Monday, December 27, 2010

Surrendered Man License

Well, I've had to turn my Man Card in. I am a member of a listserv of folks who have Cardigan and Pembroke Welsh Corgis. There is a "Secret Santa" list, and I signed up this year. Those of you who have followed my blog know that I'm really close with my Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Conan. I'd hoped to hook up with other like-minded corgi 'owners' in the area, since they are the best dogs in the world. I received my Secret Santa assignment, and decided to make some custom pottery doggie dishes for Forrest and Morgan, two older corgis living in the south. I actually spent a Friday night at a paint-your-own-pottery store in old town Littleton, stenciling little paw marks on semi-fired pottery bowls for my SS assignment. I knew that doing so would seriously endanger my Man License, but I didn't quit in time. After all, real men don't spend their Friday nights painting pottery, and they certainly don't paint little doggie pawprints and bunnies on some bowls for some unknown chick's dogs in North Carolina. I think I may have to watch Fight Club six times, or eat some nails or something to get my status back as a self-respecting American male. It is all just so embarrassing.  

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


I want to apologize to any folks that follow this blog for any cool Antarctica content-- not much lately. I'll continue to document the cool new stuff that is happening in my life, and I'll weave Antarctica content into it when I can.

I've had cats for much of my life, but have adopted out my favorite recent cats to friends in order to pursue ice jobs over the last few years. Now that I'm settled down, I have been thinking a lot about expanding the Lee/Conan household to include a cat... I've decided to lay low for Thanksgiving weekend, which gave me enough leisure time to browse some cat rescues and 'pounds' today. At the Dumb Friends League Buddy Center in Castle Rock today, I found my newest roommates. A couple of mutt cats. 'Buddy' was listed as a two-month-old black domestic shorthair, but he's actually a black tabby. I've had quite a few black cats in my life, and I've noticed with several of them that their hair actually has a tabby pattern to it, if viewed in the right light. Buddy is really about three tones of black in a stripy pattern-- very cool. Betty is the same size and age, though the paperwork didn't show that they were littermates. Just dropped off at the same time.

One of the reasons I've been thinking of getting a cat again is that Conan spends all nine or ten hours a weekday here in the house, just waiting for me to get home again. That usually means a trip to the dog park, and making amends for those hours of solitude. I thought if he had a cat (or two) bopping around the house all day, that might make the waiting more tolerable. He gets nearly no mental stimulation for the whole time I'm at work, and I can really see it in his behavior when I get home.

I picked up the kittens today, and they've been bouncing around the house with Conan all evening. He grew up with cats, so he's very respectful of them. I think there are memories of claws to nose that are keeping him in line. It's interesting-- cats are such incredibly smart and adaptive predators, but their 'smarts' are so different from dogs. This transition from thirty years of being a cat guy, to a dog guy, to a dog-and-cat-guy are showing me some interesting variations in the way we all think. Conan is a very bright dog, and he surprises me every day with his facility for language and memorization. That being said, I've got to witness today that a cat a tenth of his size (probably way less...) could figure out how to get where they wanted to go in the house in seconds, where he may have never worked it out. Math, though.... dogs are much better at math.

I hope to post some more pictures of the new house and expanded family soon. I've been having some technical difficulties recently, which have prevented me from posting great pics...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

New Wheels!

Sorry Antarcticans-- no Antarctica content in this one. I'm getting more settled into my wee Englewood bungalow, and getting more used to the sub-urban (not quite suburban) lifestyle. Englewood feels a lot more like a small town than a suburb. I'm really liking it here. I still have about a half-hour commute to the office and back every day, and I've been doing it in my trusty old 2000 Tundra. Burning up a lot of gas, just commuting, and tons more when I visit friends in Montana and Arizona, and other road trips.

