My Travel Map

My Travel Map

30 December 2005

Me (in the black), my boss: Dr. Azeem (red), and our two science techs: Neal (in USA) and Bob (with blue hat). This was us just after the 2 kilometer race around that world that absolutely decimated our lungs. Neal and Bob will be "wintering over" staying the six months during winter in which no flights go in or come out of the continent. Wintering at South Pole Station is the one of the closest things on Earth you can get to space travel.

Some race participants; yes that is a dude on a snowboard being dragged behind a snow mobile....why didnt I think of that?!?!? On the sled ahead of that is our version of Santa Clause. The race around the world just has everyone running, driving, being pulled, walking, crawling or whatever else around the pole in a large 2 km loop. It is cold and the air is super is hard as hell to run it, but the record time was 9 min 12 sec...sick. My lungs tasted like blood after about a quarter of the first lap, and I'm just happy that I made it considering it was only a day and a half after exposure to the altitude!

This guy didnt seem too interested in running.

This is a nice shot of the station from the neutrino detection experiment called IceCube. You can see the new station, the old dome, the shacks and whatnot on the right, and our man-made snow pile as the only land feature other than flat, white snow.

These vehicles were used by the men in red to traverse from McMurdo to South Pole. This might not sound too impressive, but when you take into account the crevaces in the ice practically the entire way that can be large enough to swallow one of those Cat's into a 1000 foot deep gash in the ice. Then there is the fierce winds that can blow up to 150 mph, the extreme cold that can cause frost bite in less than 2 minutes, and the lonliness of being almost totally out of touch with the rest of the world while you travel in a massive tracked vehicle, which can easily get stuck or have moving parts freeze, accross a baren wasteland of ice and snow. It's impresive; and just one more thing...think about going to the bathroom....yea...these people are tough.

Here is a pic of the dome and one of the exposed tunnels that has been dug out from the accumulated snow. Note the size of the two guys up on the transition between the side tunnel and the main tunnel into the dome. Close to fourty feet of snow is piled up there, and it is being slowly cleared away.

This is one of the many frozen tunnels that runs between buildings underneath the surface of the snow...I just thought it was really cool and it reminded me a lot of Hoth from the Empire Strikes Back!

This is the hole being "drilled" for the IceCube project to study the existence of neutrinos, a practically indetectable, subatomic particle. They use hot water to melt the ice and snow ahead of the drill. They actually drill down like this through 2.6 kilometers of ice (like 1.5 miles!!!). This is the largest project currently at the pole. I'm pretty sure they are planning on drilling 60 holes, and it is amazing to see the project underway. They have massive, heated tanks for the water, a huge system of pipes that takes the water to clean it and heat it up, and even their own generators for power (since, when drilling, they use more than the rest of the station combined!). Sweet stuff.

This is the Atmospheric Research Observatory (ARO): the building I work in. It is a lovely quarter mile walk from the station that we make at least two round trips of each and every day!

I did not take this picture, but this is a lovely shot of what I am down here to study: the Aurora Australialis. If anyone wants to know about the auroras, just let me know because I know way too much about them to explain it all on here.

Here are Dr. Azeem and myself taking our "hero shots": pictures of us outside at the pole with our top layers of clothes off. Let it be known that when this picture was taken, it was a particularly cold and windy day and the temperature was a whopping -40 deg C (which happens to be -40 deg F as well). In other words, cold as the ninth layer of Hell.

24 December 2005

The South Pole: Early Christmas Morning 2005

Here you go everybody, my first pics from the bottom of the world: the South Pole.
And believe it or not, these pictures were taken at 1:00 AM on Christmas Day... remember the 24 hour sunlight!
This is it. The South Pole. Yes, it is candy cane striped, and has a nice shiny ball on top. The flags in behind are from all of the countries that have Antarctic programs (no Canada though...I'll have to talk to somebody about that one, but I guess we do have the North Pole). In behind you can see the new station. It is still under construction, but most operations have been moved into it. That is also the building I am sleeping in.

Here I am at the South Pole, in most of my gear too. Its hard to believe it is 30 below and that I am kneeling on nearly 3 kilometers (about 1.8 miles) of solid ice.

