Ben Adkison Photography: Blog en-us (C) Ben Adkison Photography [email protected] (Ben Adkison Photography) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:33:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:33:00 GMT Ben Adkison Photography: Blog 80 120 Saving The Best For Last: Time-Lapse/Star Trail Series during The Antarctic Winter

Scott's Discovery Hut sits about a quarter mile from McMurdo

Click for full screen.  The video of Facebook (link opens new window) ended up being higher quality.

About 1200 images stacked together create these star trails with the southern celestial pole just out of the frame.

[email protected] (Ben Adkison Photography) Fri, 12 Jul 2013 12:10:00 GMT
Part 2 of a 3 Part Time-Lapse/Star Trail Series during The Antarctic Winter Since I've been enjoying creating time-lapse videos this winter I was really excited when I walked through Sunday's storm to retrieve my camera that had been out all night.  I was surprised that the battery had lasted 4 hours and captured 3700 photos.  I let my camera warm up and the snow and ice, that had made its way through the many layers of jackets that the camera was wrapped in, melted it was finally time to check out what happened while I was sleeping.  I was disappointed to find that a thick haze had moved in just an hour after I had set the camera up.  This made about 2500 of those photos useless.  

The final time-lapse of 1200 images shows a pretty neat dance of exhaust from McMurdo and the auroras in the distance.  

The light clouds blocked out most of the stars, but this stack of 1000 photos makes it look like McMurdo is exploding, but its just all the directed the exhaust went during the night.

[email protected] (Ben Adkison Photography) Tue, 09 Jul 2013 18:10:00 GMT
Part 1 of a 3 Part Time-Lapse/Star Trail Series during The Antarctic Winter Last week I took advantage of the clear skis and calm winds to get a series of three time lapse videos composed of anywhere from 300 to 3700 photos throughout evening and night.  Below is the first one taken on July 4th.
The clear, calm night of July 4th was idea for setting me camera up to endure the night.

Here is the first time lapse of just over 300 images covering the first few hours of the night.

The battery finally died just as the Milky Way was coming into the frame.

A composite of all the images from that night.
The next set of time lapse videos and star trails will be posted in a few days.  Enjoy.]]>
[email protected] (Ben Adkison Photography) Mon, 08 Jul 2013 16:20:00 GMT
The Night Sky is The Only Thing That Changes This Time of Year There really isn't much to do around here this time of year so every clear day/night we have I try to get out and take photos.  I've had a list of winter photos that I want to get and with the noontime horizon getting brighter every day I feel like I'm running out of time.  I wanted to get some photos of McMurdo from the top of Observation Hill, but I was hoping to do it on a clear day to get the Milky Way in the shots.  Last weekend was dead calm, but the sky was cloudy, but I figured I'd head up Ob Hill anyway so as not to waste the day.  The sky seemed to clear up just as I walked outside leaving me clear skies and auroras for just about an hour until it started to cloud up again on my hike back down to town.  

The skies cleared as I started up Ob Hill.
Right before I headed back to town I decided to do a quick 360 degree panorama and  ended up with one of my favorite photos ever.  Click to Enlarge.
McMurdo and Saturn from the top of Ob Hill.
Winter in Antarctica has left me with time to work on photos and create a website to display and sell them.  Check out There are galleries with hundreds of photos for sale! And I'll keep adding photos in the coming months of Antarctica and traveling once I leave here.

The auroras give an ominous glow above the incoming clouds and Scott Base.
This reminds me of something out of Lord of The Rings.
The clear skies this weekend left me with many trips out to Hut Point to set up my camera for hours of photos.  There will be at least three time lapse videos and star trail images coming up this week.  In the meantime I have about 5000 images to deal with.
[email protected] (Ben Adkison Photography) Sun, 07 Jul 2013 14:24:00 GMT
I've Made it Halfway Through The Antarctic Winter!
One of the main courses at Scott Base's Midwinter dinner.  Thank you Meghan Brown for these two photos.
Just one of the desserts served at Scott Base during Midwinter dinner.

Midwinter dinner at McMurdo was the next day's feast.  Many hours were spent reorganizing and decorating the galley into a travel-themed dining room and dance floor.  Maps and scenes of the world adorned the walls and a model airliner, complete with contrails, streaked above the dining tables.

Since the theme was travel a couple of us decided to dress up like American tourists complete with fanny packs, sandals with socks, lonely planet guidebooks and name tags for our tour group: Antarctic Scenic Services or A.S.S.

