10 January, 1999
Sunday, January ,10 1999, Amundsen - Scott South Pole Station
Greetings to all from the very South of the Earth!!
We had a beautiful Antarctic summer day; with temperatures around minus 27 Celsius, the sun was shining, and there were no clouds on the sky: a perfect day at the South Pole.
I woke up with a terrible headache, a typical sign for altitude sickness. However, after some aspirin and a few glasses of water I felt better. The shower (2min) felt great as well after the long travel time of getting to the South Pole. As I walked to the Dome where the cafeteria is, or as we say here the galley, I realized that I was truly at the South Pole. I could see the Ceremonial and Geographical South Pole at the distance where we took pictures yesterday. I am certain that it will be a motive many more times.
The South Pole Station is located in the midst of a vast terrain of flat featureless snow. The core structures are sheltered beneath an aluminum geodesic dome , 50 meter (165 ft) in diameter at the base and approximately 17 meters high (55 ft) at its apex. Outer areas include 'Summer Camp', the 'Quiet Sector' , 'Dark Sector' , and the 'Clean Air Sector'. I will introduce each sector in my future journals. Some of the core structures the Dome covers are dormitories, the library, a little shop which is also the post office, the galley, the doctors office, the science computer room, station communication, and a few other which I will get to know with time.
My sleeping quarter, about a 7-10 minute walk from the Dome., is at the 'Summer Camp' which consists of about 12 long half-cylinder-like canvas/wood constructions that sleep about 18 people each. Each of the structures is called 'Jamesway' or 'Hypertat'. We were asked to consider other people sleeping in our Jamesway. People work and sleep at all different hours. The camp is co-ed and lavatory facilities are available in a central bathroom (including showers, toilets and washing machines). Every person has their own 'cubicle', which is separated by from the next cubicle by a wooden wall and a canvas curtain. I like it. It is very cozy. There is enough space for a bed (with sheets and blankets) and boards for the clothing The curtain help to keep it dark.
Joel, a member of the NOAA team I am going to work with, met Bryan and me for branch. Andy was still sleeping since he worked the night shift. We went through the procedure of our next ozonesonde launch. I will talk about this procedure more in detail another time. We were expecting a reporter team from CBS. They were with us all afternoon: filming the ozonesonde balloon launch, the Clean Air Facilities (Atmospheric Research Observatory - ARO), interviewing different people of our group, and talking to us about our work, about issues like global warming, and how we felt being here at the Pole. The CBS team spent several days at the South Pole and McMurdo . The 9min Antarctic special will be aired some time late February, early March on Sunday Morning.
After dinner, we attended our first Sunday evening talk: a member of the astrophysics group discussed the use of infrared light for detecting structures such as stars in the universe. I was looking forward seeing some of these telescopes. On Wednesday, Sue and I were invited to go on a tour to view the telescopes.
Yesterday's question was about Amundsen and Scott and their relationship to the South Pole. Roald Engebreth Amundsen was from Norway and was born in 1872. In his early years, he dreamed of being the first man to reach the North Pole. He was planning to freeze his ship in the ice and drift to the North Pole. Then he received the news that the American Robert E. Peary had claimed to reach 90 degrees N (the North Pole) on April 6, 1906. Amundsen quickly --and secretly -- decided to be the first person to reach the South Pole instead. He prepared his excursion, loaded a ship and his crew and left Norway on June 6, 1911. Amundsen did not even tell most of his crew of his ship, the 'Fram', where they were going until they were already out to sea!
Amundsen prepared very well for polar weather. He sat out for the South Pole on October 19, 1911 together with four other men. He took along four sledges to carry their gear and each sledge was pulled by 13 Greenland dogs. All men were well-trained in the use of skis which helped them out a lot. Amundsen also took along extra food and supplies that he left in depots along the way. They arrived at the South Pole on December 14th, 1911. They camped there for four days before following their same route home. They arrived back where they started, near Roosevelt Island on the Ross Ice Shelf, on January 25th, 1911.
Captain Robert Scott was a British explorer who was born in 1868. From 1902 - 1904 he spent time in the Antarctic and made many discoveries. During this "Discovery" Expedition he attempted also to reach the South Pole. Although food depots was laid out by an advance party, the did not try skiing or sled dog-driving and only reached 82 degrees and 16.5 minutes South.
When Amundsen told his men exactly were they were going, he also sent a telegram to Scott. Amundsen said in his telegram: " Beg leave to inform you Fram proceeding Antarctic Amundsen.". Scott was very upset that Amundsen might beat him to the South Pole. He quickly sailed from New Zealand to Antarctica and arrived at Ross Island (remember , the island where McMurdo station is located today) in January of 1911 to begin the "Terra Nova" Expedition. He had men and ponies go ahead and set up food and supplies depots. The support party turned back on January 4th , 1912 and Scott together with four other men marched towards the South Pole. All Five men arrived at the South Pole on January 17th, 1912 --- only to discover that Amundsen had beaten them by 34 days. ( This Sunday 87 years ago!). He wrote in is diary:" Great God! This is an awful place". Amundson's green tent topped with the Norwegisn flag made painfully clear that he had lost the race.
The return trip for Scott and his men was rough. They had a hard time finding their food depots and they were hungry and cold being trapped in storms for many days. One of the men died February 17, 1912. Another walked out into the blizzard into his death when he noticed that he had survived the night. He wanted to give his friends a chance to survive.(I saw a painting of this scene at the Canterbury Museum In Christchurch, how touching). Scott and his final two men became stuck in the blizzard on March 21st. Scott kept a diary throughout the entire adventure. His last entry was March 29th, 1912. All of the men died-only 11 miles from Ross Island were they started.
The United States named its research station at the South Pole Amundsen-Scott. Station because both men were the first two explorers to reach the South Pole. It is the second largest U.S. research station. I discussed earlier that McMurdo station is the largest U.S. station. Palmer station is the third U.S. station. I said before that I observed the Geographical and the Ceremonial South Pole. Why are there two poles?
Tomorrow I will receive my email account and hope to be in contact with many of you. It is 1a.m. and I need to go. Until tomorrow…
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