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Saturday, November 13, 2010

The South Pole Station

When I studied geography in high school the short chapter on Antarctica had only one photograph: it was a photo of the Dome.  It felt strange to come here and not see it.  It was taken apart and flown out last summer, leaving no trace behind.  The problem with the Dome is that it was getting buried under the snow that accumulates here, about 8" every year.

This photo of the old South Pole Station from Wikipedia shows the Dome buried by snow accumulation (the entrance was originally at the surface of the ice).

Replacing the Dome, we now have what we call the Elevated Station.  A breakthrough architectural concept and an engineering marvel.  It is built on stilts and is elevated from the ground.  Being elevated, when the wind blows, the snow does not catch into the sides of the building and does not form walls of snowdrift; being built on stilts, it can be raised every few years to remain afloat on top of the ice as the snow accumulates.

The Elevated Station seen from the Skiway

The station seen from the Geographic South Pole (the South Pole is located approximately where the flag is)

My room (circled in red).  This photo shows how the station is not built on the ice, but on stilts.

As seen in these photos, the weather has improved dramatically in the last few days.  Yesterday the wind was 8 mph and today there was no wind at all.  The skies have been deep blue.  Without the wind I have been venturing outside for my morning runs, with one additional layer of fleece on top of what I was wearing in McMurdo.  This morning I ran 4 miles on the skiway.  Despite the -42F (-41C) temperature I felt nice and warm the entire way.  It is time to go check out the skis now.  Some people already started going out yesterday.  As soon as I post this blog I am going to look for the stash of skis and boots somewhere here on station and hope to find some that fit me.  The doctor on station is an avid cross-country skier, and I hope to be able to log a few miles with him while the weather holds.

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