Arrival at South Pole

Trip Start Dec 18, 2008
1
6
21
Trip End Feb 17, 2009


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Where I stayed
Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station

Flag of Antarctica  ,
Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The first men to reach the South Pole were Roald Amundsen and his five-man team.  On December 14, 1911 they reached the Polar plataeu, and Amundsen recorded the following anti-climactic paragraph (later published in The South Pole : an account of the Norwegian Antarctic Expedition in the "Fram", 1910-12):

On the afternoon of that day we had brilliant weather --
a light wind from the south-east with a temperature of -10 F. The
sledges were going very well. The day passed without any occurrence
worth mentioning, and at three o'clock in the afternoon we halted,
as according to our reckoning we had reached our goal.
Maybe Norwegians are just unimpressed by bleak ice landscape, but more likely Roald was toning down his excitement for the sake of adventure narrative.  I can only imagine what those six men felt when they took took a breather from sledge-trudging and realized they were there (difficult to tell on endless ice flat.)
Times have changed--I made my journey to the Pole on the flight deck of an LC-130 ski-equipped airplane.  I was the only passenger, so I was stuffed in flight deck with the four-person crew.  The body of the plane was carrying two sleepy air force guys and a load of "freshies,"  Polie-speak for fresh fruits and veggies.  

After lifting off at Willie field in McMurdo, the landscape opens up into glacial ice flats.  After pushing through clouds, terrain begins to emerge.  Scraggy mountains break through the white ice, and valleys and hills border plains of wind-sculpted ice.  Emerged from a cloud bank to to land on the airstrip in a spray of powder.  The crew members were proud, assuring me it had been a particularly difficult landing.  The pilot on my flight had been flying Antarctica for 11 years, and no-one on the plane had less than three years under their belt.  

The co-pilot turned back to me and motioned for me to grab my things.  I stuffed my camera inside my big red parka, and shuffled out of the plane.  The cold I'd felt disembarking the plane in McMurdo seemed like a poor joke.  This was cold unlike anything I'd ever felt.  All the cells in my face stung, and the air flooded up my throat to exit my body.

I was met by a group of smiling people in full Antarctic gear, waving pilsbury-dough-boy-like in their heavy mittens.  The station was a raised building a long green-paneled structure with jutting wings.  Beyond it lay the mostly buried garage and old station.  Now called "the Dome" for its iconic geodesic dome shape, this '70s, which now serves as the world's largest freezer.  According to trivial pursuit, the Geodesic dome is the brainchild of Buckminster Fuller, though I think he just thought up the name (figures...) and was chosen for this permanent structure for its structural integrity. Unfortunately, wind-blown ice has all but covered it up, thus the design for the new raised station.  Standing on the ground however, it is easy to see the raised station won't last forever either.  An ice wave is already starting to build on the stations... umm... other side, and I'd don't think it will be too long before someone needs to come up with a new solution.

Situating my heavy duffel over my shoulders, I trugged behind the man I had discerned was my new boss from the velcro name tag everyone is issued with gear towards the "Alpha" (runway side) entrance to the main station, ready to see my new home.

 
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