I've been thinking about getting a small car that gets good mileage, to take the heat off the ol' pickup, and to save bucks on gas. I've shopped the hell out of cars for the last couple of weeks, and found my ride. It's an '03 VW Jetta TDI (turbo diesel). It has nearly 100k on it, but it just got about three grand worth of engine work (new turbo/ manifold and new oil pan). These cars get about 50MPG in the city, and around 55MPG on the highway. I've had turbocharged cars before, so I know how to keep the car in its powerband and happy, so it's actually a pretty perky ride. It's not screaming fast, but I have a motorcycle for that. I can't wait to experience my first 600 mile tank! It's the GLS model, so it has the power sunroof, heated seats, heated mirrors, etc. Of all the options I would ever want on a car, heated seats are near the top. It's great to get in a cold car on a winter morning, and have a warm butt before my tires hit the street.

I've always been skeptical of VWs, having had a couple that were really crap. I'm willing to give them another chance here-- it could be that I've just driven them like a rented mule before, and broke them often. I'll try to be civilized with this one...

Friday, October 29, 2010

Corgi Halloween

Well, I successfully closed the deal on the wee bungalow yesterday. The whole process has been so smooth, it's definitely like the Universe wants me to live in that house. I have the keys, and get to start moving in this evening. I can't wait. I'll get to be in my new digs for Halloween, which should be fun. I carved a special pumpkin just for the occasion (I'll post pictures of that later). I'm not planning on dressing up, and Conan certainly isn't, but here are some pictures of corgis dressed up for Halloween, sent to me from Conan's Godmother in Montana (the breeder where I got him, and where he spent over 24 months while I was on the ice and travelling.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


I close on my wee bungalow in Englewood tomorrow! Everything about the transaction has gone eerily smoothly so far, and I have no issues with the house at all. It's in almost perfect shape. There is one hitch, though-- I gave away most of my furniture when I went to the ice in '08, and was stressing about furnishing the house with no money. The sellers are self-moving to Portland, and really didn't want to schlep all their furniture out there, so I approached them (through two realtors...) about selling me some. They agreed to sell me pretty much everything except the homemade dining room butcher-block table and chairs. I'm getting the couch with two matching chairs, two leather bar stools for the breakfast bar, an end table, a side table, a 32" TV with matching stand, the really cool living room area rug, the overhead pot rack, a warehouse-grade 8'x4'x12' shelving unit in the basement, plus shelving units in the garage and shed. I asked them what they would ask for all that stuff, and they came back with a price of $540! For all of it! I doubt if I could have replaced just the bar stools for that. I am so stoked. I take possession on the Friday of my three-day weekend, so I'll have plenty of time to move in. Conan will be in heaven, too. He's been spending workdays confined to the kitchen of my temporary digs while the house has been painted. He's been wound up like a cheap watch from sheer lack of stimulation every day when I get home from work. Having a whole house to himself will make it much easier. I plan to get a cat very soon, too. My living arrangements (and global gypsy lifestyle) have kept me from having a cat for years. Conan grew up with my cats Chuck and Squishy, so he's a big cat lover, and will love the extra company. Woo Hoo!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Bought a House!

Sorry there hasn't been any cool Antarctic content lately. I've been supporting the USAP from my little cubicle, and not too much sexy has been going on there. I was scheduled to deploy to McMurdo in November, to do some hardware and software testing at Black Island. Unfortunately, Mac Town is so totally overbooked that I got bumped. Projections are that the population will be about 175 over maximum all summer. Yuck-- in a way I'm glad not to participate in that. Though going to Australia and Hawaii for free...

The big news is that I'm buying a house! I'm making a commitment to settle down, at least for now. Still single, and really haven't done much dating out here in the 'burbs. Hopefully that'll change when I'm closer to the action, geographically.

