Tuesday, December 12, 2006


McMurdo station: Loading the crates of spheres to transport onto the ice

First crate heading out to... somewhere

Lionel and his film umbrella, filming the Antarctic weather. Finally time for some real cold...

90% perspiration

The spheres have landed

And keep landing

Sophie, the birthday girl - and her ice cake

"What are you people up to?"
First day to take out the crates to our site. With the equipment we have we can only take one crate out at a time. It takes two to three hours per trip at 10 miles an hour, and we have a total of six crates. We have to hitch a trailer to the Piston Bully, then forklift each crate weighing anywhere from 300 to 600 lbs, onto the trailer, then driving out through the sea ice via the short cut to Pegasus road. Lionel and Simon take the first load, Sophie, Jean and I are supposed to leave at the same time on our skidoos which should take us less than 30 minutes, but we got delayed trying to figure out how to work the skidoos, our lesson was not hands on, and this is taking awhile. By the time we get there, Lionel and Simon had been there way before us, but we had fun speeding on the ice, driving these things in the middle of the sea covered in ice is, to say the least, a great thrill.

I locate the exact site, and we unload the first crate onto the ice. Jean tells me that all I need to do is shoot the crate in the middle of Antarctica and I would get an instant exhibition in a museum. I have to admit, it's tempting...

On our way back I am so immersed in the experience of driving the skidoo at great speed on this flat icy surface that I miss the turn off and find myself almost all the way to the Pegasus runway! Jean is furious with me and is afraid we will run out of gas before we make it back to McMurdo. We make it back and manage to spill gasoline over the entire skidoo, "everything here is a learning curve"Jean mumbles. It is true that in our extreme weather gear and all the safety precautions we have to take it feels like we are moving in molasses.

Back at McMurdo I meet with Jane from recreation and work out an entire program for the Solstice. We work out the logistics of ninety nine people coming out in two shift from 6:30 p.m. to Midnight when they will start performing the movement of the stars slowly rotating clockwise in concentric spiraling concentric circles. This we will shoot from a helicopter.

I meet Jean and Lionel at dinner, while Simon and Sophie do the third run of the third crate for the day. After dinner Debra Zabarenko from Reuters interviews us at the Coffee House where we have lattes laced with Jameson’s. Simon has it set that we have to have four crates out by the end of the evening and he and Sophie take off for a late night run over the sea ice with the fourth crate. Jean, Lionel and I go back to crary lab and find an email from Jane saying our plan for December 22nd, is no good, as they will have to close the short cut to Pegasus road because of the sea ice deteriorating. This is now a roadblock in our plan. We continually have to respond to very complicated logistics. I stay in the lab way past midnight and on my way to find a midnight snack run into Debra who just came back from the Andrill site, and shows me the Library upstairs. Amazing views of all the mountains at the edge of the horizon where the sea ice is. Inside, special collection books on Antarctica, Antarctic research, astronomy, any science you can find. I find myself mesmerized by an Atlas of the galaxies published by NASA in 1988. I better go to sleep, even though it is bright light outside, just beautiful light, want to stay up and keep going.

1 comment:

jrglassman said...

You guys are superstars! I am watching every move you make from my cozy office near Sunset Plaza. It looks so exciting.

You are dinner party conversation in LA! I was at a LACMA Christmas party tonight, seated coincidently next to the Treasurer of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. He was not aware of Stellar Axis. I explained your mission and directed him him to your website. He never expected to learn somthing new (and novel) from me in the world of astronomy.

Keep each other warm with all your good energy. The words you express feel just like you are wispering in my ear. We are all there with you. Much love, Jane Glassman