Friday, October 1, 2010

a drawing from Ninety Degree Draft

 30 x 42 colored pencil and gouache on paper --- photo by Jim Whitaker
 Click on drawing to see whole image....

A single drawing from an 8 drawing wall piece---a kind of drawn journal about every aspect of the Antarctic journey.

I am continuing to work on this project...lots more to come.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Check out the article in the Antarctic Sun.......

Not much news from the Antarctica front but you can check out this article.

I will be posting some drawings soon.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Antarctica Drawing at Crest Hardware Show!


I will have a drawing with images of hardware used in Antarctica and Antarctica landscapes at the Crest Hardware Show--opens this Saturday with a big party and continues all summer.

From summer in Antarctica to summer in NYC!!!!

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Antarctic project continues after a brief hiatus

I am again working on the Antarctic project after a brief hiatus--life and work get in the way.

A number of drawings are in the works---here is a piece of the ongoing project documenting the trip, from applying for the grant to traveling on "The Ice."

Sunday, March 21, 2010

a few more things about Antarctic life....McMurdo accordion book

Now that I am back I have become aware of what I haven't made clear about Antarctic travel and living. I also keep thinking about how one's expectations are erased by actual experience. These two thoughts come together when I describe aspects of daily life that surprise people when I am talking about my time on the ice.

I think I had no idea that I would be living in a mountaineering tent during the time I was out in the field. (A mountaineering tent is a dome-shaped nylon tent with a rain fly.) People are shocked---"Wasn't it cold?" everyone asks--"you actually slept in a!" In fact it wasn't that cold--a warm sleeping bag, 24 hours of sun (or just light on a cloudy day) and the fact that one does adjust makes tent sleeping very comfortable. I had a few chilly nights ---I used a hot water bottle once and the other times I did warm up nestled in my sleeping bag. As a matter of fact the dormitory room at McMurdo felt hot and stuffy after fresh air sleeping. I thoroughly enjoyed my tents at Lake Hoare, Cape Royds and the Scott tent at Cape Crozier. (Scott tents are larger and heavier--square bottomed and pyramid shaped--used by Scott 100 years ago when exploring Antarctica. They are less warm than the mountaineering tents--but you can stand up in them so they are better for clostrophic types.)

What was the temperature in Antarctica?--the question asked the most after,  "Did you see penguins?" Most of the time the temperature on Ross Island (Cape Royds, Crozier and McMurdo Station) and Lake Hoare in the Dry Valleys-across the frozen Ross Sea was hovering around freezing and dropping to the high teens. (I know--NY was colder.) The South Pole was minus 26--I was told I was there during a heat wave. Now it is minus 72.  It is 13 degrees F. today but dropping down to minus 7 later this week at McMurdo. The wind was brutal at times--my fingers froze one very windy day when I was walking from one side of McMurdo Station (which is really like a small town) to the other.

The images in this blog are part of a 29 panel accordion book, each panel being 4.5" x 6.5"--all done with gouache and then color pencils. The drawings are views out of windows from many buildings at McMurdo. I drew from Fleet Operations, the Carpenter Shop, the Berg Field Center (where one borrowed gear such as tents, crampons, etc.) , the Chalet--National Science Foundation headquarters, the Science Support Center, the church-Chapel of the Snows, the Crary Science Lab Building, and the Galley (aka cafeteria). I also did  a smaller accordion book of the view out of every window at Lake Hoare field camp--these can be seen on an earlier blog. I couldn't do every window at McMurdo--too many--McMurdo can house as many as 1200 people.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

South Pole con't

little gouache  painting of the South Pole TelescopeSouth Pole Telescope and BICEP 

Inside the base of SPT
cables for ICE CUBE

I was given a full tour of the three telescopes at the South Pole by their respective scientists. The South Pole telescope was immediately noticeable by its extraordinary form. You can find out more about this telescope at I found all telescopes at the South Pole so sophisticated that I know if I begin to describe their function I will get it wrong--they all sound like science fiction to me--for that reason I will refer to websites.

Housed in the same building is BICEP. This is the acronym for Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization, and again I will refer to a link because I can't begin to explain this telescope although it was graciously and generously explained to me.

I did not see much of the neutrino telescope Ice Cube as much of their visible work was finished for the season. They have a very extensive website with detailed explanations at

out the window --South Pole gouache painting

and another......
in the tunnel
I also visited the clean air facility (AR0) and the underground tunnels that carry water and fuel and are about minus 60 degrees at all times.

one last painting--the celebratory marker of the South Pole

And speaking of minus 60 --that seems to be the temperature there right now!

And the magnetic Pole--with Gumby in his Big Red....

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

At the South Pole.....

   Above pictures C130 at the Pole, ceremonial Pole, Pole dorm room and the Scott- Amundsen Station                
I barely wrote about the South Pole so now it is time to describe life there. I was told it was unusually warm for the end of summer--temperature ranging from minus 20 to minus thirty, down to minus 40 plus with wind chill.

The second flight on the C-130 (Hercules) was able to land.  I was greeted by Al Baker, science support coordinator for Raytheon Polar Services Co. He immediately took my too heavy bag, knowing that all efforts were particularly difficult with the drastic change in elevation. The South Pole is at 9300 feet above sea level and one needs time to adjust to the drastic change in altitude from McMurdo. The medication dispensed by the medical office at McMurdo may have been helpful for some but it made my toes burn so  I discontinued it. The only ill effects I felt was breathlessness after a minimal amount of activity.