It's a really cool little house. There is some confusion on the square footage, but it looks like it's about 800 sq ft on the ground floor, with one bedroom. In the basement, there are two nice little bedrooms, and a brand-new 3/4 bath. The couple I'm buyign it from totally remodeled the house six years ago, with a new kitchen, etc. The great thing is that they have very similar tastes, so it's exactly how I would have done it myself. It's in the middle of Englewood, west of Broadway, north of Belleview. VERY quiet neighborhood-- nary a crack house or meth lab on my street. I've gone through the inspection, and the inspector only found a few small things. Still in a little negotiations over the small things, but I'm set to close in 18 days. Can't wait! (Note: I never took the time to take good pictures when I've been there-- snipped these from the realtor's website.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Dog Pool

I've been working with Conan, trying to teach him to swim. He loves the water, but just can't get past the sensation that there is no bottom under his feet. I've eased him into deeper water a couple of times, but he doesn't go there voluntarily. I saw a woman with a corgi at the Louisville dog park a few weeks ago. Her dog had a life jacket, and was a swimming fool. I got Conan a similar vest, and it does seem to give him a little more confidence in deep water. This weekend Scott Carpenter pool in Boulder is letting dogs swim free. I went there yesterday with my dad and Conan, and made a little more progress on the swimming lessons. Unfortunately, there really wasn't anywhere in this pool to ease him into deeper water. The shallow end is four feet deep, and the diving part is ten feet. Way over Conan's head. He was sniffing around the deep end, and accidentally fell in. He scrambled back to the edge and I fished him out. He didn't seem too freaked out, but I don't see him doing that sort of thing on purpose any time soon. 

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Bike Trailer for Conan (No Antarctica Content)

Been just pluggin' away working in my cubicle lately, so not a lot of cool Antarctic news to post. I'll be deploying to Mac Town for a couple of weeks around Turkey Day, which will be right during the absolute population maximum. I might be sleeping in a broom closet.

In the meantime, I've been hanging around with Conan a lot while not at work. We go for about a half-mile walk every morning so he can water the fire hydrants and fence posts. Every evening, we go to the dog park after work. The good dog parks are about a twenty minutes drive from the house, so it takes a chunk out of the day, but it's worth it. I try to take him with me everywhere I go on my private time, within reason. I figure he sits in a 10'x20' dog run all day with no stimulation (outside of the occasional deer or squirrel encounter), so I owe him some quality time after work. I'm actually starting to get to know some of the dog park regulars, which makes me feel more at home.  I've been an avid mountain biker for a long time, and just have barely touched my bikes since Conan came along. Hard to mix biking and dogging.

Well, I've found a solution. I found a bike trailer that is specially designed for hauling dogs around! I can load Conan up in the trailer, and ride to the dog park. I thought it might be a little scary for him, so I eased him into the idea. I put together the trailer in the middle of the living room where he could become familiar with it. I offered him a "cookie" (milk bone) inside the new contraption, and let him sniff around. I took it outside and hooked it up to the mountain bike. I unzipped the doors, and drew Conan into it with treats. I zipped him up inside, and agreed with him that this was definitely going to be a fun adventure. The trailer is a little small for Conan, but I think it'll be just right when he learns to poke his head out through the sunroof. Today I just pushed the bike with trailer and Conan in tow around the cart paths in the neighborhood for a half a mile or so. With him in it, it's going to be a load going up hills. The subdivision where I live is close to the Cherry Creek Trail, which runs from near Castle Rock clear down to the middle of downtown Denver. This fall I plan to spend a lot of time out on the bike paths with my little buddy in tow.

National Ice Core Lab

This week I got to tour the National Ice Core Lab at the Federal Center in Denver with about 35 other polar folks. Really interesting stuff-- got to go back in the big freezer and see where they have ice from as far back as Little America 5 in the '50s. We got to ask a lot of questions, and we all learned a lot of cool stuff. For instance, we learned that the NICL has ice samples from the Vostok ice core, which contain frozen lake water from the boundary of the ice sheet and Lake Vostok. That means it has bio-organisms from a lake of liquid water that exists under more than two miles of ice! Maybe I'm an ice geek, but I think that is pretty cool stuff. Speaking of cool, it was about -35F in the warehouse. Same temp in the ice processing room where we saw grad students and technicians sawing, planing, and polishing ice cores to prepare them for experiments. The ice they are working on now is from the WAIS (West Antarctic Ice Sheet) Divide project. Some of the most important global climate research going on now is being conducted on ice samples going through NICL. Scientists can actually plot global temperatures from gas bubbles in the ice cores. By studying oxygen isotopes and dissolved carbon dioxide, they can make a chart of the temperatures on earth for thousands of years.

