Thursday, August 30, 2007

Lunar eclipse at the bottom of the world

Like other parts of the world, we got to witness the lunar eclipse on August 28.

Our resident astronomer and professional photographer Robert Schwarz was out all night armed with an arsenal of cameras and giddy with excitement. He was worried that we would be skunked with clouds and poor visibility that night but instead we lucked out with incredibly beautiful weather and clear views of the show.

We had great views of the moon out on the back decks of the station over towards the cryo barn. The earth's shadow started creeping over the face of the moon around 8:30pm and the total eclipse occurred from about 10-10:30pm.

Robert has a great website here with loads of his beautiful photos from this winter and previous winters (this is his 6th winter). His lunar eclipse photos were also featured at on the front page, quite an honor!

We are now seeing a nice pink tinge on the horizon where the sun is circling around us, although it's still pretty dark out. It will only get lighter and lighter from here on out until the sun emerges from below the horizon around September 21 and then the 6 month-long day will begin. For now, it's a lovely dawn full of promise...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Radio Darts

A long standing winter tradition has been playing Radio Darts. South Pole, McMurdo and Scott Base (the Kiwi station near McMurdo) gather weekly to "play" each other in a game of 301 darts.

Jim, Sven and Brien waiting their turn at the dartboard.

This is the Station Operations Center, or SOC, which replaced old Comms down in the Dome. We use the HF radio to call over our darts scores after each round. Players from McMurdo go over to Scott Base to play since they have a nice pub there but this winter, they are renovating it so they moved the dart board to the heavy shop. No worries, they still drink just as much beer while playing and sometimes it's quite evident from the scores how much they've had.
Here's Jim at the dart board just outside the SOC in the hallway. We had to make a temporary backboard for it since we didn't want to make too many holes in the walls of the new station. There's a comforter spread out at the base of it so those wayward darts don't break when they hit the floor, something I seem to excel in more than hitting the board.
So the board is not as close to the radio as we'd like but we make do and we even have binocs for the spectators to scrutinize those close calls.

Dan has been one of our ringers this winter and he is often the go-to guy to double in or double out for our team. His accuracy is demonstrated with this tight grouping of a triple 20 and two single 20s for the high score of the evening of 100 for our side.

Sometimes the radio waves are finicky and we don't have such great transmissions back and forth. We have had to resort to "Email Darts" in the past by just playing our games and emailing the scores afterwards. It's not nearly as fun but it does go a little faster, especially when the game drags on as we're trying to hit the dreaded double one.

This past Friday we played the last Radio Darts match of the winter. Winfly will start next week at McMurdo and they will be busy with an influx of people that will quadruple their population so they won't have time to play anymore. Just as well...Scott Base ended up sweeping the match winning all three games, a rarity since we usually win at least one game. At least we didn't get "pantsed", which if you lose the game before even doubling in, the losing team has to drop trousers for the other teams. In this day of digital photos, they can easily have proof of your punishment. Believe me, if we had been pantsed this past match, I would have blogged about something else.