinter greeting card that the station sent out to other polar's a larger image along with more info/photos about the card, midwinter, and the dinner. The tradition of sharing midwinter greetings is an old one...somehow the greetings have become much more elaborate since we sent out this one in June 1977.

Otherwise, there is a fair amount of construction news for the upcoming summer...mostly at McMurdo, although the Palmer pier replacement project is scheduled to get underway. Pole, the first phase of the "blue building" lift (ARO?) is scheduled as well as upgrades to the kitchen exhaust system. At McM, Dorm 203 (formerly dorms 203-205 are scheduled to be demo'd at the end of the summer along with several warehouses, and new lodging begins in January near building 175. During the 2020 winter, NSF will move from the Chalet to Building 165, as the Chalet will become a "social space" to replace the eventual demo of the Coffee House and Southern bar. There also will be a fair amount of excavation and blasting for site preparation and aggregate production. More on this later.

a PHI helicopter during the 2018-19 seasonA new USAP helicopter support contract awarded to Air Center Helicopters on 29 April, after a 1-year solicitation process. The new company, located in Burleson, TX (a south suburb of Fort Worth) is replacing Petroleum Helicopters, Inc. (PHI), the Louisiana company which has provided program helicopter support ever since replacing the Navy's VXE-6 after the 1995-96 season. Interestingly, PHI filed for bankruptcy in March of 2019. The November 2018 photo at left depicts a PHI helicopter supporting groundwater research in the Dry Valleys (more information and links).

historic black hole imageOld news perhaps (well, millions of light years), but on 10 April a consortium of observatories and organizations released an actual image of a black hole (right) created from observations taken in April 2017. One of these observatories in the Event Horizon Telescope consortium was...the SPT at Pole. While the actual black hole itself was below the Pole horizon, valuable observations were taken of a nearby variable quasar which was used as a calibrator source for the black hole observations. The story is here. the new Polar Security Cutter

On 23 April, it was officially announced that a contract for a new heavy icebreaker (aka "Polar Security Cutter") had been awarded to VT Halter Marine Inc., of Pascagoula, Mississippi. The price is $746 million, with options for two additional heavy icebreakers (if approved by Congress) that would bring the total price to $1.94 billion. Construction on the first vessel is planned for 2021 with delivery in 2024, although the contract includes financial incentives for earlier delivery. There are too many news reports and press releases with financial and technical details, so I've addressed and linked to them here, and will update this page as needed (updated 17 May) (I'll continue to update that page as appropriate). The conceptual image at left was provided by VT Halter Marine in their 7 April press release.

Polar Star in drydockAnd in other icebreaker news, in late April the Polar Star was headed to the Bay Area for another yard period at Mare Island Dry Dock, LLC. And on 30 April she was maneuvered from Berth 12 into Dry Dock #3, as seen in the photo at left. That photo was one of several posted on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star Facebook page...and anyone should be able to see those photos here.

the Vehicle and Equipment Operations CenterI've mentioned before that the first part of the major McMurdo modernization known as AIMS was funded in of the first projects to be constructed will be the new heavy shop, otherwise known as the Vehicle & Equipment Operations Center (VEOC) (right). I've dug into the details about AIMS as well as about the "pre-AIMS" projects that are already underway. Here's what is and will be happening.

And there's also that "polar security cutter" project, otherwise known as new heavy icebreakers for the Coast Guard. This 1 April article (thanks to Russell Rapp for sharing) indicates that the contract for the new icebreaker could be awarded as soon as April 2019, and it also clarifies what the 2019 budget means--that budget appropriated $665 million for the first heavy icebreaker (per this U.S. Naval Institute article), but it turns out that heavy icebreakers are more expensive than that. The 1 April article includes an interview with Coast Guard Commandant ADM Karl Schultz, who pointed out that the first of the three planned icebreakers could cost between $925 and $940 million, that additional money for the first icebreaker was also available from previous appropriations, and that the second and third heavy icebreakers would be cheaper. So what contract might soon be awarded? Here's the RFP which was originally issued on 14 February 2018. Needless to say most of the technical details are classified, but the main takeaway is that (per Amendment 10) the technical proposal was due on 24 August 2018 and the price proposal was due on 16 October. There are reportedly 5 bidders, and if you are curious about how to build an icebreaker, many of the amendments include interesting technical Q&A.