I'm bummed that I'm only slated to go to the ice for a couple of weeks this austral summer (around Thanksgiving). I'd really like to get closer to the science. See:

Monday, August 2, 2010

Rocky Grass, Antarctic Links

Pretty much settled into the Colorado summer, dodging thunderstorms and trying to find a nice, dry dog park. Went to a killer bluegrass festival last weekend-- Rocky Grass up in Lyons. The venue is a grassy meadow next to an icy creek, with a great band shell, and fantastic acoustics. I left my mandolin at home, since it was way too hot to ever leave it in the car, and I didn't have any other cool place to stash it. I met Bill Bussmann, of Old Wave mandolins there. He built my most recent mandolin, and it's a beaut. The festival was great-- Tony Rice cancelled, so David Grisman and some friends showed up unexpectedly. Quite a jam.

I've settled my plans to deploy to the ice this austral summer-- I'll be going down in the middle of November, and staying for a couple of weeks. I'll be sure and post an account of my mini-summer. In the meantime, here are a couple of links relating to the ice. Here's the Palmer station manager on Jeopardy: . Here's an article about a recent recipient of an NSF Artists and Writers grant:

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

New Antarctic Lynx

Here are some cool new stories relating to the Antarctic: Pine Island Glacier, On NPR, And MSNBC. There is a lot of really cool science planned for this area. There will actually be helicopter support to events around PIG, and a huge amount of logistical support will happen in the next couple of years. I'm not personally involved in any of that planning now, but I may be at some point in the future. There is an old abandoned field camp out on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet called Byrd Surface Camp, which will be resurrected to support the PIG projects, and other activity out there on the ice sheet. The ice is racing out to sea in several areas like the area around the PIG, and scientists are very keen on finding out what is going on. If the ice sheet continues to pour into the sea, the result will be rising sea levels.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Abandoned in Antarctica

Another cool story about abandoned bases and things on the ice: LINK

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Glacier Germs

Another bit of Antarctic science news: Glacier Germs

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Another cool ice link

A cool story about the race to the pole.

'Burbs, Ice Links

Not much new lately. Pretty much settled into the new job, and getting used to living in the 'burbs. I go home every day and take Conan straight to the dog park. Poor little guy has to rattle around in a big, empty house for ten hours, so it's a big treat for him to go run around outside. There is a huge open space about fifteen minutes from my house where he can go nuts.

I'm even more removed from the ice than I thought I would be, working in the Denver office. We do get exposed to some news of ice science and such, and I try to keep pace. I keep track of a lot of ice friends through FaceBook, blogs and e-mail. Here are some recent items of Antarctic interest: Ice Cube on WSG, Lucy Jane Bledsoe, an author who has written several novels set on the ice, and a video of scientists tagging whales.

Monday, May 3, 2010

More Cool Ice Links

Mount Erebus Volcano Observatory: MEVO
Antarctic Geospatial Information Center: AGIC
WIRED magazine article on ice coring project

Antarctic Stations

Here's a cool web site, with information on cutting-edge Antarctic stations: Stations

Friday, April 30, 2010

From Permafrost Land to Cube Land

Well, I'm finishing up my third week as a full-timer here in Raytheon Polar Services Corp's (RPSC's) Denver headquarters. It's quite an adjustment after living like a gypsy, roaming from the south pole to the dog park. I started looking at houses as soon as I got hired, but it's too early for that. I want to save up some cash, and get settled into my job before I make that kind of financial commitment. I asked a coworker from the ice if he knew of anyone who might be looking for a housemate. Turns out he and his wife just bought a humongous house on a golf course in Parker, not too far of a commute from work. They had intended to have housemates, so I came along just at the right time. At the moment, they are renovating another property they own after work, so I almost never see them. I have a whole floor of this 5600 square foot house to myself. The floor is set up like a "mother-in-law flat", so I even have my own kitchen. It's a really nice house, and very reasonable cost, so I'll be able to save up a ton of money over the next six months or so.

