5 January, 1999
min. -31.6 C
max. -29.8 C
Wind Chill -20 F
A Day at McMurdo a Night at the Pole
McMurdo is the largest of the U. S. stations in Antarctica. It was established in 1956 and named after the sound which James Clark Ross in 1841 named after Lt. Archibald McMurdo of the ship Terror. "Mac Town" is a busy hub of activity as a research facility and point of departure for many scientists deployed into the field by Hercules LC130 aircraft of by helicopter.
The Chapel of the Snows found in town houses services of worship
on Sunday mornings at 9:30 AM for Protestants and at 11:00 AM for Roman Catholics. On Wednesday evenings services of prayer and praise are held. I was surprised at the ornate appearance of the sanctuary. The chancel window depicts the elements of communion and a penguin (the only penguin I saw in McMurdo, save for the drawings on the
sides of various buildings).
The Scott Discovery Hut, built in 1902 is just on the edge of town and was used more extensively by other expeditions after Robert Scott's than by Scott and his men. When inside, you can see some supplies lining the shelves, a stove and a few other odds and ends left behind by the members of various expeditions. Around the side
of the hut lies a mummified seal. A seal blubber stove was used
by the Ross Sea Party taking shelter there in 1915 and 1916.
A short walk uphill from Scott's hut is will take you to Vince's Cross which is a memorial to Seaman George T. Vince who was killed
as he fell from a cliff into McMurdo Sound in 1902.
As the time for our departure for the South Pole drew closer,
the conditions of the road to "Willy" field became worse. We had to travel by Delta transport to make our flight. Our flight
crew travelled with us. We were greeted with "You again!"
when we boarded the Hercules for our flight south. Save the
crew, Ryan and I were the only passengers. The huge belly of the plane held a fuel tank.
During the flight to the pole, I just got a glimpse of the Transantarctic chain of mountains through the clouds. Next, came the polar plateau and about three hours later we were descending to the pole. Just when one wants to look out the window, she has to strap
in for landing. The plane taxied for quite a bit, then stopped. I looked out the window and there flapped the colorful flags of the nations that had signed the Antarctic Treaty of 1959. Just beyond
the flags, a red and white striped barber pole topped with a silver orb marked the Ceremonial South Pole. A short distance to the right was the unpretentious brass-capped pole that marked the position of ninety degrees south--the geographical South Pole. The new marker
for 1999 had just been placed at the spot just five days ago, the sign with the quotations of Admundsen and Scott had not yet been
moved back to the pole's position.
I expected to receive a blast of cold that only the bravest of people could withstand the moment we stepped from the plane. There was none, and I was still breathing. The only pain was coming from
my shoulders while trying to handle two orange bags of belongings and a purple backpack. The area manager, Mike Masterman wisked us
inside the Admundsen-Scott South Pole Station for a briefing in
the upper galley; other Polies looked over the newly arrived beaker (scientist) and TEA. Soon I was on the back of a snowmobile, our
duds were loaded on a sled pulled behind, and Ryan was swinging back and forth while riding standing up on the back of the sled.
We landed the end rooms on either side of the hall in Jamesway #11. The sun shone in the window of my 6x8' room, and it was warm.
I left the unpacking for later and headed for the poles. About 11:20 PM in bright sunlight I touched the marker at 90 degrees
south. I was visitor #...........................?
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