Search This Blog

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

South Pole - Jan 1, 2011

It was another spectacular summer day at the South Pole, the start of a special year, marking the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the first people here at 90S.  We celebrated the beginning of the year with solemnity, dignity, respect, and a great party.

There was no official party on Dec 31st.  Some people spent the midnight with a group of Austrians, Germans, and Icelanders camped out a half mile from the station, visiting the Pole on a reality TV show (more on this later); other folks went out at midnight to take photos at the Pole.  I opted to go to sleep early so I wouldn't miss my early morning run before the Pole Marker ceremony at 10 AM the next morning.

As tradition obliges, at 10 AM on Jan 1 we all gathered outside for the Pole Marker ceremony.  The immense glacier that we live on drifts at a speed of 10 meters per year, moving, along with it, all of our buildings, and even our pole marker.  Therefore, every year, on Jan 1, we reposition the pole marker to the most current location of the Geographical South Pole.  This position is determined by our surveyors with sophisticated GPS equipment provided by the United States Geological Survey (USGS).  The new pole marker itself is a piece of art designed by the winterover crew who spent the last year at the Pole, and is produced by the winterover machinist, while the old pole marker is taken back into the station and added to the collection of pole markers which is displayed in the hall.  The new pole marker will sit out on the ice for the next 365 days, until it will be replaced next year by the one that we will design and build this coming winter.

At 10 AM we all gathered in a big circle around the Geographic South Pole.  Renee, our winterover station manager, in the green coat, holding the new pole marker in her left hand, wrote and delivered a short speech, then unveiled the pole marker and started passing it around the circle.

The new pole marker going around the circle from hand to hand.  Here it is being held my Mike, one of our firefighters.  Most of what I learnt about firefighting, I learnt it from Mike.

The 2011 pole marker.  If you happen to visit the pole this calendar year you will see it.  The 47 degrees on the sextant represent the 47 people who wintered at the Pole last year.

I volunteered in the dish pit again on Jan 1, with Mandi, our Physical Therapist, and Mark, our Doctor, to give the kitchen people a break so they, too, could get ready for the party.  Gloves and hat are a requirement to step into the kitchen area.  Working in the dish pit is a very social activity: we get to meet all the station personnel passing through and handing us their dishes over a window.  With every one we have some small talk.  Many had nice comments about my joker hat.

The party started at 8:30 in the gym.  We had three bands to entertain us: country, bluegrass, and rock.  I find it remarkable that out of a population of 240 people, who did not even know each other just two months ago, we were able to come up with as many as three very good bands.  It speaks to the talent and teamwork that is assembled here at the South Pole.  All of this happens thanks to volunteers who set up and break down the venue, and take time after work to practice and plan.  It also helps that the United States Antarctic Program provides us with excellent equipment, and that ... well, there isn't much more to do at night after the work is done.

Some people participated in a costume contest.  Here are John, our baker, and Tina, who works in comms.  Tina's costume is made out of bubble wrap, while John made his suit out of bags of the Italian polenta that we eat here at the Pole.  I owe John for making me panettone over the holidays, a request I had put in when I met him for fire training in Denver back in September.  It was very good, just like the one we eat in Italy, except fresher.

We were up past midnight dancing and partying.  I went to sleep at 1 am, but some people stayed up until 3 am, dancing to DJ music after the last band had finished playing.

No comments:

Post a Comment