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So, You’re Eight Months In And…

SOUTH POLE, ANTARCTICA– This was a question that I was just asked the other day. It was a friend of mine down here that has wintered-over previous years and was wondering what my opinion was having being my first winter here. I didn’t really have a whole lot to say about it but this. “Eh” (shoulders shrug). But really, the day-to-day down here is very boring. Every day is pretty much the same aside from the events here and there such as the mid-winter celebration and other festivities. After a few moments of thinking about it, I told him, “Well on the day-to-day time scale it’s pretty boring here and you just let the days pass.” Which they do very quickly when every day seems to be pretty much the same. But then I thought about it and said, “But when you think about it as a whole, it’s really an amazing experience.”

See, scattered throughout the year, there are really cool things that happen. Such as the first time getting off the plane and seeing Antarctica (definitely had some butterflies in the stomach), standing at the South Pole marker the first time, seeing the last plane leave, seeing the sun go down knowing you wouldn’t see it for 6 months, the beautiful polar night skies, and this Friday the mid-winter mark.

Shoveling out a path to ARO (Atmospheric Research Observatory) just after station closing

And there are still some to come like the sun rising, the first plane landing and taking a flight out of here. So there are all these milestones that are exciting which add up. Yeah, the day-to-day is pretty boring here, but the sum of all the milestones make the entire time down here an amazing experience. That’s what helps me anytime I’m feeling a bit homesick or anxious to move on. And that is what I’m going to remember when I leave in 5 months. (Wait, why am I talking like I’m almost done? Hehe.)

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7 Responses »

  1. Isn’t it interesting what milestones are important? Do you have a calendar with big X’s through the days?

  2. Haha…well in a way I do. I have a half dozen checksheets that I go through every day listing the date, time and putting down a bunch of checkmarks.

  3. I have been following your postings and info for months and I find it so incredible. It does get very cold and dark during the winter months where I live in MN but nothing like what you are going thru. In fact when it is hot and sunny now i think of the people at the South Pole and say a little prayer for you.
    I was weeding in my garden just yesterday and it was hot sunny and 86 and i thought wow no sun for over six months.
    What do you miss the most?
    What do you want to do first when you return stateside?
    What will you miss the most about the South Pole?
    as a working mom of two teenagers the peace and solitude sound very appealing to me…..

  4. Hi Alice,

    Thanks for the message. I grew up in Wisconsin so I know the winters up there very well. One thing about down here is that the wind is usually pretty calm. It doesn’t get over 25 knots too often. The cold isn’t so bad when it’s not windy.

    I think the thing that I miss most is either being able to watch sports (I miss my Brewer games and Packer games) or driving my car. Before I came down here I was in Colorado and there are a lot of really nice winding mountain roads to drive on. Not to mention spectacular views.

    The first thing I want to do when I get back to the States is meet my new niece. I became an uncle in January and I haven’t gotten to see her yet. I’m looking forward to it.

    I will probably miss the extremely laid back atmosphere down here. The pace is slow and the work is not very stressful. I will be assigned to a different job in January where I’m sure I will have a lot more on my plate to do. The peace and solitude like you mention is a really nice thing about being down here. But I’m sure ready to get back to real life!


  5. Hi Nick,

    I follow the met reports regularly and see that it is pretty cold down there at the moment. METAR: NZSP 010550Z 09006KT 9000 IC FEW010 SCT070 M71/ A2811 RMK CLN AIR 07007KT ALL WNDS GRID. Just wondering what the remark CLN AIR means. It always seems to be close to but not equal to the normal reported wind.



  6. Hi Gerry,

    I asked our in-house meteorologist about it who does our observations and we have 2 towers that they use to get wind speeds and direction. One of them which is used for the main body of the METAR is near the skiway and the one in the remarks is from a tower located near the Clean Air Sector. These are both separate towers and instruments from what we use for the Atmospheric Research Observatory. Apparently there were many requests from the Air Nat’l Guard and from the American Meteorological Society annual conference and in 2008 the tower was added in the remarks.


  7. Hi Nick. I have been offered an opportunity to go through the processing to possibly land a job at McMurdo. My question is this……do you know of anyone from Louisiana that is or has worked there? I’m trying to find out if I’m completely bonkers for even considering this and what a fellow swamper would have to say. Thank you.