Early in my Antarctic career I spent most of the time there in the winter, 5 consecutive winter seasons in fact and once in a while the years all blend together. I had mentioned the image of Jeff Scanniello was in 1993, another year blended together. It was 1994 and not 1993. the date of the image was June 23, 1994. The following is a brief description of what we were doing out there in the dark looking for 1,000 lb. bundles tossed from an aircraft.
From the early 1980's through 1995 the National Science Foundation provided a mid winter air drop of supplies, fresh food and mail to Naval, civilian & science personnel wintering at both McMurdo and the South Pole stations. Also included in the drop was the same cargo for the New Zealand program at Scott Base a couple of miles from McMurdo.
The US Air Force provided the transport method carried out by a C-141 Starlifter refueled during the flight from New Zealand by a KC-10 tanker. The drop was a two day affair and on day one the plane first flew to McMurdo delivering half a plane load and then headed to the South Pole for their one and only drop. Then on day two the plane delivered a full load to McMurdo and that was that.
The drop zone for McMurdo/Scott Base was out on the skiway used in the summer months by the skied LC-130's, a flat expanse of snow on top of the Ross Ice Shelf. The snow there is some 25' deep on top of the solid ice providing for somewhat of a soft landing. Marking the drop zone at the approach were a line of 30 gallon drums filled with gas & diesel set on fire and the same at the departure end of the drop zone. The drop zone was 1,500' long and 250' wide. The sides were marked by the skiway lights, no different from a regular runway in warmer climates.
The plane at an altitude of approximately 1300' dropped bundles weighing up to 1,000 lbs. each guided to the snow by ring slot parachutes. These parachutes slowed the bundles descent yet did not allow them to "float" as a normal parachute in case the wind was blowing, otherwise we would spend a lot of time looking for the cargo spread out across the ice shelf.
The Air Force used this drop as a training mission and relied on personnel on the ground to plot the bundles placement once the drop was completed. Before GIS/GPS technology in the survey world this was done more or less by best guess estimates and a couple of frozen tape measures.
The June 23, 1994 drop in the image was the first time GPS was utilized in plotting the bundles. On the ground we had the load plan for the aircraft and knew in what order the bundles would come off the plane, all the bundles were numbered and the "do not freeze" items such as fresh vegetables were marked with strobe lights so they could be picked up first and placed in a heated container on skis to be transported immediately to the station.
In the image, Jeff had been on foot literally running from bundle to bundle marking their location, his breath causing the ice buildup on his face and eyelashes. I was in charge of coordinating the airdrop recovery and always had a camera on me as I moved in and around the operation to document the activities. I happened to be in the right place at the right time when Jeff came up to me and was illuminated by one of the light plants that was to the rear of me. I have it in my image notes that it was around 11:00 am, -36f and no wind when the image was taken.
Image Subject: Jeff Scanniello, Surveyor for Antarctic Support Associates (contractor at the time), United States Antarctic Program.
Photographer: Bill E. Haals, Operations Supervisor for Antarctic Support Associates, United States Antarctic Program.
Bill E. Haals