I had to take the classic "reflection shot." That is me holding the camera and taking a shot of my own reflection in the ball on top of the pole.

This is the dome that used to be the primary station. It is scheduled for demolition and shipment to California after the new station is up. You can also see the tubes that are used to reinforce the system of tunnels through the ice around the station...very cool, and I don't mean just the temperature inside.

And don't worry, we have a Christmas tree here too.

23 December 2005

Antarctica: McMurdo and trip to South Pole: days 1 and 2

My first steps on the continent. The C17 we rode in on is in behind me. It lands right on the Ross Ice Shelf (the surrounding whiteness). It was overcast which made the sky blend in almost perfectly with the snow making the horizon impossible to detect. The only things that broke the whiteness were some black mountains in the distance.

Yes, McMurdo station has a coffee house, and it is open for business.

McMurdo Station's sign. In the background notice Shackleton's Hut and the cross out on the point as well as the ice shelf all around.

Beautiful view looking out over the ice shelf from McMurdo. Black Mountain is on the right and White Mountain on the left. These are used to determine direction and predict storms at the station.

Back at the airfield (ice shelf) those are the C130's that we had to take the 3.5 hour flight from McMurdo to South Pole station in.

Windsock on the airfield. One word: BLEAK

Out the cockpit window of the C130. These are some mountains in the Trans-Antarctic Range. Most of the pictures out of the windows were so saturated by light that they just turned out solid white.

Close up looking down on a Trans-Antarctic. This wasn't zoomed in at all. We were flying very close to the peaks.

21 December 2005

Antarctica: McMurdo Station: Day 1

Just got onto the continent today. It was a long flight all dressed up in the extreme cold weather gear, but of course, it was well worth it. We were allowed to look out the small windows of the C17 while we crossed over the ice boundry over the sea (where it turned from water to ice). It was stunningly beautiful and I hope that the pictures can even begin to justify it. We could also see the continent's black mountains, which are very very distinct against the snow and ice and sky, in the distance. The plane landed on a snow field that they call an airport. The sky was overcast and very gray making the ground, which is solid white in every direction, blend almost perfectly into it everywhere except for a few black mountains in the distance. The ride to McMurdo station from the air strip was also very interesting. To get from one point to another, vehicles have to follow lines of flags that are stuck in the ice. It is desolate and bleak and without the flags it would be practically impossible to navigate. The flags also serve as safe route markers since much of the travel is on ocean ice on the ice shelf, and being summer and all down here, the ice is melting leaving many crevaces and weak points. So like I said, very interesting and extremely exciting! The station is awesome. Since I will have several days here after New Years, I will talk mostly abuot it then.
I leave for the South Pole early tomorrow. I will write more from there as well as update all the pictures, and let me warn you, there are a lot!

20 December 2005

Christchurch intersection. I love that building in the background. The architecture here is very unique. It is a great escape from the cookie-cutter styles of the States.

View of the Avon River that flows right through town. All the banks are lined with trees and grass like this. The entire run of it is very scenic and beautiful.

Fountain in the Botanical Gardens, one of the city's many parks. The whole city is so green from all of these parks. They are also very well used by the locals, who are very fitness and outdoors oriented.

Trolly going down a scenic avenue.

Cathedral in town center. There is a city center square all around this area that acts as the heart of Christchurch. There were street performers, a market, countless shops, statues, and a massive chess board that always was being used. Christchurch is a lovely town with very friendly locals.

16 December 2005

From Summer '04 in Puerto Rico

Looking back on Old San Juan from El Morro

REU 2004 Students at Arecibo Observatory: the world's largest radio telescope. This is the massive dish that appears in the movies James Bond: Goldeneye and Contact

This is a waterfall we swam in at El Junque, Puerto Rico's rainforest national park.

These two pictures are from Playa Crashboat, which was one of my favorite beaches on the island. The top picture is me doing a dive off of that pole. It was about a 25 foot drop to the water below, which was crystal clear and about 30 feet deep at the end of this pier. The bottom pic shows Megan preparing for her dive, and this pic also gives a great shot of the beach in behind her.

