Travel Log: 04 December 2001

Dateline: 8:45 AM Tuesday, 04 December 2001
South Pole

Wind: 5.2 knots
Temp: -33.7°C / -28.6°F
Windchill: -40.4°C / -40.7°F
Barometer: 675.6 mB (10792 feet)

Randy writes:

Yesterday was spent settling in. We are still adjusting to the altitude and the cold. The cold actually doesn't feel that bad as it is so dry.

It is easy to lose track of dates and time at the Pole because the sun is always up and your sleeping quarters are always dark. After being here a while one begins to associate the sun being in a certain position in the sky with a time of day. Unlike Chicago where the height of the sun gives us such a clue, at Pole it is just what part of the base it is over and not how high above it is.

Today we are all feeling mostly acclimated and so we are working hard on the museum exhibit. It has been about -30°F but there has been very little wind and so it only feels like -40. A lot of construction has been done on the new station and things are going very well for CARA research this season.

The Pole is a strange place in a lot of ways but one of the strangest things is that once you return it feels like you have never left. Many people return here year after year which is part of what makes it feel the same, but I think it is more the very unique and essentially unchanging physical atmosphere. Cold, clear, bright sunshine (at least in the summer), incredibly dry, and flat.

These timeless conditions of the Pole are also why it is so good for astrophysics research. Being dry is tough on human skin but great for telescopes, because water vapor absorbs the signal that we are looking for with many of the CARA telescopes. The stable weather conditions are also wonderful for astrophysics experiments. Changes in conditions that can affect what you are looking for are bad. For instance as the sun rises and sets each day in the States, it gets warmer and then colder. Changes like this that happen every day, or sudden changes like a big storm, make observing something that is very faint and far away hard; the change caused by the storm or the sun could be confused with what you are actually looking for. At South Pole there is just one sunrise and one sunset a year! All day long the sun just goes around the sky while in the winter time it is completely dark. Also the atmosphere above the Pole is very constant. Storms are uncommon, and circulation patterns like the Polar Vortex keep the center of the Antarctic continent isolated from larger weather patterns.

At the ceremonial pole: the bear, penguin, and Jason and Vivian all take their turns posing. Randy catches the group's reflection in the mirror globe.
Bear at pole Penguin at pole Jason and Vivian group photo

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