Lots o stuff has been going on since I last updated things here. New stuff at Pole...the sun "officially" set at the equinox, which happened when the Sun crossed the equator into the northern hemisphere at 1558 on 21 March. But as usual, it hung around a bit longer, until 1330 on the 23rd. Which conveniently happened to be the same day as the sunset dinner. Other new northern hemisphere stuff--there's an auction of Antarctic surplus stuff this month--online, with the goods actually at Port Hueneme. Here's the website..

the 2019 Pole markerAnd it's time for the annual update for the Pole winterover statistics, as well as a closer look at the 2019 Pole marker and how it was fabricated!

Speaking of icebreakers...old news perhaps except that this was just announced...on 10 February the Polar Star experienced a FIRE on board as they headed north, 650 miles from McMurdo. One of many engineering casualties on this still-not-over deployment. Fortunately, the fire was extinguished after about two hours, and no injuries were reported. Here is the 28 February Coast Guard press release as well as this 1 March gCaptain article.

More news about the budget bill that was signed into law on 15 February, as it relates to science and the polar reasons. NSF's total budget was increased 3.7% to $8.075 billion (AAAS Science news article), which includes $103 million to begin work on "renovations to its facilities in the Antarctic" (otherwise known as AIMS project) initially at McMurdo. Here's the NSF press release, the AIMS project site, as well as my coverage of one of the first projects, the IT&C Primary Operations Facility, now underway and with its own webcam. Also, this 22 February Anchorage Daily News article has additional information about the Coast Guard icebreaker project.

The Polar Star in WellingtonMore marine news...first, on its way north from McMurdo, the Polar Star made a first-ever port call in Wellington...arriving on Monday the 18th. It was scheduled to leave on the 22nd after giving the ship's crew some liberty in New Zealand's capital city. Two news articles with photos--from and (thanks Russell Rapp and Chris Rock). But there's right is a great photo of the Polar Star with Wellington in the background....this photo is from USAP veteran/2008 Palmer winterover Carla she is sitting in the Captain's chair on the bridge. Carla's photos were taken by Ola Thorsen.

Elsewhere at sea on the other side of the continent, the Nathaniel B. Palmer has been involved in the multinational Thwaites Glacier Collaboration project...but it was diverted to Rothera to allow one of the people on board to be landed and medevaced by air to Punta Arenas. Here is the NSF press release. Also, Rolling Stone reporter Jeff Goodell was aboard and was blogging about the cruise here. And further east, on the other side of the Antarctic Peninsula in the Weddell Sea, the South African icebreaker SA Agulhas II was headed for another project researching the Larsen C Ice Shelf when it first searched for Shackleton's sunken ship Endurance. Alas, the AUV (mini submarine) sent down to explore the sea lost. So no data. Here is the BBC News coverage. one of the BAS AUV'sAt right, a photo of one of the AUV's from the expedition website.

From Washington DC...a couple of news tidbits below the headlines...the passage of the spending bill means there will be no further shutdowns of the National Science Foundation this fiscal year, and also, the Coast Guard received $655 million for continuing funding of the first "Polar Security Cutters" (aka icebreaker)! There is also $20 million for long-lead material procurement for a second new heavy icebreaker. Here's the U.S. Naval Institute article (thanks Russell Rapp!).

the last of the summer people board the aircraftAnd the winter has begun at Pole! The last flight of the season headed north on Thursday (Valentines Day!) leaving 42 souls at the bottom of the world for 8 months (photo from Sheryl Seagraves). A few Pole statistics...there were about 78 LC-130 flights; meanwhile the three South Pole Traverses (SPoT) delivered 313,891 gallons of fuel and 40,000 lbs. of cargo, while 40,000 lbs. of steel was shipped north.