We dressed as American tourists as per the travel theme.  Thanks to Deven Stross for the photo.
Each winter base in Antarctica sends out a midwinter greeting to all the other bases on the continent.  Many are further north along the coast of the continent and sent greeting with group photos of the winter-over personnel during a sunset.  McMurdo sent out a generic photo of the station with an invitation to anyone who wanted to bring in fresh salad saying that we'd provide the dressing.  It is sad that an American "research" station in Antarctica won't fund or even allow a greenhouse to be run by volunteers in the winter to provide real food to its residents.

Besides more amazing food and good company my favorite part of the night was taking photos at our little "studio corner" in the back of the galley.  One of my coworkers set up his lights and put up a perfect black backdrop.  I've never been that great at taking people photos so this was a great learning experience for me.  I had a blast taking pictures of everyone and am pleasantly happy with the way the photos turned out.  I'm not as opposed anymore to possibly doing more portrait work in the future.

This is the guy who provided the lighting and set up the photo area.  Thanks Deven.

The weather forecaster and observer for the winter hard at work predicting the weather.

The super moon topped off the weekend.  I know the moon would end up right behind Observation Hill and I've seen photos with the moon silhouetted behind the cross at the top.  I am certainly not religious, but it seemed like a pretty neat photo.  It was cold and windy and I really had no desire to stand outside and take photos, but I walked outside after a meal and the moon was almost in position.  I slowly walked back to my room and took my time getting camera gear ready hoping that the moon would be in the wrong position for this shot.  I walked outside and the moon was in perfect position and I ended up really happy I actually got out and took some photos of this.

The classic Ob Hill full moon photo.

The super moon illuminating the darkest day of the year. 

Every week or so there is a beautiful calm day in McMurdo.  I try to go for a run every time it is calm enough to do so.  This week is the first time that McMurdo has felt like a mountain town to me.  It had been calm all day with low clouds and the weather drew me to free myself from the indoors and go for a run around McMurdo.  The low clouds blocked out the sky and dropped ice crystals all over town as if all the stars had fallen and stuck to the cold ground.  They sparkled just as brightly leaving the same feeling that you get when you look up at a sky full of stars.  

My run took me part way up Ob Hill overlooking McMurdo and I could here the dull roar of the town. It was the same dull roar that any town puts off at night.  The lights of town cast an orange glow on the lower hanging clouds and I momentarily felt at home.  I felt like this was a place, seemingly forgotten at the bottom of the earth, that I might be able to spend some time in.  There have been a few moments in my last nine months there that I've felt this way.

On that note I can't wait for the sun to come up.  Only 52 more days until that happens.

[email protected] (Ben Adkison Photography) Fri, 28 Jun 2013 05:14:00 GMT
The coolest ATV ever: The Hagglund vehicles of Antarctica and Ivan the Terra Bus.

Hagglund 007, also called Moonraker, parked near the wind turbines between McMurdo and Scott Base.

At first I saw the Hagglund as one of the least appealing looking vehicles around.  I saw it as a pretty boring box with tracks.  Unfortunately, sometimes it is hard to be happy with what you have, but I had always wanted to drive all the other types of vehicles that were cruising around town and out on the sea ice.

After a full summer of driving the Hagglund a few times a week, it quickly grew on me.  After driving them all around McMurdo Sound and Ross Island I learned about all the gnarly terrain that these vehicles can cover.  They are supposed to be able to traverse a 30 degree slope before they flip over, but the pucker factor starts just after 10 degrees.   They are also supposed to be amphibious, but the bilge pumps in ours don't work and it really wouldn't make that much of a difference anyway because none of the doors fully seal.  Back on that topic of always wanting more: the Kiwi Hagglund has all of it's working parts AND they have carpeted ceiling!

Hagglund 007 during SAR training on the McMurdo Ice Shelf during a mid-day sunset.

They Hagglund was put into production in 1980 after a couple of prototypes were tested.  This might explain why it looks like a box with a set of tracks.  They are used all over the world primarily for military, search and rescue and firefighting use.  But they seem to be becoming more popular as a recreational vehicle.  If you are so inclined you can purchase one here.

A few other people helped me love the Hagglund even more.  One woman on a recreational trip last summer had worked in McMurdo for a few years and one of the things on her Antarctic bucket list was to ride in a Hagglund.  She was super excited to just sit in the cab and get a few pictures taken, let alone zoom across the bare sea ice at around 20 mph in it.  They are reported to top out at 34mph; I think I've hit 25 or 26mph going downhill.  Stats also say that it can hold 17 people, but with all of our search and rescue gear we can barely fit our whole SAR team of 10 people in it.

