Sunday, March 16, 2014

New Blog Location and More Consistent Content.

This Blog has moved!  I am now using a new blog, and will no longer be adding additional content to this blog.

Please view the new blog at:

Monday, September 30, 2013

Winfly in Antarctica = Amazing Sky

As Winfly (winter flyin) comes to an end here in Antarctica and we prepare for Mainbody(the main summer season), I thought I would post a few photos.  The Winfly time here is incredible from a photographer standpoint.  The night is getting shorter every day and it will only be another few weeks before the last sunset of the summer season.  I have been working mostly on the sea ice since I got here putting in a route from McMurdo Station to Cape Evans.

Early on in the season we had a week of incredible nacreous clouds.  These clouds are very rare.  They form in very cold temperatures in the upper reaches of the atmosphere.  Because they are so high they are seen after sunset when the sun reflects off them.  

Vince's Cross

Nacreous clouds see from McMurdo Station

Nacreous clouds and one of the first sunrises of the antarctic summer.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Flight to Antarctica

I have been here in Antarctica for over a month now and it is clearly time to catch up on posting some photos from the time so far.  We arrived here four days before the sun rose for the first time of the Antarctic summer.  We were flown down on a Boeing C-17 Globemaster based out of McChord AFB in Washington.  Unfortunately there are not a lot of windows on this plane so I don't have any photos of Antarctica from the air.

Upfront with the pilots on route to the ice.  

Unloading the cargo.

Mid afternoon in Antarctica.  

Loading Ivan the Terrabus.

Riding Ivan the Terrabus back to McMurdo Station. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Mount Baker Summit Climb with AAI

I just got back from a three day work trip up Mt Baker.  We had amazing weather and almost perfect conditions.  If anything it was possibly a little hot for me, but most days seem to be a little warm for me.  Day one consisted of gear check, driving to the trailhead and hiking into our camp.
The hike in.

A camp caretaker.

The hike in.

Excited to be at camp?

Day two consisted of skills practice.  We started with snow school which consists of snow walking and ice axe use and moves into self arrest.
Self arrest practice.
 After lunch we worked on roped glacier travel and took a tour of the glacier.

The ice fall.
 We ended the day with a little crevasse rescue training, after lowering one of the group into a crevasse.
Using the drop C to rescue a team member.  
 Day 3 was summit day and started at 2am when my alarm went off.  I started by shooting a couple of photos of the summit.

The long walk uphill.  

A cloud cap covered the mountain most of the day and we climbed into it.  

Steam rises from the crater about 1000ft below the summit.  

Into the clouds. 

Above the crater.

Signing the summit log.  

Summit Gu!


We took the scenic route down and stopped at one of the best overlooks in the lower 48.  

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Living and working in Antarctica Part 4 Wildlife

Many people come to Antarctica in the hope of seeing wildlife.  The vast majority of Antarctica has no wildlife.  McMurdo has some, but it is not exactly teeming.  There is a grand total of five species of terrestrial animal that one has a chance of seeing and none of them  are really terrestrial since they all depend on the ocean.  After the sea ice melts then it is possible that various types of sea life will be spotted, but that only comes near the very end of the season when most people are either too busy unloading the cargo ships or have already gone home.  
My job allowed me to see quite a bit of wildlife since I work on the sea ice which is where most of the animals spend their time.  
By far the most common wild life seen by anyone on station is the skua.  Skua are a large seabird that looks a lot like a big grey seagull.  They are both hunters and scavengers and very intelligent.  It is not uncommon to see one swoop down from the roof of the cafeteria and knock a tray of food out of the hands of an unsuspecting resident heading back to their dorm.  They are smart enough to know the difference between a tray of chicken and a tray of veggies, and the owner of the tray of chicken should beware.  Even though McMurdo provides easy scavenging, their primary food source is fish.  They come to McMurdo to breed and like most birds they breed in an area with few predators and plentiful food.  Their only predators in the Ross Sea region is themselves and they have been know to eat their own eggs and even their own young.  Due to the ocean being frozen their main source of food(fish) is not available.  They instead feed on the placenta of pupping weddell seals and eggs and young of adelie penguins.  The largest nesting sites are located directly adjacent to the largest penguin rookeries.