And ship offload is about 0200 on 10 February the cargo vessel Ocean Giant left the ice pier (without icebreaker assistance!) and headed north (remember, no fuel tanker this year). A few statistics: 10.5 million pounds of cargo were delivered and 9.1 million pounds of cargo (retrograde, science equipment and samples, and trash) were shipped north.

Dick Bowers and Paul SipleSome sad news. Richard (Dick) Bowers passed away on 29 January 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana at the age of 90. He was the Navy Seabee construction engineer in charge of constructing the original South Pole Station in 1956-57. In the photo (right) he is at left with scientific leader Paul Siple at the first Pole Christmas party, which was held in the science building on 23 December, as the first group of construction personnel were to leave on the 24th. The two men had celebrated the previous Christmas in a drafty tent on Hut Point, where LTJG Bowers had also directed some of the 1955-56 construction of McMurdo. He had wintered at McM in 1956. Here is his obituary. I was fortunate to have met Dick several times at Antarctic reunion gatherings, he was a great person. The photo at right is by Dick Prescott from the USAP photo library (link to original).

Ocean Giant at the ice pierOn about 30 January the cargo vessel Ocean Giant showed up at McMurdo, and ship offload is now in full swing. At left, a webcam photo from the 31st, after McMurdo got a dusting of snow. Previously, on 25 January: the Polar Star docked at the ice pier (below right) (check the webcams to see what is going on now). The cargo vessel Ocean Giant should be appearing in a couple of days. As for the tanker...well, there will not be one this year. Thanks to tankage capacity, the wind turbines, and energy conservation, this will be the first season since before IGY when no tanker will show up. Back in the day (50s/60s) before there was enough tankage, the program would require several tankers to keep McMurdo and the inland stations well supplied.

Polar Star21 January...the seasons are changing. The NGO "tourist" season is over, as the last of the ski trekkers (Masatatsu Abe) had arrived on the 17th. By the 21st the ALE camp was closed up, and the last staff and clients flew back to Union Glacier on a Basler per this Mattieu Tordeur blog post (in French). Earlier, Mattieu had high praise for the ALE camp's cook reporting that Zach had previously wintered at Pole. Hmmm...I'm thinking this must be sous chef Zach Kinberg who wintered in 2017. And at McMurdo, the shipping season is underway. The Polar Star has been sighted off McMurdo...yes, "despite breakdowns and missed pay, Polar Star reaches Antarctica" per the 18 January Maritime Executive article of that title (thanks Chris Rock and Russell Rapp). As for the breakdowns, yes...electrical problems including a couple of electrical outages, failure of one of the two evaporator (fresh water making) systems, and (as happened last year) another propeller shaft seal leak which required divers to make repairs. Here's a 22 January article, and a 29 January KVAL TV (Eugene, OR) report about the icebreaker's latest difficulties.

There have been a number of news articles in the past couple of weeks about the rapid melting of Antarctic ice, including this brief 14 January Washington Post article that says "Antarctica is melting more than six times faster than it did in the 1980s." The source of this article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences first released on 8 January. It is open access, so have a look at the basic findings!

new radome at leftAt Pole, one of the biggest efforts is the upgrade of the DSCS satcom systems (more photos/info). A new radome was erected next to the RF building, it is being fitted out, and the module installed next to the 9-meter GOES terminal is being fitted out so that that dish can be used for DSCS. This past weekend saw the fourth annual "berming man" work project/party...otherwise known as part of the continuing effort to make unwanted stuff on the berm go away. Other stuff being made to go away (perhaps)--a few more pieces of the summer camp area. Discussion and planning was underway to safely demo some buried structures, including "Chades" (the head module that once was surrounded by Hypertats), inside Building 68and the Building 68 substation, which may still be providing power to some summer camp facilities. At left, one of my July 2008 photos inside the Building 68 substation from when I was asbuilting things...access was from a roof hatch and down the ladder. Not many folks have been in here since.

