Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Happy New Year 2013!!!

In my 7th trip to the Antarctic, I got a VIP treatment — we flew in with an Airbus aircraft and landed in the McMurdo Pegasus airport in the early morning on December 23rd, 2012. Although my flight to the ice from Christchurch, New Zealand was delayed for several days, it was a nice surprise that we received flight attendant service in the air and I got a cup of hot tea and cookies during the ice flight!

This is my first-ever ice flight with Airbus — a wheeled airplane landing on ice shelf. Shown in the first photo was the Airbus after I got off at the Pegasus.

Because it was a real passenger airplane (I was transported to and from the ice all by military cargo airplanes in the last six journeys to Antarctica), we were able to look through the windows to outside.

Luckily, the sky was crystal clear when the Airbus flew over the Antarctic continent, so I was able to shoot photos on the Antarctic mountains and glaciers (see above two photos). They are stunning beauty of the Nature!

Two of my PhD students, Weichun Fong and Cao Chen, greeted me at McMurdo. Contrary to my original worries that they might be exhausted after Weichun spending four months and Cao spending two months at McMurdo, both were in very high spirit — anxiously waiting for clear skies while working hard on their research papers. But anyway, before starting my trip, Xian and I went shopping and bought them two new sweaters as Christmas gifts. They liked the gifts as shown in the photo above: two students in the dinning hall.

On the Christmas day, Vladimir and I walked to Crater 2 and I took a photo on the Castle Rock under the very cloudy sky .

Finally, the sky got clear on December 28, 2012 after nearly three weeks of overcast skies. We were very happy to run the lidar continuously for 33 hours before it became cloudy again. Due to four days of laser optimization work, two laser performances were improved so Weichun and Cao were able to increase the lidar signal levels by about 70% or even doubled the signals. Polar mesospheric clouds were very strong through the entire run, and we also got sporadic thermospheric Fe layers. 

The Antarctic is so beautiful under blue skies. On the roof of lidar observatory (Kiwi’s building at Arrival Heights), our lidar was running against the background of Royal Society Mountains. Two laser beams shot out from two beam tubes, and the opened hatch was for two telescopes inside the building. I was very happy to check the lidar hatch and show Elaine a lidar tour (see the 6th and 7th photos). While running the lidar at Arrival Heights on December 29, 2012, Weichun gave a nice explanation of lidar and Elaine enjoyed it very much (see the 8th photo). Cao took the night shift from Dec. 28th to 29th for 12 hours. After some sleep, I encouraged him to climb the Observational Hill with Weichun while I took the shift in the afternoon for several hours. They went for the trip, and it was a good thing to do because the sky got cloudy again in early evening.

Cao and I walked to the Hut Point where Scott’s Discover Hut still stands after 110 years of its establishment (1902 to 2012). I took a photo for Cao with the McMurdo station and Observational Hill in the background (the 9th photo). This is Cao’s first ever trip to Antarctica, and he is enjoying it.

It’s December 31st, 2012 at McMurdo, Antarctica. We enjoyed the Ice Stock 2013 celebration – a music festival to celebrate the new year. The last photo to this email is a shot of the happy lidar crew with NSF science representative Sonia at the Ice Stock. Several friends were performing on the stage.

All greetings are from our hearts: Wish you a wonderful and happy new year 2013!


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