The only downside to the new arrangement is that I'm a single guy living way out in the 'burbs. Very little opportunity to meet new friends and do fun stuff. Another bummer is that poor Conan is sitting in a big, empty house for ten hours while I work. Immediately after I get home, we go to the dog park. The only decent one around is a half-hours drive from my new digs-- things are very spread out in the extreme-southeast-Denver 'burbs. I can't wait to get my own place, where Conan can play in the yard while I'm work.

In my new job, I'll probably be deploying to the ice every year, but it won't be for four or eight months like it was before. I won't have the ability to travel as freely as I did when I was unemployed, but I will get out. I deliberately sought this job out so that I wouldn't have to leave Conan with (his) family for nine months at a stretch.

I'll still post on my blog, but my life will not be quite as sexy as it was on the ice and travelling. I think I'll probably post links and pictures of different science projects that I'm involved with and hear about. The Antarctic Program is as busy as it's ever been-- there is a ton of stuff going on, on and off the ice.

Monday, March 8, 2010


I've been back in the (mainland) states for a couple of days now. I'm spending the night in Sheridan, WY, now, after picking up my best bud in Helena. Conan has been patiently waiting for me while I've been working and traveling abroad. This our third reunion. He always is very glad to see me, but not particularly surprised. It's literally like I just left him for the weekend, and is quite happy to resume our routine of hiking around dog parks. I still have my wee house in Livingston, MT, though I haven't actually lived there in a long time. They have the BEST dog park there. Bounded by the Yellowstone river and Fleshman Creek, with nice woods. As a matter of fact, we had to stop using the park a couple of years ago because a bear took up residence in the wooded part. Nice views of the Absaroka and Crazy mountains from the park. On the way back to Colorado-- should be hangin' at the Louisville, CO dog park tomorrow.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Travelling Back to the Real World

Now I'm back in the states. My travels took me to New Zealand, Australia, Tazmania, and the big island of Hawaii. The end of my travels was a little weird. Hawaii is not really geared toward economy travel, in my estimation. The resorts are definitely not my style, so I found my own way. I stayed in hostels, but was driving a red Mustang convertible (the only rental car available with I landed there). I learned that a traveller in a hostel with a car is a very popular guy, especially in Hawaii, where you really need a car to see the sights. I travelled around the island with an Italian tourist and a Japanese woman, splitting the gas and negotiating our travel plans as we went. I dropped of Daniella at the airport a couple of days before my departure, and ended up spending my last full day on Hawaii in the company of two Japanese travellers with limited English. We ended up going down to Kalapani at night, where you can see the lava glowing from the last eruption. All in all, it was a good trip. I was dying when I realized that I lost all photographic record of my adventure, including some really cool photos from Tasmania. Oh well. I guess I'll just have to go back there again.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Photo Nightmare, Drama