rock drill at work on the earth station siteMeanwhile, the construction activities underway at McMurdo include a significant project to install new buried fiber optic clearance for the new Ross Island Earth Station uphill from T-site and west of the wind turbines. This project will ultimately replace Black Island as the primary satellite terminal. The photo at left (from David Huntsman) shows a rock drill at work on the site--Crater Hill is in the background. The effort this season is involving 648 holes in support of six blasts. More than 55,000 cubic yards of material (soil, permafrost, and rock) must be removed from the hilltop for the foundations and to provide clear visibility. Here's a general site plan...the project details are available here. The earth station will access satellites to be launched by a NOAA partnership which "includes the NOAA collaboration with the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT). EUMETSAT will launch a series of enhanced satellites beginning in Fall 2021 that will outstrip the current capacity of the present BITF satellite communications infrastructure supporting the collaboration between NSF and NOAA." Another major project just getting started is the new Network Operations Center. SSC addition constructionI've described this project here before; the first phase involves an addition to the south side of the SSC. Site clearance is currently underway, while construction is scheduled to begin in February. Because of the anticipated interest in the project, an additional McMurdo webcam is keeping an eye on right is a sample (13 January) image; the link is here.

1 January sea ice mapIt's January...and that means that the McMurdo shipping season is already getting underway. First, at the end of December the cargo vessel Ocean Giant was in Port Hueneme loading nearly 7 million tons of cargo, including 498 containers, as described in this article. The vessel departed on 3 January; by the 13th it was more than halfway to Lyttelton, where it will call on the 19th. As for the ice conditions, on 3 January the NSIDC reported that the Antarctic sea ice extent on New Years Day was 2.11 million square miles, the lowest extent observed in the 40-year satellite record. The extent map is at left, here is the full report. What this means...I've heard a report from the Polar Star that they have only 16 miles of ice to cut through, compared to 40+ miles last year. As of the evening of 12 January, Polar Star was working at 77º-42'S, well south of Cape Royds and several miles west of Tent Island. As for the tanker, it doesn't look like the Maersk Peary will be the one this of the 13th it was in the Med en route to Rotterdam. Meanwhile, the McMurdo ice pier webcam has also been put in operation--go here and select that tab.

ICESat-2 Traverse pre-departure hero shotScience stuff..On New Years Eve, the second year of the NASA ICESat-2 traverse got underway. This year, glaciologist Kelly Brunt is accompanied by fellow NASA glaciologist Adam Greeley, with support from equipment operator Matt Means and mountaineer Chris Simmons. They'll do another quadrant along the 88th parallel adjacent to the sector done last year, doing a high-precision GPS survey in support of the recently-launched ICESAT-2 satellite. They'll be out for about 2 weeks. At right, a panorama of the traverse equipment that Kelly shared (photo by Matt Means). And here's a closeup of some of the equipment, including those pre-pitched tents (photo by Adam Greeley).

That pesky government isn't any fun for the furloughed employees, but "the U.S. Antarctic program remains operational 'for the foreseeable future.'" per NSF OPP director Kelly Falkner...from this 28 December Washington Post article. Meanwhile, the "great race" across the continent between Colin O'Brady and Lou Rudd is over. Colin O'Brady at the end of his trekColin finished first, and Lou met up with him at the finish two days later. The New York Times covered both their finishes in articles about Colin's finish and about Lou. And of course it must be noted again that neither man admitted that they used a "road" aka the South Pole Traverse (SPoT) route for 1/3 of their cussed and discussed by ExplorersWeb. The article includes Colin O'Brady's finish line hero shot (left)...behind him is the SPoT route marker denoting the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf. I have more coverage and discussion here.

