McM & SP Photography

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    I’ll be a GA at South Pole starting October ’05 and would like to know more about my layover time in McMurdo. If possible, I’d like to find someone to show me some nice places to take photos. Preferably wildlife, but any sort of local knowledge would be appreciated. Or, will that even be an option?

    Secondly, while I’m at SP, any ideas of what sort of exploring options there will be? Will I have a chance to go out on long range “overnight” trips? Working six days a week doesn’t seem to leave much Weekend Warrior time. Rumor has it of a hut some miles from SP that can be skied to and slept in? What about pitching a tent or kiva? Would I need to bring my own gear (sleeping bag, kiva, etc.)?

    More questions to come, I’m sure. Thanks in advance. I’m keen to get down there.



    I’ll be leaving the 17th of October. If you are here on the 15 or less, come to electrical supply building 121 and I’ll give you the scoop. You can’t leave town unless you’ve had the outdoor safety class. We don’t want you dropping into a crevasse. After that, there are tons of things right in town. By the time you go climb OB hill, go to the discovery hut, climb the ridge trail, and hike the Castle Rock loop, there won’t be much time left.
    Some hints
    If the sun is shining, your automatic exposure will darken the picture to make sure the snow isn’t washed out. If you have a person in the photo you will need a flash to lighten them back up. Yup, you need the flash in full bright sun. Your camera should have a setting that lets you force it.

    Bring lots of batteries. They go dead very quickly in the cold. Better yet go get one of those giant external batteries that plug into the power jack on your camera. There are generic ones at good camera stores that fit multiple cameras.

    If you are going to be staying on for the winter. It’s imperative that you have a tripod. The exposures to capture night shots are so long that there is no way to have sharp pics without one at night.

    Imaging a seal or penguin a hundred feet away. Take a picture of something small and a good distance away. Take it at your full zoom. If you cant see it now you won’t be able to see the penguins in your photos either. Get a great big zoom lens.

    If you are in a tent, wide angle lenses do well at getting the insides.

    Get some filters. Polarizers turn the sky more the blue you see it in your mind. They can bring out the colors in the nacreous clouds as well. Neutral gray filters can sometimes help with the overbrightness from sun and snow.

    Find someone else that wants to take photos and go on your trips with them. To do yourself well you will want to stop everywhere and take twenty photos. Other photographers will be happy to stop. Everyone else will be pressuring you to keep on walking.


    by the way, I’m at Mcmurdo not the pole.

    You’ll need someone else to tell you what to do there.


    You will experience what true cold is down at the Pole. I doubt you’ll be wanting to walk ANYWHERE. And camping? in a tent?!? HAHAHAHAHAHHAHHA…

    It’s a fun place, though, with lots of good people. I haven’t been there in years (I work at McMurdo), and I haven’t even seen the new station. Maybe one day I’ll load-up my tent, and head south… HAHAHAHAHAHAHHHAA…


    What about the Happy Camper program? It looks like they head out from the pole, build some igloos or snowcaves or even just set up tents and camp out.

    Any first hand experience with those? Anyone taking it one step further?

    How about the Numis crew? Anyone think we’ll be seeing them at the pole?



    Hi Offyonder,

    Outdoor survival school, a.k.a. Happy Camper, is taught at McMurdo (I’m not sure if they offer it at Spole, or whether they’ll offer it to you). All camping gear is provided, and you spend the “night” out on the Ross Ice Shelf. It’s a great experience… the first time.

    As far as I know there’s no rules against camping or building an igloo at the Pole, probably because most people find that, well hey, it’s really damn cold and not much fun at all. I won’t laugh like Atlas did, but I think when you get a taste of the environment you’ll understand his reaction.

    I do hope you get to see the Numis expedition! And by that I mean, I hope they survive. Scott’s team died horribly, which would not be a good thing to re-enact. In all that historic equipment they’d better also have a satellite phone to call for rescue if necessary. ❗



    This year folks set up a Scott tent next to the Pole, and several people actually slept in it at -100F temperatures (or tried to). I had no desire to attempt the chilling experience. Last year there was an igloo built.

    Most people who come to Pole spend little time in McMurdo unless they have specific job reasons to do so, or unless there is bad weather, so I suspect that you won’t have an opportunity to do Happy Camper school there. Especially since it looks like you’re showing up here as part of the massive influx of new summer folks. Sometimes they have had a similar course at Pole, so all I can say is keep your eyes and ears open when you get here. There aren’t any crevasses or cliffs to fall down here, nor any real need for remote field party support or SAR stuff (which is the real reason for Happy Camper training) but who knows. In any case, with your job you’ll probably be outside a lot, some of the construction is in the dark sector (science area) over 1/2 mile from the station.

    It will be interesting to see how the Numis team does…there are a lot of nongovernmental groups planning overland travel to Pole this summer–some may cancel out or quit halfway, but some will make it, and they are interesting folks to meet. Sometimes they give lectures or presentations about their venture. There are some other unusual plans out there; my list of all of the planned ventures (at this point anyway) is here:

    See you in about 3 weeks…

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