This was Bahia del Sol on Vieques island. The beach was a massive semi-circle that stretched into the distance. It was very beautiful, especially considering that there weren't any hotels within miles of the beach. Like Playa Flamenco on Culebra Island, visitors that wished to stay overnight had to pitch a tent or sling a hammock and camp, which was amazing. Another really cool part was the phosphorescent bay a few miles hike away. Seeing the water light up around you as you swam was a unique experience.

San Juan at sunset. Old San Juan was indescribably beautiful and unique. I really loved its blue cobblestone streets, old Spanish style buildings, and of course, El Morro: its Spanish fort. Oh, and the pina colladas were to die for, which is expected since Puerto Rico claims to be the birthplace of the tropical drink's recipe.

12 December 2005

From Summer in CO

Boulder with Bear's Peak and Flat Irons in behind

These are some pictures from CO when I was working there last summer:
Group of new interns (from left: Amanda, Charles, Garrett, Yang, me, and Homero) on the way up to Bear's Peak on the Front Range. Bear's Peak is the mountain on the left in the topmost picture. We started out early and took our time. When we reached the top, we found out that we had taken the long way up the mountain around the backside...oops. It was well worth it though. At the top we could see to the west and the Rocky Mountain range (including all of the peaks we would hike later in the summer), and to the east was Boulder, with Denver just to the south and the plains stretching to the horizon.

Garrett, a friend of Amanda's, Amanda, myself, and Eamonn on top of Gray's Peak. Gray's was the first fourteener (14,000+ feet elevation) we hiked. It is reputed to be one of the easiest, but I know I sure had a hard time getting to summit. As always with mountain climbing, it was well worth it when we got to the top. We slid a lot of the way down in the snow fields that covered the top most faces, and we even got to witness an avalanch on Gray's twin peak: Mount Torries.

Us on top of Mount Elbert, the tallest mountain in the Rockies and tallest in the 48 contiguous states (Alaska has higher) . I found this hike easier than Grays on the way up, but it was a very rough way down with a twisted ankle and bum knee. The summit was really, really chilly and hard on the hands trying to open up a can of tuna with a Swiss Army knife. Well worth it and awesome sight on top of the mountains of the collegiate range, particularly Snow Mass (big peak with a lot of snow, visible in picture in far left center), Mount Massive, and the always present Longs Peak looming in the far distance to the northeast.

Long's Peak Boulder Fields: This is after about 6 hours of hiking. I started alone at 2 in the morning. I waited for several other climbers and just trailed them along the path. It is not possible to describe the size of these boulder fields and the mountain itself. Long's Peak is reputed to be the most challenging non-technical fourteener, and it has earned this reputation. Getting onto the boulder fields was like entering into Hell. It was very cold, windy, and the rocks were jagged, slick with ice, and precarious. There were several points along this hike after crossing these boulder fields and going through the Key Hole to scale the back side, with its gusting wind and ledges overlooking thousand foot drops down sheer rocky faces, that I almost turned back. Fortunately there were many other climbers that were pushing me on at this point and I continued.
Me on the summit of Long's Peak. When my sister and I first drove into Colorado, Long's Peak was the first mountain we saw along I-70 West, and from the moment I saw it, I had wanted to stand on top of it's flat topped summit. The worst part of the ascent was the last leg, where climbers had to scale a nearly vertical face that had sheets of ice on it making the climb even more scary considering the 2000+ foot drop beneath you. I made it up and was chilled to the bone when I got there. The summit itself was about the size of a football field and covered with those boulders you see all around me. This picture is cool because in the distance over my left shoulder you can see the front range and Bear's Peak and the Flat Irons (right center).

This is a picture from Lake George. We did some awesome camping there and some rock jumping as well!

02 December 2005

First Entry

Hey everybody,

I have created this blog so that I can keep everyone interested posted on my travel for the next year. I plan to be blogging my stories, experiences, and pictures from my trips to all seven continents over the next seven months. Thank you all for checking this out and also for all of your support in these crazy adventures of mine! Enjoy!!!