Traverse news...the first of 3 traverses arrived on 4 December...and the second one (SPoT 2) showed up on the 16th. Interestingly, Thor, one of the people on SPoT 2, posted this highly interesting blog about the trip. I like his sense of humor!

As for other nongovernmental venturers...they've all been struggling with bad weather and lots of snow (!) Some folks have quit, and a noob has just started. Oh, the New York Times published an update on the Rudd/O'Brady competition on 18 December. But My updates are now more current, although I had remiss in updating things...just spent a couple of weeks rambling and tramping in New Zealand.

Mt. Newall repeater generator buildingMORE sad news...two more USAP deaths on the ice. In this case it was two fire techs who were working on systems at the remote repeater site on Mt. Newall in the Dry Valleys. They were discovered on 12 December by a helicopter pilot who was waiting for them to return to his aircraft for the flight back to McMurdo--the pilot found them unconscious on the floor. One of the workers was pronounced dead at the scene; the other was pronounced dead a few hours later at the McMurdo medical clinic. The site was originally set up in the 1980s to support field operations in the Dry Valleys, and it later would transmit seismic and other data from several CTBT monitoring stations. The site includes a wind turbine and solar panels as well as diesel generator backup and a large battery bank, and it is equipped with a CO2 fire suppression system. The CO2, or perhaps carbon monoxide, may have caused the deaths. At right is a photo of the site, the main repeater site building is behind the green New Zealand repeater building. Here is the 13 December New York Times article, the 12 December NSF press release, and my coverage, updated in late January.

There's another McMurdo webcam out there! In addition to the various USAP webcams available here, a University of Oregon project has set up an underwater webcam known as the McMurdo Oceanographic Observatory (MOO). It is 70 feet deep, offshore of McMurdo Station, and it has several different cameras which can be seen here.

An interesting media update on the race between Colin O'Brady and Lou Rudd to cross Antarctica alone and unassisted, is in this 29 November New York Times article. They are on essentially the same route but are some miles apart and haven't seen each other since they started. As of 3 December SP time, Colin had traveled 408 miles and was 102 miles from Pole, while Lou Rudd was about 35 miles behind him. My links and more information for these and other expeditions are below. As of 23 December the race was almost over, as both men were speeding down the Leverett Glacier traverse route with less than 200 miles to go.

IceCube drill camp componentsWhat will be going on at Pole this summer? A contractor will be on site assisting ASC folks with the electronic/IT portion of the DSCS upgrade that was begun last season. On the science side, the IceCube drill camp components are already being dug out for inspection...this is in preparation for a future project (next summer?) to drill for and install seven new strings (October 2018 IceCube press release). Some of the drilling equipment will be retrograded for refurbishment as needed (at left, the two drill towers and some of the camp modules--photo from Sheryl Seagraves). The new project is called the "IceCube Phase I Upgrade." Meanwhile, in support of the recently launched ICESat-2 satellite, the second of four traverses will be conducted to calibrate and validate GPS altitude data. This year, glaciologist Kelly Brunt will be accompanied by Adam Greeley as well as two ASC support personnel; they will traverse about another 300 km along the west quadrant of the 88ºS latitude line, connecting with the segment that was traversed last year. The total distance traveled will be about 750 km or 450 miles. And the "cosmic dust sucker" (aka CRREL's "Sampling comet dust from Antarctic air" project) will be decommissioned and moved to the building berm. And speaking of CRREL, they will show up with the new GPR SPoTbot robot to do another subsurface survey of what might be left of Old Pole. Another project which seems minor unless you've tried to sleep in one of the berthing rooms with (seemingly) paper-thin demountable partitions--some of these partitions will be replaced with more permanent/soundproof walls.