During the second medevac this winter the crew from the C-17 took more photos of the Hagglund than anything else at the airfield--granted it was dark and there wasn't much else to see.  I've definitely come to love the Hagglund over the last eight months down here.  One of my favorite parts about the Hagglund is sitting in the backseat with a pair of earmuffs (since the engine is right in the center between the seats) and being lulled to sleep by the smooth rough sound and vibration of the vehicle.  If I don't get to drive any other type of vehicle in Antarctica I'll be pretty happy with the Hagglund.

Even the penguins love the Hagglund.  Penguins waddle and slide up to anything that is new in the environment.  This led to some amazing encounters this summer, but here these penguins soon lost interest in us and headed toward Hagglund 120, otherwise known as Hansel.  Hagglund 121, Gretel, spent most of the summer in the shop.

[email protected] (Ben Adkison Photography) Sun, 09 Jun 2013 18:29:00 GMT
Long exposures prove that there are still mountains out there.
I was able to get back into something a little more normal for me a week or so ago and actually put on a pair of crampons and grabbed an ice axe.  What used by be an almost daily occurrence suddenly became a huge novelty.  Mike and I went out to an icefall to scout for that week's SAR training.  The crunch of the snow was soothing for me in a way that the sound of traffic is for others.  As we made our way over crevasses and below seracs I felt more alive than I have in the last few months of being in town.

Large parts of McMurdo remain fully illuminated all winter long.
Icefalls always look menacing and scary in the dark.  They are rarely seen in the dark for long.  Eventually the sun will come up turning my imaginary dangers into real ones or washing away any fears I had as if the sun is saying, "it's just a piece of ice silly."

During the day it was still light for weeks after the sun had set for the season.
We used spotlights from the Hagglund to scope out options for traveling through the ice fall.  On the northern horizon, silhouetting Mt Erebus, was the type of glow that you see about two hours before the sun rises.  The first thought that popped into my head was that by the time we actually start hiking it will be light enough to see pretty easily.  This was when it finally hit me that it wasn't getting any lighter for quite awhile.
On calm days fiery columns of exhaust and steam come from most of the buildings.
But now, just a few weeks later, I hardly realize it is dark--in the same way that it didn't strike me as strange when the sun was up all the time during the summer.  Now I know it is supposed to be dark and am almost surprised every time I see the moon in the sky.  It seems out of place since darkness has consumed everything else.  On clear days the moon is beautiful, but I can't help but feel that it is taking something away from that darkness.  It takes something away the same way the faint glow on the norther horizon takes away from the darkening night.  In another month or two I will have different feelings toward that glow since it will be bringing the sun back instead of taking it away.]]>
[email protected] (Ben Adkison Photography) Thu, 30 May 2013 19:53:00 GMT
Antarctic Medevac 2013: Take 2
Only 18 days had passed since the second last plane of the winter took off from Antarctica before the third last plane landed in the dark winter night.  It was just about enough time for much of the equipment to get put away from the last flight.

I walked outside last Friday morning to gale-force winds and blowing snow thinking that no plane would ever land in this weather.  I was not alone with those thoughts, but things were still set to bring a plane in later that day.  The other half of the town was out at the airfield putting the finishing touches on the runway. The weather forecast called for decreasing winds and increasing visibility.  I could look up through the blowing snow and see stars—there wasn't a cloud in the sky—but looking straight ahead there were moments when it was hard to see 100 feet in front of me to the next building in town.

These subsequent medevac flights have taken on a life of their own because of how close together they were, the people that go out and come in on them, and the mystery that theytry to shroud them in.  They have even gotten nicknames: Medevac 1.0 now known as WHOOPS (Why Have Only One Plane Sent) and Medevac 2.0 has been dubbed OOF (Operation Old Flame because of some of the passengers arriving.)  

After a four-hour delay I fired up the Hagglund to drive out to Pegasus Airfield.  Since the Hagglund has tracks it was decided to use it to help transport people and baggage out since the road wasn't in the best shape for normal wheeled vehicles.  I enlisted the help of two others to help me open the giant doors (acting as sails in the wind) of the Science Cargo building, where we park the Hagglund in the winter.  After the vehicle was warmed up and moved outside it only took one person to close the doors.  The wind had stopped.  We could stand outside and look at the stars without goggles and a face mask.  In a matter of minutes a terrible ground storm turned into a cold serene night.  I say night, but it was only 2pm. 

