Sunday, January 16, 2011

Business Trip to The South Pole

This week I got to spend a few days at the Amundsen–Scott
South Pole Station. The farthest spot south on the planet!
I was there to help Katie, the Station Suppor Supervisor
with the Pole employees' Redeployment Meetings. My
co-workers Leighton, Liz and I presented everything
necessary the employees needed to know so that they
can redeploy this time next month.

It had been two years since I had been to the Pole and
since my first visit four years ago, lots of changes have
occurred here. For the most part it was a major
construction zone. Now everything is finished and all
is running as planned. Also, the dome is now gone.
The dome was the centerpiece of the previous station
and it has since been dismantled. Where it sat there
is now a large open field of snow.

On my first visit in 2007, there were large pieces of
plywood where a much more functional dark gray
sheeting is now in place. The station as a whole is
pretty impressive.

We flew south from McMurdo for three hours in a LC-130
Hercules. I don't fly in these on the trip from Christchurch
to McMurdo and back, so it's kind of a treat, getting to fly
in a different type of aircraft. They're not really that
comfortable, but they're functional.

This is probably the smallest air passenger terminal I've
ever flown into or out of. It's actually more of a warming
shack in which one can stand out of the wind while waiting
for a flight.

Since I was staying for just a few nights, I got to stay in
the main station as opposed to the Summer Camp. The
Summer Camp is essentially a group of Jamesway tents
with berthing and limited facilities. The rooms in the
main station are small, but cozy and functional.
I didn't spend a lot of time in my room and I think that if
I was working here for a full season, I probably wouldn't
either since you really can't spread out, but it was pretty
comfortable nonetheless.

This is where my room was located looking at it from the
outside. I didn't have much of a view, just looking at
another wing of the station, but at least I could tell what
the weather was doing in the morning.

Katie is on the left and Leighton is on the right.
Leighton helped me with our Redeployment
Meetings in McMurdo and then we went south to
help Katie. It's her first season in her current
position and I don't know how she does it. At a
minimum she wears 8 different hats and works
an average of 14-16 hours a day, seven days a

In several places in the station there are big television
screens that display information. This screen was displaying
the weather at the time. -14.6 seems cold but it was actually
pretty warm. Because it's so dry, one can stay outside for
quite a while if you're dressed appropriately. Even though
the station is physically at 9,301 feet, it feels like it is over
10,000 feet because of the barometric pressure at the Pole.

There are also flight schedules displayed throughout
the station.

I will never complain about the slowness of the internet
at McMurdo again. The internet availability at South
Pole relies solely on when satellites will be passing overhead.
As a result, there are only a few hours each day in which
someone can send email our browse the web. Even then,
it is pretty slow. I guess at one of the most remote places
on Earth, it's lucky they get this much connectivity.

Since there aren't a lot of computer or television options,
there are lots of other recreation opportunities including
this very large lounge with lots of books.

When the satellite is "up" there are lots of computers
in the computer room for people to send emails or
browse the internet.

This is one part of the Medical facility inside the station.
Very modern and from what I hear has good telemedicine

I bought postcards at the store and sent them out from
the Post Office here. Of all the time I've been coming down
to Antarctica, I think it's the first time I've ever sent post

There's only one laundry facility on station. I was very
jealous that the residents here get to use Tide as their
detergent. We get some crummy generic stuff at
McMurdo that eats your clothing if you use too much.

This is another small lounge that doubles as a library.
There are several of these scattered throughout the

The craft room seemed a little spartan, but if you bring
your own stuff, there's lots of room to move around.

During the summer, freshies come in fairly regularly.
In the winter though, there aren't any flights from
February though almost November so they have to
grow their own. This top notch greenhouse is run by
Lane, who wintered at McMurdo with us a few years
ago. He told me that this time next month it will look
like a jungle in here!

When you work at a place where literally everything
outside is white, a splash of color certainly helps liven
things up. This is just one example of the bright colors.

We held a total of five Redeployment Meetings and three
of them were in this conference room. I thought that
almost everything at the station was much more modern
and usable that the counterparts at McMurdo. Sure,
they're newer, but much easier to use as well.

Since the station is one long building, there are
two long hallways that run the length of the
station. This is the second floor, looking from
one end to the other....way down there!

Comms keeps track of all radio communications between
Pole and the rest of the world, including planes landing
and taking off.

There's a pretty nice gym with lots of useful equipment.
Adjacent to this is a full-sized gymnasium where they were
playing volleyball.

The station is surrounded by nothing...miles and
miles of absolutely flat nothing! As far as the eye can

I really liked the Galley. Even when it was full, it never
seemed crowded, unlike our galley in McMurdo. It was
also a nice place to relax and read, which I did several
times during my stay.

Outside is a very nice view of the Ceremonial Pole with
all of the flags of the original signatory nations of the
Antarctic Treaty.

However, a great view for any McMurdo-ite would be
of the REAL ICE CREAM. All we have is soft serve at

Liz, Leighton and I got to take the time to take a stroll
around outside.

Of course I got my hero shots to go those from my other visits
at Pole, but this was my favorite from this visit.

This is the only place on Earth where no matter where
you stand, everything faces North!


Jude said...

Wow. It's posts like these which make me wish everyone read your blog, or that I were famous so I could get people to read it. Very cool.

PinkSparkle And Lace said...

I stumbled upon your blog while clicking "next" on blogspot. This is amazing. Do you mind if I follow you so I can come back to read more? You have a very interesting blog and life!!

Unknown said... shucks...thanks!

Tammy...please do follow. Most of my posts aren't that interesting, but thanks for reading!