News from the Ice

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    A link from “Antarctic Sun” led me to this board, or a link from a link. I’ve been working my way through the Sun from its first issue on line, 27 Oct. 96. From “Mactown”, it’s not a bad little paper; some of the “Ross Island Chronicles” cartoons (sassy penguins) are hilarious!

    The farthest S. I’ve been is Lumsden, N.Z. (46° S.); but I worked with Polies and winterovers in NOAA’s GMCC (later CMDL, now WMP), the folks in CAF or ARO. Worked at BRW and SMO, and visited MLO. I saw the USARP check-in counter at CHC but I was headed for Apia and Pago Pago.

    My reading generated a bunch of questions and comments. I gather the famous dome (looks black; I’ve read it’s silver) at the Pole is to be moved to Port Hueneme CA and put in a museum. It might go out on the new “ice highway”; too bad it wasn’t completed in time to haul materials for the new Pole (that long beige building with the “beer can” at the end) instead of having to pay a fortune to fly it in. Lockheed Martin’s Deer Creek Canyon facility in Jefferson County here has a beer can too. It looks like a giant silver UFO that landed near the new Ken Caryl Ranch development. Clearly visible from open space nearby.

    Some ?? about the Pole: apparently that Russki biplane that broke down there (what went wrong?) was fixed and flown to MCM. Then they took the wings off and flew it out in a Russki cargo plane. Why didn’t they fly it to Christchurch? Did they ever find out why those skydivers’ chutes didn’t open? Was anybody lost or injured in that Herc crash long ago?

    Elsewhere, I keep reading that R/V “Nathaniel B. Palmer” is a “dry ship”. They couldn’t even toast the Millenium New Year with champagne! Talk about killjoy rules! Why is it “dry”?? What about the other ships? Evidently, no liquor sales at MCM when vessels are in port, another rule that completely baffles me. Oh well most red tape utterly mystifies me. I’ve suffered enough of it in my world travels to confer a lifetime loathing of bureaucrats.

    Enough for now. Oh–I knew a few old Polies, OAEs or ?ever, Vern Rumble and Don Nelson for instance. Saw Vern’s name somewhere; he was on TDY in Barrow while Don was the station chief in Samoa. I read Behrendt, John C’s “Innocents on the Ice”; if you can believe it, Finn Ronne (of the Ronne Ice Shelf) was a real loose cannon. Not the only one, I bet. The “Sun” linked to many fascinating tales, from science on Mt. Erebus to Antarctic wildlife’s weird sounds and much else besides–including this board. –Roger Williams, Boulder, Colo.,


    Hi Roger, welcome to the board. Lots of questions there. I’ll answer what I can, and perhaps some of the other regulars will respond too…

    The dome at the pole is silver, all aluminum. Dunno what you were looking at that made it look black. Regarding the parachuting accident, I didn’t see the report — so this is sketchy third-hand info. But as I heard it, the investigation concluded that a combination of factors caused it. Primary reasons were the distraction of the participants (too interested in making a formation rather than watching their altitude) and lack of ground reference points, leading to misjudging the altitude. The survivors had altimeters with automatic chute opening devices.

    The research vessels, Nathaniel B. Palmer and the Laurence M. Gould, are “dry” in the sense that no booze is allowed on board. I’m not sure if this is a USAP rule or a US law, but I’ve heard that US-flagged vessels — regardless of purpose — must be dry. Thus most cruise ships are registered under other countries so that the passengers can drink (not to mention the tremendous financial breaks of registering a ship with Liberia or Panama, for instance).

    @rogerac wrote:

    … I worked with Polies and winterovers in NOAA’s GMCC (later CMDL, now WMP), the folks in CAF or ARO. Worked at BRW and SMO, and visited MLO…. on TDY in Barrow while Don was the station chief in Samoa.

    Well heck, if you’re that “in” with the NOAA/CMDL gang, you’re a shoe-in for South Pole NOAA tech. Ever consider going? If you visit the gang down at CMDL (WMP?) on Broadway say hi to Sonja for me. 🙂



    The address didn’t work, not surprising as it was from around 2001. Anybody know a valid address for this guy?

    Thanks, Roger Williams,


    Hi Roger…actually most of the questions you ask about Pole can be answered on my web site…just wander around and use the search engine. I just wintered and left a month ago (one of the last 2 to leave) and am currently wandering around NZ and OZ without lots of access to my computer, so I may not have all the answers at hand (yeah, and I haven’t updated the site much lately). I’ve got links to all the details of the tragic parachute deaths, in a nutshell Glenn is right, the folks that died had no idea what altitude they were at when they hit. The Russians came in last summer and fixed up the Antonov, part of a deal for using their icebreaker I guess. And since they brought their own cargo plane down to McMurdo they could do what they wanted with the aircraft. Actually it originally came down via Patriot Hillls–I don’t know if it was flown there on its own or as cargo–in any case it didn’t have the range to make it from McMurdo to NZ.

    The Polar Duke (a Canadian/Norwegian vessel the NSF chartered in the 80s/90s) was not dry, you could officially have one beer or a glass of wine with dinner. Its predecessor the HERO was definitely not dry. And then there was the trip I made to Palmer on a French workboat, free flowing wine with lunch and dinner…

    I know that US flagged vessels can serve alcohol to passengers–I’ve had a few beers on the Alaska ferries….so I think the rule must be a USAP one.

    Who is the bakerro you’re looking for? Send me a private email and I might be able to help. Sounds like you must also know Brad Halter that I wintered with in 77.

    …oh the web site…

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