The C-17 was set to land at 6pm.  Everyone was poised and ready next to the runway when we got the call to turn off our headlights.  All that was left was the glare of the runway lights pointing to the north and the distant lights of McMurdo and Scott Base.  The stars of the Milky Way were in full view in the cold clear air.  By this point in the evening only one cloud had developed to the north—directly in the flight path.  Far in the distance above the clouds I could make out a faint flashing red light.  There was a different type of anticipation for this flight than there was for the last one.  For WHOOPS there was the excitement of a plane coming in and the dread of why and how the plane was coming in.  But OOF carried a different excitement with it.  It carried fresh food, firefighters, and a bunch of cargo.  There wasn't the dread since the patient wasn't in such a critical condition as before.  It was as if USAP was finally deciding to correct things from last time.

The lights of Pegasus Airfield await the C-17 (the white dot in the lower left corner)
The flashing red light of the distant C-17 slowly grew brighter and brighter and then completely disappeared into the only cloud in the sky.  Nothing else in the sky moved except for the exhaust floating from the pipes of the many vehicles it takes for such an operation.  My eyes were fixed upon the cloud trying to guess where the red light would reappear.  Despite the hum of numerous diesel engines it seemed silent because that sound has become so normal over the last seven months.  My heart rate slowed for what seemed like quite some time until the red light of the plane reappeared and still seemed very far off.  The rest happened very fast so the plane wasn't as far away as it had seemed.   My radio sputtered an announcement to have the runway lights turned down to 50%.  Then the flashing red light flared as the bright white spotlights on the plane were turned on.  A voice from the radio said to have the runway lights turned off.  I wonder what was seen from the cockpit through the night vision goggles.  It looked as if the plane was heading straight toward the group of people and vehicles sitting near the fuel tank beside the runway, but it landed perfectly on the newly groomed ice runway. 

The plane turned around and it was go-time for everyone.  They offloaded one pallet of cargo from WHOOPS and the plane was on the ground for 40 minutes.  This time they took 7 or 8 pallets of cargo off and it seemed like the plane wasn't on the ground for much longer thanks to the elite team of former and newly trained cargo handlers.

Offloading cargo from OOF
The plane soon took off and winter started again with new people and fresh food for the third time in just over two months.  Auroras on the eastern horizon welcomed the re-restart of winter.  The relative calmness felt after the plane took off ended not long after arriving back in McMurdo.  The wind had picked back up in town and somehow word had spread about the pallets of fresh food (locally known as freshies) arriving in town and a large crowd had gathered to help unload everything. 

Despite the ensuing gas from not having eaten fresh food in months, the mood at lunch the next day was livelier than it had been all season. Simple fresh food had quite the effect on an already jovial table of people crazy enough to spend the winter in Antarctica. 
[email protected] (Ben Adkison Photography) Tue, 14 May 2013 13:05:00 GMT
Green Inspiration

[email protected] (Ben Adkison Photography) Fri, 10 May 2013 13:41:00 GMT
Antarctic Medevac Flight 2013 AntarcticaI was told by a surprising amount of people to throw all my logic out the window before I got here.  “Nothing there makes any sense,” they told me. I am still surprised every single day about how nothing at all makes sense, but somehow things still work.  Many of us joke about make sure we choose the most illogical solution to any problem just so we can stay with the status quo of the station.   Many of the people that are down here or have ever been down here has this same feeling or at least something close to it, but nothing every changes. Little that happens here makes any sense and I don’t understand why.  

Last week we had a medevac flight come down to evacuate a worker who needed further medical care.  It wasn’t that our medical staff couldn’t handle this person’s condition (they do amazing with the few resources they have); this person needed more advanced long-term care than could be provided here.  The United States Antarctic Program (USAP) has proven again, as it has in the past, that if something really is wrong they will get you out of here. 

This was by no means a good thing.  We’d be losing a valuable member of our already small community. It also meant thousands of man-hours of work to get the runway cleared of snow and get equipment up out of the cold and running to support a flight.  Most of this was done in the extreme cold and limited daylight of the winter.

It was also an opportunity for USAP to correct a few mistakes it had made and to maybe even get a little extra cargo down since major cargo flights won’t start until mid-october.