Here are some facts about Antarctica....  

Temperatures on the Polar Plateau range from -115°F to +6°F; the mean temperature is -56°F.  Winter wind-chills can plummet to -148°F.

It is less windy than coastal Antarctica--but much colder.

It is extremely dry--world's driest desert.

Once settled in my room (unlike McMurdo all rooms seem to be singles at "Pole") in the very efficient new station (built in the late 90's) I took a brief walk to the ceremonial South Pole, a marker surrounded by flags from many countries and then to the actual magnetic pole --several yards away. The marker is changed on a regular basis and is chosen as part of a design contest. This year's maker is a small bronze model of South Pole Telescope. Although very close to the station, that walk was the extent of my outdoor exploration for the evening. As I had arrived so late I was invited to stay for the weekend. By staying those  extra days I knew I would  see a great deal more of the Scott-Amundsen Station and South Pole life.

To be continued--about the South Pole Telescope,  Ice Cube  (the neutrino telescope) and the BICEP telescope as well as the clean air facility (ARO) and more.......



Monday, February 15, 2010

quiet blog.....but not for long......

Sorry all--blog has been silent.....will update tomorrow--no longer on the ice--but have lots of backtracking to do. More on the South Pole, McMurdo Station and other Antarctic matters.

Monday, February 1, 2010

the South Pole part one--getting there....

The South Pole presented an entirely different landscape---white and sort of flat--although soft swells are created in the vicinity of the station by the drifting of snow against the structures.

Getting there was a bit complicated. We flew in an Airforce C17 over the Transantarctic Mountains, past the giant Beardsmore Glacier, mentioned so frequently in the books on Shackleton and Scott's explorations. It looked like a superhighway of crevassed snow, with craggy exposed peaks on either side. The view was clear all the way but the pilots were getting reports of low visibility at the Pole itself. I had the great fortune (thanks to people at NSF and the NY Air National Guard)  to sit in the cockpit for the entire journey. The visibility did not turn out to be the problem however-- a slight malfunction of the landing gear forced us to "boomerang" (a frequent occurrence here, usually due to weather) and back we flew to McMurdo having been only 1000 feet away from the Pole. The pilot and crew were gracious and generous so the six hours spent in the plane was not such a hardship. We waited at Pegasus field for three more hours and then started all over again, and this time were were successful.  To be continued.....

Saturday, January 30, 2010

from 90 degrees south

I am at the actual South Pole--more on this later.....temp minus 20 something--with windchill close to minus 40 not cold for here!!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Cape Crozier

I just spent two nights at the Cape Crozier Field Camp, high above the sea on the southern most point of Ross Island, Antarctica. The helicopter took us around Mount Erebus and Mount Terror to the camp consisting of a small hut and tents (5 total residents when I was there-2 penguin research assistants and 2 BBC camera person/ producers and me.)

Three others arrived with me for the day- scientist David Ainley and science educator Jean Pennycook came to band penguin chicks--and annual endeavor for the study of penguins and penguin colonies. (They have a great website

Not having a permit to touch penguins my assistance was limited to bending the metal bands into a more closed shape and by taking pictures. They banded 1,000 chicks---from the 150,000 nesting pairs.They worked rapidly- choosing penguins large enough at this point to have a chance to survive from the many skuas who await the opportunity to consume a vulnerable young bird--may do not survive! The bands allow them to collect data regarding health, nesting patterns, migration, etc.

It was a gorgeous, sunny, blue sky day----the best of the season I was told. For the first time I could actually hear waves and surf and the blue of the water against the ice edge was spectacular. This was the beginning open water around this side of Ross Island.

The banding finished and we all hiked back up the mountain, (quite a haul) and a helo picked up those not staying. I made my home in a Scott tent, had dinner with my new camp mates--who had been there for over 3 months! ....without leaving at all! They were impressive and welcoming. (The BBC guys had taken a short break from this isolated site.) I took a short walk to the highest local peak (Pat's Peak)to get an overview of the ice edge and surrounding mountains and snow fields.

The next day was also spectacular--relatively warm and not windy. I took a different route to the sea, down what is commonly known as the Penguin Highway. In this crease between a snow field and a mountain side skinny penguins descend to the sea and fattened they return to feed their young.

I spent the day water coloring, half way down and on the beach. The background sound was the constant chirping and chattering of penguins and the waves breaking and skuas crying out. At the end of the day I witnessed the actions of another animal perilous to penguins (in addition to skuas.) I watched a leopard seal consume penguins in the sea--his big head rising out of the water and then chomping down on a swimming penguin. Meanwhile on the beach a Weddell Seal slumbered, penguins keeping their distance--although this kind of seal is not a threat. An amazing day of being in the middle of a completely other kind of world.

I wearily climbed back up the mountains, inadvertently taking a longer route. I could see--(but be careful not to step on) bright orange lichens on black/ brown rocks-this with the blue sky and white snow was graphically beautiful. I avoided, as best I could, the skua nests--but they were none to happy to see me and dive bombed me for quite a distance.

I left the next day--along with the penguin researchers-- a morning helicopter brought us back to McMurdo Station.