Elsewhere on the continent, the first South Pole overland Traverse (SPoT) of three planned for this season left McMurdo for Pole on 12 November, with 8 tractors and one Pisten Bully. And the nongovernmental tourist/traverse season is well underway--here's my documentation of the various solo and group traverses planned for the summer.

aerial shot of Pole on 3 NovemberThe 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 15th. Whew! And not only did IceBridge take an amazing aerial photo of the station on the 3rd (right), but Robert left on a DV flight which did a couple of photo passes, giving Robert a chance to take some great aerial photos. Which are here.

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 Pole first 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 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. 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 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 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 horizon lunar 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 (?!)'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 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'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's from Kathy Blumm and used by permission.

2018 Pole sunset dinner Palmer 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 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 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 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 ( 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 on:

Brunt's traverse route16 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 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 station the 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 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 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. ?? 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 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 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 present (July 2018) it appears that the 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 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.

[top] | [home]

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

About the satellites...has also been moved to a separate page.

[top] | [home]


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.The blog post describing this by one of the people who didn't finish--"serious runner" Joseph Coureur" is no longer available. 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:
The Spanish "Antarctica Unexplored 2018-19" campaign
led by polar explorer and Windsled designer Ramón Larramendi, along with biologist Ignacio Oficialdegui, engineer Manuel Olivera, and guide Hilo Moreno, completed a 1500-mile triangular journey from south of Novo, to the abandoned Plateau Station, to near the summit of Dome Fuji and the Japanese Fuji Dome Station, and return, using their well-proven Windsled (a large skid-mounted tent complex with an open-ended "handling" tent where folks sit handling the "reins" of a huge kite. They departed from a point about 110 miles south of Novo on 12 December and returned to their starting point on 1 February. They did significant science along the way--the Windsled has been similarly used for a number of such projects in Antarctica and Greenland. And of interest to me, they did get to explore the interior of Plateau Station and camp in front of the (originally) 100' met tower which is still standing. Photos of that and the rest of the trip are in their diary as well as in this Explorersweb article and this Adventure Journal report.
The Marine Live-Ice Automobile Expedition
was a significant project by the Russian Geographical Society. They used two Yemelya 6x6 ATV's pulling a total of four trailers and two sledges to travel about 6000 km from the Plateau Station site, to the Pole of Inaccessibility (POI), to Pole, and thence north to Vostok and Progress. They reached Pole on 23 December and left the next day for Vostok, which they reached on New Years morning...only to press on the same day. They reached Progress on the coast on 13 January...their vehicles were loaded onto the supply vessel there while the crew was flown back to Novo in a Basler. Here's the link to their diary which includes photos.
Aborted! Jenny Davis
a 33-year-old London-based lawyer turned athlete (she completed the 250km Marathon des Sables in 2015), announced her solo/unsupported/unassisted trek from Hercules Inlet to Pole beginning in November 2018. Here is an 11 October article which describes the venture, her training, and her nutrition. In a 15 November interview with The Times (London) she said she'd be starting out on the 27th, while Explorersweb reported she won't begin until December. She reached Union Glacier on 27 November and flew to the Mt. Vinson base camp the next acclimatize, not to summit. She was flown to her starting point on 12 December and set out on the 16th. While originally hoping to set a speed record, as of the 22nd she'd only been averaging about 11 miles per day. By 3 January she'd traveled 209 miles, with 506 miles still to go. 7 January she had abandoned her trip, called for pickup, and was in a Punta Arenas hospital with suspected appendicitis.