Instead an empty C-17 was sent to New Zealand from the US.  It was then loaded with a bag of mail, a few (but not all) of the CAT equipment parts that were needed, and some ducting and a secret box of fresh food for New Zealand’s Scott Base.  None of the much-needed medical supplies or fresh food for the Americans was brought down.  This 800-pound pallet was all that was shipped down-leaving 90,000lbs of unused cargo weight.  I also fully understand that the whole point of this flight was to evacuate someone and they wanted the plane on the ground for as little time as possible.  

The plane had more cargo going back to New Zealandthan it did coming down here.   Besides the person that the medevac was for we lost four additional people—this included one third of the firefighters.  McMurdo now with its 139 people and 100+ buildings only has four firefighters for the next 4-5 months.  Rumor has it that two replacement firefighters were in LA about to board a plane to come down here when they got a call to go home because the C-17 was coming down a day earlier than planned.  Imagine quitting your job, packing and getting all the required medical checks in a matter of days to rush down to Antarctica two days before the last sunset.  Then being told right before you board a plane to go home. 

I won’t rant anymore because I don’t want it to overshadow what the people of McMurdo did to make this flight happen and to save a life.

By this point, much of the mechanical equipment and vehicles have been put to sleep for the winter.  This mean all the airfield fire trucks, fuel equipment, runway lights and all the other strange machines that it takes for a plane to land here had to be brought back to the land of living for this flight.  Untold hard and painful hours were spent out at the runway digging out the fuel pits and plowing snow off the ice runway.  I had a relative small and easy job in this process (simply bring supplies over to the clinic when they were running low on items) so I have a huge amount of respect for everyone who put in more countless hours in this. 

It is pretty amazing what people will do for another person.  For a few days many people didn't even know who they were building the runway for.  Things like this make me proud to be a part of this community.

Things are slowing back to normal now with the population now at 139.
[email protected] (Ben Adkison Photography) Mon, 29 Apr 2013 18:45:00 GMT
Aurora Australis Time-lapse This is my first attempt at a time-lapse video.  It shows 3 hours of Aurora Australis and meteors on April 14, 2013.  

[email protected] (Ben Adkison Photography) Thu, 25 Apr 2013 21:42:00 GMT
What if the Sun Never Came Up Again?
Walking toward the last sunset
Having a real day and a real night has made me feel more like a real person.  I felt less like I was in a strange place at the bottom of the world.  I felt more at home with a normal cycle of light; even though I can usually feel at home almost anywhere (and nowhere at the same time). The 24 hours sunlight left nothing under the cover of darkness.  There was never a time that light prevented you from doing something.  I could always see where I was and on every clear day I could walk outside and be reminded of where on earth I was.  But now that is gone.  The night takes over my mornings, the alpenglow is taking over my lunchtime and the twilight clings to my walk home from work.  But all this is trending toward darkness for all.

The sun barely peaks out behind Mt. Erebus on April 23, 2013

Excitement over the last sunset
I know I'll be excited to see stars and everything the night has to offer every time I walk outside, but I didn't realize how great the real day/night cycle was until the sun finally set.  If I can't see the sea ice and the mountains it will be hard to fully feel where I am.  What else will the darkness bring?  Will my world really only exist within the small beams of the street lights and headlamps?

Liz tries to catch the last of the sun
I've thought a lot about this while stepping along the crunchy snow in the dark hours after an alpine start to climbing a mountain.  Your world starts out so small: just the few feet that the headlamp illuminates.  The only other light around is what the stars shoot down and the only visible feature is the ominous silhouette of the mountains that surround you.  But, slowly over the hours of climbing a whole new world emerges.  The stars disappear as the sky turns to blue and orange and the mountains turn pink and white as the darkness rescinds into daylight. This happens in a matter of hours.  I'm going through the opposite of this in a matter of days to weeks.  This process will happen again...taking days and August.  It's all part of the adventure of living in this place I've chosen to call home for the year.

On April 23, 2013, a small group of McMurdo residents took an extended lunch to search for the second to last sunset.  The last sunset could only be seen from far out on the ice shelf.  Getting out of town was rejuvenating after long hours working in shaded McMurdo.  Everyone was super excited to really see the sun for the last time in months.  We spent about two hours staring at the sun and taking in the last rays it had to offer.  It felt like a new beginning with new friends that would endure the same darkness as I would.  Our eyes did burn for hours after we returned to town though.  As a child I was always told not to stare into the sun.  We stared into the sun for over an hour trying to burn that last image into our minds.  Two days later I blink and think I can see the last view of the sun burned into my imagination.

High winds decorate our last sunset. April 24, 2013. 