I'm just now getting ready to leave Hilo after about a week on the Big Island. Most of my travels here have been very positive, with some huge exemptions. One day after arriving here, the big earthquake hit in Chile, and we were evacuated for the pending huge tsunami. Much of Hilo was wiped out by previous tsunamis, and they take it very seriously here if there is a large earthquake that might inundate the town. I was staying in a mixed (co-ed) dorm at a hostel here in Hilo when the tsunami sirens begun to wail. It was about 5:30 in the morning. A dorm-sharer got a phone call from the states that there was a huge earthquake in Chile, and there would be huge tidal waves. Shortly after that call, loud tsunami sirens went off in Hilo. I dragged out of bed and went to my rent-a-car. I drove to a spot about a hundred feet above sea level, and just waited in the car until the authorities gave the all-clear about 1:00PM. There was no tsunami at Hilo, but such a huge earthquake in Chile could have easily taken Hilo off the map if conditions were right. People were scared. I was disoriented, being awakened so early in the morning, and misplaced my main rain shell that I had been using. It wasn't particularly raining the day of the "tsunami", but I probably took it with me, just in case. We had good weather for a few days, and it wasn't until two days after the "tsunami" that I realized that I no longer had posession of my trusty jacket. Turns out I had put the SD card out of my camera in the jacket pocket, and hadn't gotten around to backing up those pictures to my laptop or hard drive.

Now, the jacket is gone, and all record of my vacation, including leaving the ice and the work I did there, is gone. I have pictures of working on the icebreaker, the fuel tanker, and the container ship, all gone. Tasmania: gone. New Zealand: yep. I guess I've learned my lesson, but it was a painful one.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Redployment, Travels

I'm in Hobart, Tasmania now. I left the ice on the 11th of February, so I've been on the road for almost two weeks now. I got to be among the first folks to fly north on the Royal New Zealand Air Force 757. It's just like a commercial airliner, but the flight attendents wore camouflage. It took a long time to get us and our luggage loaded, but once that was sorted, the flight was uneventful.
I hung around in Christchurch for a couple of days, soaking up the humidity and warmth, and hanging around with southbound and northbound ice folks. Flew to Sydney, and hung around there for a couple of days. Next was Hobart, Tazmania. I ran into a fellow traveller who had a very similar agenda to mine, and we decided to team up for a tour of Tassie. Rented a car and headed up the east coast, checking out Wineglass Bay and miles of beaches. We made our way up to Launceston, and spent the night at a great backpacker there. I've been feeling a bit off for the last couple of days-- I think I got ahold of some questionable chow at some point, and have been in distress, making it hard to go on any major adventures. Best to stay close to the facilities, if you know what I mean... I also seem to be picking up a cold. After Launceston, we drove west to Cradle Mountain, and walked around a little bit there. Yesterday was a huge driving day, and feeling lousy made it worse. I felt completely whooped when we got back to Hobart. I returned the car this morning, and I'm going to be just hanging around in town, reading in the sun. Sorry about the lack of pictures. I need to find a suitable computer where I can get them off my camera and post them.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


There have been a lot of big changes this year on the ice. The galley (building 155) has been painted bright blue, from the foundations to the chimneys. It's crazy. The old T-site building has been torn down, the bowling alley has been torn down, the old buildings up on Ob Hill have been wrecked, as well. (Those buildings are frequently referred to as "the old nuclear power plant", but I think the actual power plant was removed along time ago. The remaining buildings on the hill are B-87 and B-126, an electrical warehouse and the old water plant. Just the bare frames remain now. Old T-site is in the cleanup stages, and where the bowling alley once stood, there is a vacant lot. Kind of sad to see the old buildings go. On the other hand, there are some positive changes. Three huge wind turbines are up and working above T-site, at the foot of Crater Hill. Another milestone of change is the arrival, unloading, reloading, and departure of the vessel. Our crew went out to the ship this morning and removed the radio telephones and wireless internet gear we loaned them for the brief time they are in port. They should be setting sail as I write this. Watching the cargo ship steam away from the ice pier is part of the official winding down of the summer season. A lot of my winter friends are coming in now. It's a bittersweet reunion, since I'm about ready to leave. I figure that I've spent 19 of the last 24 months down here. That'll probably do for now.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pole Boondoggle

Yesterday I got a chance to make a quick trip to the south pole. Every department gets a few seats on these "sleigh ride" trips, to pass around to the folks in the group. In our department, the trips were prioritized by time on ice, so the highest likelihood of a trip would be to someone who has been coming down for a long time, and has never been to pole before. I'm in my 32nd month on ice, so I'm kind of a medium-timer. I went to pole to work back in 2000, before the new station was built. The old dome was still there, and was one of the wildest places I've ever been. Now the dome is gone, the new station is finished, and it's quite a different place from before. Since I had been to NPX (as the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station is known), I was out of the running for a sleigh ride. At the last minute the guy who was scheduled to be the group leader bailed, so they called me. I guess my previous pole experience somehow qualified me to be the leader.