Joe Doherty
age 25, a former Boy Scout from Andover, England, is on the way to Pole with...uh, 3 others--Grazyna Machnik (from Poland), Rakonczay Gábor (from Hungary) and AL&E guide Christian Iversen Styve (from Norway). Earlier, Joe had announced the first scout-led Pole expedition for 2018-19 where he would be accompanied by fellow Scout Oliver Robinson from Portchester, in what was titled Hampshire Scout Expedition (HSX). In February the two did a training expedition in Norway. Here's a 12 May BBC News article. Joe got to Union Glacier on 20 November, and the group was flown to their starting point on the 24th. Although previously announced as unsupported, the blog posts from UG indicates they will be resupplied at Thiels Corner and at Pole, where Joe (at least) will also get kiting equipment. Thiels Corner is where the Messner and Hercules Inlet routes come together, so it is also a refueling site for ALE's Twin Otters. As of 7 December the group was at 84.1ºS-75.4ºW. By 22 December he was about 260 miles from Pole. And by 4 January they'd reached 89.24ºS. The group reached Pole on 8 January on the 45th day of their trek, and then ski/kited back to Hercules Inlet, arriving on about 24 January. Meanwhile, the ALE guided "Ski South Pole" team that started at Hercules Inlet also reached Pole on the 8th.
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. He reached Thiels Corner on the 20th, one day ahead of Lou Rudd. By 3 December SP time he was 162 miles from Pole. He reached Pole on 12 December (day 40), and on 23 December after day 50 he was at 86.7ºS-135ºW with 122 miles to go. His blog posts are here on Instagram. And at 0640 SP time on the 27th he reached the goal, the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf, after an incredible 77-1/2 mile 32-hour push. Here's the New York Times article.
Lou Rudd
a British Army captain, is on 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, a mile away from Colin O'Brady. Are they racing? Here is Lou's general website. As of 25 November, Lou had completed 19 percent of the distance to Pole, and by 3 December he was about 35 miles behind Colin O'Brady. He reached Pole on the 13th; by the 23rd (also day 50 for him) he was reporting 163 miles to go, perhaps a day or two behind Colin. By the 28th he had 19-1/2 statute miles left to go before meeting up with Colin O'Brady at the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf at their ALE pickup point. Which he reached at 1021 on the 29th SP time per this New York Times article.
Aborted! Eric Larsen
had 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, arrived in Punta Arenas on the 14th, and at Union Glacier on the 19th (local times). He was flown to the Hercules Inlet start point on the 23rd and set out the next morning (24 November SP time). he was planning for a fast trip, he only carried food for ~24-26 days. And with lots of bad weather, on day 21/16 December he found himself still 290 miles from he called it quits.
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 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, and he is posting updates on social media including this Facebook page. He started on 30 November, and as of 7 December he was at 81.1ºS-80.2ºW. By 23 December he was 334 miles from Pole. By 5 January he was well past 89ºS with only 47 miles left to go to reach Pole. And he arrived on the morning of 7 January SP time.
Masatatsu Abe (Japanese language site)
a 35-year-old Japanese rickshaw driver, is doing 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. He was scheduled to fly to Union Glacier on the 18th and begin his traverse on the 20th, but he flew south on the 20th and set out on the 24th. He is posting updates on this Japanese language Facebook page. As of 22 December he was at 84.9ºS-80.4ºW. Around Christmas time he opted to request a food resupply because of his slow travels. By 5 January he'd crossed 86.8ºS, and he reached Pole on the 17th--the last NGO traveler to reach Pole in the 2018-19 season. But he isn't done, he's already planning another venture in 2019-20 to complete the route to Pole that the Japanese explorer Army Lieutenant Nobu Shirase had attempted in January 1912. Shirase crossed the Ross Ice Shelf reaching a furthest south of 80º05'S-156º37'W on 29 January 1912. Reportedly he'd met up with Amundsen's expedition near the Bay of Whales as they were returning from Pole.
Matthieu Tordeur (French language site)