[email protected] (Ben Adkison Photography) Wed, 24 Apr 2013 21:24:00 GMT
Alpenglow for Lunch Today the sun rose at 11:27 and set at 2:17.  I didn't see the sun itself because McMurdo is tucked in a little hole in the hills, but I did see the pink glow of meek sunlight on the surrounding mountains and Ob Hill.  The sun sets for the final time in two days.  I hope to see it just one last time before the darkness engulfs us.

I've walked out to Hut Point to take in the sunset quite a bit in the last few weeks and I've hoped to see a seal every time.  They were there almost every day this summer, but most of the seals have moved to other waters for the winter.  Luckily I caught the last straggler.

It feels super bizarre to walk outside at lunch to alpenglow on the surrounding mountains.  But it does feel like a normal Montana winter when I now go to work in the dark morning and finish work when the sun has already set.  It will feel strange again when it is still dark at lunchtime too.

The juxtaposition is interesting with the industrial looking town in the foreground.  I'm excited for the darkness, but I'm also excited for this same type of light to come back in August because it will be even more amazing after a few months of darkness.  


[email protected] (Ben Adkison Photography) Sun, 21 Apr 2013 23:14:00 GMT
I entered a photo contest... I have a few photos from the last few months that I really like so I decided to pick a few and enter them in a photo contest.  It would be awesome if you have an extra minute to go and vote for them.  

The Milky Way photo is at: 


This penguin photo is at:

Thanks for the help!
[email protected] (Ben Adkison Photography) Tue, 16 Apr 2013 02:54:00 GMT
My First Aurora Australis I wanted to wait a few more days to post more photos, but after last night I simply can't wait.

I was in a hurry to leave McMurdo and get out to a small hut on the McMurdo Ice Shelf called Square Frame.  Square Frame is a large insulated box with a few windows that sits on top of a man-made snow drift and contains a few beds, a couch, a heater, propane stove and card table.  It is maintained by the Kiwis, but is set aside for one weekend a month for the Americans to use.  The USAP used to have a hut near here called the A-Frame, but that blew away in a storm years ago and I think the Kiwis decided to mock us by putting up the Square Frame.  No one else signed up on Saturday night so we got the place to ourselves.   

Square Frame with Mt Erebus in the background

The sun set about an hour before we arrived at Square Frame, but the few clouds in the sky were still highlighted in orange.  The rumors of auroras and a meteor shower (and a clear night) left me eagerly anticipating the darkness.

One of my first Milky Way & aurora photos
It was great to be out of McMurdo and again enjoy the simplicity of no electricity or internet.  To pass through the twilight hours I beat Liz in a few games of cribbage and started watching the movie Encounters At the End of the World.  It's a movie about the people who work at USAP and about being down here.  After spending the last six and a half months down here I could only shake my head at what Werner Herzog (director & narrator) had to say about his little bit of time down here.  I would highly recommend watching the movie on mute with some great music in place of his negative tone and terribly accented dialog.

Just like a little kid, every few minutes I would get up and run to the window to see how dark it was outside and see how many stars were out or if the auroras were starting yet.  

New Zealand's Scott Base and the aurora 
Finally it came to the point that I decided it was either dark enough or I couldn't handle Herzog's voice anymore and it was time to go outside and take some photos.  It took some time to set our cameras and layers of clothing ready to go.  

Amazingly there was no wind and the temperature felt fairly warm (for Antarctica) so it was pleasant to stand around outside for awhile.  I imagined some of the photos that could be taken, but I had no idea what would actually show up in my camera after that first shot.  I've always drooled over photos of the Milky Way and auroras.  After recently doing some research I had an idea of how to capture them.  But what appeared on the cold, tiny LCD screen blew me away.  I wanted to keep taking the same photos over and over again just to prove to myself that these photos were real.  

I went back in to warm up and finish the movie and prepared to head out again.  I wanted to take photos throughout the night, but wanted to get some sleep also.  I hooked up a remote and put that in a mitten filled with hand warmers.  I also put hand and toe warmers all over the camera (concentrated around the battery) and wrapped the whole set up in a Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket, MicroPuff Jacket, DAS Parka and a pair of puffy pants.  I set the camera to take 30 second exposures with 30 seconds in between for 180 shots.  I didn't think the batteries would last that long.  This worked!  I'll put together a time lapse movie of what happened and post it soon.

One of the photos that my camera captured while I was asleep.
If this is just a glimpse of what the winter has to offer I'm even more excited about the darkness and trying to hone my star and aurora photography skills.