The pole station receives most of its fuel by air. New York Air National Guard LC-130s take off from McMurdo fully loaded with fuel, and offload a bunch of it when they get to pole. Some flights, like the one I was on, carry no cargo and very few passengers, serving strictly as a tanker. I talked to the pilot a little about it after we got back, and he explained the sleigh ride phenomenon. If the plane is completely full of fuel and there is still a little bit of available weight to take, they take as many people for a ride as they can, as a morale trip. Of course, very few people on earth get to go to the pole, so it's a real treat.

We loaded up on a Delta, and headed out to Pegasus. Everything moved pretty quickly-- we got on the plane shortly. There were nine of us on the trip, from a broad cross-section of the McMurdo population. Two of us were from IT, one from supply, one from the galley, a heavy equipment operator, a Kiwi scientist, an FEMC GA, a mechanic, and a cargo guy. The trip down was uneventful, and we got to see some fantastic scenery on the way. We even got to take turns going up into the cockpit. I went up there just as we approached the Beardmore Glacier. The picture that is taken straight out the front is of the Beardmore, though it's so huge and white you can't see it well. The picture just below the photo of me looks like it's nothing, but it was a really cool sundog that followed us. As the shadow of our plane moved across the tops of the clouds, it was surrounded by a bright rainbow ring. I guess the speck of our plane caused the light to refract around us like a prism.  It took us about three hours to get to NPX, and everything was rushed. The plane sat in the fuel pits with props turning, offloading 60,000 pounds of fuel while we were on our boondoggle. They told me to have the group back to the plane, ready to board in 25 minutes. Considering all nine of us would want to have our pictures taken at the ceremonial pole and the actual geographical south pole, and get at least a brief look at the inside of the new station, 25 minutes was pushing it, to say the least. Luckily the pole is less than a quarter of a mile from the plane, and is pretty close to the station. I cracked the whip, and tried to get them to stick together and move along. (The picture of me at the ceremonial pole didn't turn out well, but others got pictures of me that I haven't received yet.)

The sleigh ride before ours had really angered the Guard guys. They had diddled around too long, and made the plane wait, which is a huge no-no. The plane offloads as much fuel as they can, leaving just enough to safely make it back to McMurdo with a little reserve. If they have to idle on the taxiway for any time, waiting for the boondogglers to return, they could actually have to refuel the plane to take off, which would enrage them. They warned us not to be late like the last group. There was even talk of ending the sleighrides due to their recent bad experience. I did the best I could to nag and cajole the wide-eyed sleigh riders back to the plane. We were a couple of minutes late, but they weren't tapping their toes and looking at their watches yet.

To me, the most incredible part of the trip is flying over the Beardmore Glacier. It is unimaginably huge-- something like a hundred miles long, and four or five miles wide in places ( That's the route Robert Scott took when he made it to the pole (but not back) in 1912. To fly over that massive river of ice, knowing that men dragged heavy sledges loaded with supplies over it-- incredible. The cravasses and seracs are pretty much continuous for mile after mile, and are so huge that we could easily see them from 20,000 feet above. Wow. The Transantarctic Mountains are just amazing, with huge ice falls, cravasse fields, and valley glaciers. The plateau above is a featureless expanse of white, clear to the pole and beyond. The ice sheet below and the Ross Ice Shelf beyond that (heading back to McMurdo) are pretty much flat and white, too. That is until you get to the strange lump of Ross Island, with it's huge volcano, and Home Sweet Home on the end of Hut Peninsula.