At the far end of the fuel arch is an escape stairwell up to the surface. It’s cold, and very still in the stairwell, so some really interesting frost forms in there – I presume from the breath of the occasional passerby. This photo is of a delicate stalactite of frost, several inches long, hanging off the wall of the stairwell.
Much of the food and fuel we burn here at South Pole is stored in “the arches”. These are essentially big arched steel structures, which are now buried under the snow next to the elevated station. There are four arches; the logistics arch (above), the fuel arch (below), the VMF arch (which is mostly filled by the building we had the Independence day party in) and the power plant arch. The arches aren’t heated, but they are all accessible without going outside, by way of “the beercan”.
Lately, we burn something like 1,100 gallons of fuel per day here in the winter. From memory there are forty-five 10,000 gallon tanks in the fuel arch, arranged into “pods” of five tanks each.
A bit over a week ago, we had a fun little party in the VMF – Vehicle Maintenance Facility – to celebrate the 4th. Actually, we had the party on the 5th, when it was the 4th in the US and Saturday here. There was everything you’d expect from a 4th of July party, except the sunshine and fireworks. Most of the vehicles were even moved out to make room for horseshoes:
One unfortunate aspect of life at the South Pole is that most of our food is either frozen, or comes from the limited range of plants we can grow in the hydroponic greenhouse. Our cooks do an awesome job of turning the resources available into excellent food, and of making our limited supply of “freshies” last. Freshies are fruits and vegetables that are flown in from New Zealand; obviously we haven’t gotten any since mid-February, but the cooks managed to keep some carrots edible until just last week:
We celebrated Midwinter at the end of last week, starting with a showing of The Shining in the gym on Friday night and followed by a Saturday brunch, midwinter gifts from our colleagues up North, a big fancy dinner, and an open mic night in the gym.
Again, I’ve managed to take a few photos of the hors d’oeuvres, and then no decent ones of the main meal… The food was delicious, as it has consistently been for these big meals. I had a super-tasty soup, lobster ravioli, and a very nice chocolate soufflé.
The open mic night was fun too, we had a solo banjo and jokes performance (not me), some karaoke, and finally a band played a few songs. I was pleasantly surprised to see the sousaphone appear for one of the acts:
Midwinter, the June Solstice, is probably the most universally celebrated holiday in Antarctica. No matter what station you’re on, or what calendar you use, Midwinter marks the point where the sun is furthest away. For us at Pole, Midwinter is the midnight of our one-day-year.
Most Antarctic stations, at least the ones that are populated over the winter, exchange Midwinter greetings. We’ve put up a map of the continent in the galley with the messages we’ve received. Most of the greetings have photos, it’s fun to get a glimpse of other stations around the continent – some of the more Northern stations even have living things outside!
Here’s the greeting we sent out, with the group photo taken inside since the weather was pretty bad on the day we took it.