This was a learning experience.  I think I know how to do it better next time!

[email protected] (Ben Adkison Photography) Sun, 14 Apr 2013 03:38:00 GMT
Antarctic Sunsets Part 5 The days have dragged on and on this week.  For most of the week I couldn't figure out why the days suddenly seemed so much longer.  I didn't know what suddenly changed....

Last weekend we "fell back an hour" to end daylight savings time.  Between this, and the days becoming so much shorter, the sun now rises after I go to work and sets before I get off work.  I look out the window in the early afternoon and see evening light which makes me feel like I should be getting off work soon.  But hours later the sun finally goes down and hours after that I finally get off work.  

Scott's Discovery Hut & McMurdo (the unwatermarked version of this one goes on the McMurdo Station report to Washington D.C. next week)
A storm approaching from the south.

 I guess I'll be able to take a few more sunset photos next week AT LUNCH!  

[email protected] (Ben Adkison Photography) Fri, 12 Apr 2013 04:05:00 GMT
Antarctica Sunsets Part 4
Sun dips behind Hut Point and Scott's Hut on 4/3/13

There are only 18 sunsets left.  I know those 18 days are going to fly by and many of them will be obscured by bad weather, but I already wish the sun was set.  We're losing 16 minutes of daylight each day and it seems like such a long drawn out teaser for the darkness.

The sea ice breaks out of McMurdo Sound with Mt. Discovery in the distance.

 I feel pressured by no one but myself to take as many sunset photos as I can right now because soon it'll be so dark that I won't know where I am.   

I keep forgetting that I am in Antarctica, but when it's too dark to see that I am in Antarctica where will I feel that I am?  Strange to think about not seeing where you are in the world.

The ghosts from Scott's Expedition are emerging this winter
[email protected] (Ben Adkison Photography) Sat, 06 Apr 2013 03:42:00 GMT
6 Months in Antarctica
I walked outside after tonight’s SAR training feeling overwhelmed by the need to organize so much training for the winter SAR team in the next few weeks.  I stopped in my tracks because something was different.  Yes, it was dark out, but it’s been getting dark at night for a few weeks now.  The wind wasn’t blowing a hard as usual so I was able to take off my hood and stand still for a moment without immediately freezing.  There were a few dozen stars in the moonlit sky and a slight orange glow highlighted the mountains to the West.  This scene calmed my overwhelming thoughts and the rest of my walk home was full of excitement about a few months of darkness.

I landed in Antarctica 6 months and 10 hours ago.  This has been the longest I’ve stayed in one place since high school.  My college semesters didn’t even last this long.  Part of me feels trapped here, but the other part is relieved to know where I am sleeping every night and know that I have a paycheck every two weeks and do not have to worry about catching the next plane to somewhere in the world.

Windy Sunset
I don’t know how much has changed about me since I got here.  But I have adapted to be content with where on earth I am and what my life is right now.  I have watched everything change around me.  The sunlight and sea ice have gone from being ever-present in my life to disappearing and reappearing on a daily basis—all trending toward disappearing all together.  This cycle will reverse itself before I know it.   The faces of the people around me have changed and now the few faces that I see will get paler and paler, except for the bright red moments when one enters a building from the biting wind and cold.


I’m pretty excited about what the next six months in Antarctica have to bring.

Easter/Beaster/Beerster in McMurdo

Decorated beers instead of eggs.

[email protected] (Ben Adkison Photography) Mon, 01 Apr 2013 03:11:00 GMT
2-Ply and Some Photo Controversy fully stocked in the dorms that are closed down for the winter, waiting for the new arrivals in October...the folks that arrive back for the summer will never know...well a few of them might read this. Whoops.  I had come accustomed to it and didn't notice how bad it was until I opened that first roll of 2-ply yesterday.  I won't give you details, but what a difference! My boss from this summer left me a few rolls of coveted 3-ply that was sent to her from the States.  With the major delays in getting mail down here during the summer season she didn't have time to use it all before she left.  I told her I'd think of her when I used it.  Okay, enough about TP in Antarctica.