The grinch steals lobster.
A very lucky skua takes off with an unlucky residents Christmas lobster.  

An angry skua with McMurdo in the background.   It is difficult to hike some trails during nesting season without a skua making its presence known.  

While most of the McMurdo population looks at these birds as a nuisance, I came to enjoy them.  This bird nests farther south than any other bird.  They spend the Austral winter off the coasts of North America making their annual migration up there with one of the longest of any birds.  They are rarely seen in North Amercia because they are primarily a sea bird.  

Skua mom and chick.

A skua showing its territorial display.  

A skua chick.  

A dead skua chick and its mother.  This mother sat on the dead chick and a frozen egg for over two weeks.

A close up of the egg and the chick.  A tiny beak is visible poking out of the frozen egg.  

It is important to note that my photos of these birds were shot from a long way off and the photos of the birds attacking me were shot when working directly with science groups, or when walking on open trails near McMurdo Station.  As soon as the birds showed aggressive behavior I left the area immediately.  The photos of the nestling were shot with a telephoto lens and at no point did the parent bird react to my presence.   In other words:  No birds were harmed in the making of these photos.

The emperor penguin is the most iconic of the antarctic species.  Luckily for most McMurdo residents they are fairly common.  Groups of them wander around the sea ice close to station.  They are curious birds and therefore anyone working on the sea ice within sight of an emperor is likely to be visited.  On their feet they are clumsy and awkward but they do seem to be able to travel reasonably quickly.

In the water they are an amazing animal that swims incredibly fast and can dive to depths that are difficult to imagine.  One was recorded at over 500 meters under water.  They spend large amounts of time out of the water.  There is no food out of the water so they do not eat for very long periods.  This includes almost the entire winter for the male birds.

A pair of emperors who visited while doing sea ice work.  

This bird spend several weeks near the airfield on its own.  

Emperors come to visit.  

If the emperor penguin is the statesman of the antarctic the adelie penguin is the jester.  Adelies are smaller than the emperor and seem to walk around the ice with no rhyme nor reason to their travel.   Like the emperors they are curious and will come and investigate anyone working on the ice.  

Adelie penguins traveling from Cape Royds to the open ocean.  

A group of adelie penguins at Cape Royds.  

A group of adelies investigates our activities while measuring a crack near Cape Evans.  

Several Adelie penguins were seen near McMurdo Station later in the season.  This was shot at Hut Point.  

Adelies investigate a Weddell seal on the sea ice.  

Weddell Seals
There are many Weddell seals all around the sea ice surrounding McMurdo Station.   The seals can be found at cracks in the ice, where they work to keep holes open by chewing on the ice.    Many of the seal holes have blood around them from the males who guard their holes from other males.  It is not uncommon to see bloodied male seals outside the holes covered in snow having not appeared to move for many hours.  These seals are exhausted from fighting for their holes.   As soon as they are rested they return to the water to continue to guard the hole.  From this blog post it might be easy to get the idea that we are walking next to the seals every day but this is not the case.  My job did not bring me close to the seals that often, mostly because we are encouraged to stay away so we do not disturb them. Most of the time the seals are just a dark spot on the ice in the distance, occasionally my job brought me close enough to shoot some nice photos.  

A male seal with a large wound on its side.

A seal pokes its head through the ice. 

Using its teeth to make the hole larger.  

A young seal trying to return to the water.   We were tasked with blocking its way due to explosives being used underwater close by.  We stood guard by this hole for a couple of hours until the explosives were used and then let the seal go about its business.  

Mom and pup

A very large seal in flat light.  

The final animal that one might see on Ross Island is the snow petrel.  It is a beautiful white bird that I never managed to get any where close to.  I saw them once and the photo was not good, but here it is.  

Snow petrels above Castle Rock.  

Once again it is important to note that all of the photos I have here were shot while working directly with science groups, or while doing my job.  The Antarctic treaty states that people may not change the normal behavior of animals in any way unless there is a scientific purpose.