at age 26 and from France, is also on the South Pole expedition list. He, like Jenny Davis, started from Hercules Inlet. On 17 November local time he was in Punta Arenas--from Eric Larsen's 23 November post, Matthieu was at the Hercules Inlet start site with Eric. On 23 December (day 28 of his originally planned 50 days) he was at 84.42ºS-80.9ºW. His blog posts are here on Instagram (in French), as well as on the web site. On 4 January he was at 87,4ºS. He reached Pole on the morning of 14 January SP time, the next-to-last person to arrive at the ALE camp.
Aborted! Laval St Germain
from Calgary, is the only Canadian to have summited Everest without oxygen. He headed to Antarctica to climb the last of his seven summits--Mt. Vinson. Not leaving it at that, before the climb he was to ski solo from Hercules Inlet to Pole before being flown back to the ALE Vinson base camp for the summit effort. Laval has previously lost parts of 3 fingers from frostbite. When he's not doing extreme stuff, he is a pilot for Canadian North airline. On 18 November he was in PA, and he flew south on the 19th. Eric Larsen reported on the 23rd that he also was at Hercules Inlet. He set out for Pole on about the 24th, but on 7 December he decided to quit the Pole trip due to the bad weather he'd encountered, as well as issues with his warped pulk. He was flown back to UG on about the 10th. ExplorersWeb reported on 22 December that he STILL was at Union Glacier and hadn't yet been to Mt. Vinson. A recent blizzard at UG destroyed 8 tents. He summited Vinson on New Years Eve local time, and returned to Punta Arenas on 4 January. His detailed updates were posted here on Instagram.
Aborted! Richard Parks
who was the fastest Brit to ski solo/unsupported to Pole in 2014, only recently decided to throw his balaclava into the "race" with an attempt to reach Pole from Hercules Inlet. He set out on 19 December; by the 23rd (day 4) he'd traveled 90 miles. His detailed updates are best seen on his Facebook page. But...on day 17--4 January SP time-- he decided to call it quits and summon a pickup, as his body was starting to fail him in difficult soft snow conditions. He describes the end of his expedition in this podcast. He was flown back to UG on 5 January.
Aborted! 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 constructed from plastic waste with the help of 3-D printers. It will be 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 article. As of 7 November, the Solar Voyager was in Chile, They flew south to Union Glacier on the 30th and got started a few days later--not a lot of detail on their travels or route, but on 20 December they announced that they would not reach Pole, presumably because of the strong winds and heavy snow that have plagued other travelers as well. Here's a brief 19 December BBC News video about the end of the expedition.
Arctic Trucks
is back on the ice this year. I haven't found any details from them, but Joe Doherty reported from Union Glacier in this 23 November blog post that they were heading to Pole and thence to the Ross Ice Shelf...and that there was a group of six skiers (5 plus a guide?) from Taiwan aka the Gamania Cheer Up Foundation (6 November China Post article) about to set out for Pole from UG and then get picked up by Arctic Trucks. Not a lot of info...except that it seems that the southbound SPoT 2 encountered the group on the traverse route about 120 miles from Pole (traverse member Thor's 14 December blog post), and they all showed up at Pole on 23 December SP time per this Business Wire report which has links to video. The Taiwan expedition team included Gary Wu, Tommy Chen, Albert Liu, Chris Wang and Sherry Lin, while director Yang Li-chou accompanied the group in the Arctic Trucks vehicles to film the journey, per this Taiwan Today article.

Announced but not happening:
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. As of mid-November her website had been taken down.
Eirliani Abdul Rahman
from Singapore, was planning 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. As for the current season, there is no expedition website, and there's not much more about her plans other than media such as this 9 August 2017 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:
Mollie Hughes
age 28 from Edinburgh, is planning a 2019-20 solo unsupported ski expedition from Hercules Inlet to Pole. Previously she has summited Everest twice, from both the north and south sides. She hopes to become the youngest woman to do this. Here is a 1 March 2019 Renfriewshire News article about her venture. In February she was training in Norway, to be followed by two weeks in eastern Greenland. There is no information about this trip on her website, and only a bit on her Facebook page.
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.
The All Women Expedition to Antarctica (AWETA) (postponed from 2018-19)
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. At a press conference on about 23 October 2018 they announced the postponement of the event to 2019-20 (graphic of announcement).
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 21 August 2018 CTV News article with video.
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 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.