I know everyone has seen that photo already.  It is one of my favorite photos of people that I have taken down here.  The empty flagpoles pointing at the last plane leaving and everyone looking up to catch the last glimpse of their missed escape captures the exact feeling I was hoping to get when I walked over to the champagne toast with my camera.  I shared it with many of may coworkers and it soon made it into two articles in the Antarctic Sun newspaper:


Notice that the photos in the newspaper have no watermark on them and the one that I posted above does.  This is the result of an original publishing of the above photo on the front cover of the weekly McMurdo station report that is sent out to hundreds of people at the Antarctic Support Contract headquarters in Denver, CO, the National Science Foundation in Washinton, D.C.  This report was immediately rejected because of my photo. Because it has a watermark on the corner.  Apparently official government documents cannot use "copyrighted" photos.  The station manager then went up to the vehicle maintenance shop and took a picture of someone working on a truck and used that for the official report.  So to be safe we used the photo without the watermark for the newspaper articles.

[email protected] (Ben Adkison Photography) Tue, 26 Mar 2013 01:09:00 GMT
Last Salad for the Birds Last week, just before that last of the salad, I was walking from my dorm to the dining hall and noticed a skua sitting in the middle of a pile of salad.  I've seen a few skuas attack or at least scare people into dropping their food this summer.  These bastard birds have made off with chicken strips and shepherd's pie and even lobster tails on Christmas.  But this one may have captured the bounty of the season: some of the last precious leaves of lettuce.  

Apples, onions, potatoes and eggs will last for the rest of the winter and we'll have sprouts throughout the dark spell, but we're at the end of everything else fresh.  The skuas will even be leaving soon.  I have no idea where they go from here.  McMurdo is thousands of miles from anything living and edible besides a few seals and penguins. There will be only 143 living things left (besides a few gnats and fruit flies that live in the buildings)....slowly turning into zombies with the darkness that is increasing by the hour.

[email protected] (Ben Adkison Photography) Sun, 17 Mar 2013 02:43:00 GMT
Firsts of the Winter
Winter's first laughs...minutes after the flight was gone.

The first sunset of winter.

Probably some of the last Minke Whales I'll see for the year.  
3/10/13: Clear and Cold and Beautiful.

[email protected] (Ben Adkison Photography) Wed, 13 Mar 2013 03:15:00 GMT
Last Plane out of Antarctica It is official: winter in Antarctica has begun!  
The weather is nice and the sun still shines, but the planes are gone and the fresh food is dwindling.  McMurdo feels like a deserted mining town with a few foolhardy souls who stubbornly refused to leave for the season.

March 5, 2013 Sunset

March 6, 2013 Sunrise
 The soonest another flight will come down is the 3rd week of August.  The last flight left yesterday afternoon.  Now our winter population in McMurdo is down to 143 people and most of them crowded onto the deck of the chalet for a champagne toast as a New Zealand Air Force 757 took the last of the summer workers out of McMurdo and left us to fend for ourselves for the next 6 months.

Last Plane out of Antarctica for the season...4 days late (not a surprise) on March 9, 2013.
For now I don't feel trapped.  I thought that feeling would set in as soon as I heard the plane take off.  Right now I'm left with a feeling of relief and excitement for the winter and this new experience of having to stay on one place.  Hopefully that feeling lasts.]]>
[email protected] (Ben Adkison Photography) Sat, 09 Mar 2013 18:14:00 GMT
Antarctic Sunsets Part 3

March 4, 2013

The last [cruise] ship of the season.

[email protected] (Ben Adkison Photography) Fri, 08 Mar 2013 01:24:00 GMT
Antarctic Sunsets Part 2 March 2nd wasn't quite as spectacular as the evening before, but I can't complain after a summer of no sunsets.  As I write this the evening light is pouring through my newly cleaned window with the promise of the best one yet.  The ocean is calm and the clouds are perfect and my camera is calling my name...

One of the best dorm room views ever

[email protected] (Ben Adkison Photography) Thu, 07 Mar 2013 00:01:00 GMT
Antarctic Sunsets Part 1 We've been having some amazing sunsets in McMurdo lately.  I look out the window right now to what should be a beautiful sunset, but all I see is a fading white blur.  The blowing snow and clouds obscure what could be the sun setting behind the Royal Society Range.  This gives me time to go through photos and start a short series of the beautiful views from my dorm room.

View from my room: 3/1/13
I haven't had much time on my hands lately to take photos, but I have found a few moments to open the window to my room and stick the camera out to capture a few sunsets.  I'll work on the backlog of photos that I have and try to get the sunsets up as often as possible.

3/1/13 Sunset
Notice the steam on the water...the air from the south is a bit colder than the warmer water coming from the north.
I need to take advantage of the beautiful light while I can before it all disappears into the Antarctic night.

[email protected] (Ben Adkison Photography) Wed, 06 Mar 2013 02:05:00 GMT