Big day today! We convened at 6:30 a.m. and took off in a LC-130 turboprop cargo plane two hours later for the South Pole Station, which is one of the three (along with McMurdo and Palmer) research stations supported by the National Science Foundation. It was about a 900-mile trip. The weather was great in McMurdo at about -8 degrees Celsius and clear with low winds, but once in flight, we learned that the forecast for the South Pole was bad. Eventually the weather cleared at the South Pole, and it was rather good, relatively speaking, at -30 degrees Celsius and clear with low winds. I have attached some photos. (Note that if one would drive to the South Pole in all-weather vehicle, it would take 15 days.)
I was chosen to ride in the cockpit for the first hour, including takeoff. The chatter among the pilots/navigator was really fun and interesting. I’ve attached one photo from the cockpit and a photo of the group before boarding the plane in McMurdo.
The third photo shows me bundled up with the plane in the background at the South Pole. I am standing about 200 meters from the Geographic South Pole. Others took photos of the group and me at the South Pole, one with me holding the IIT banner. I will send that when available. It was so cold that I could not manage the iPhone camera effectively, but a few others were able to do it.
The fourth photo shows me with the IIT banner inside the South Pole station, which is a very nice (and warm) facility with about 48,000 square feet of space. The fifth photo shows me on a balcony of the station with the IIT banner. The station building is only about 100 meters from the South Pole. I will forward other photos from the South Pole when I receive them.
A couple notes of special interest:
- The Geographic South Pole is the geometric point of 90 degrees latitude south, determined by various methods that I do not know. It is not the South Magnetic Pole, which is hundreds of miles away. Where we were is where Roald Amundsen ended his expedition successfully on December 14, 1911. There is also a Ceremonial South Pole about 30 meters away from the true Geographic South Pole. I have photos from both.
- Because ice flows, the true Geographic South Pole moves about 10 meters per year. Its location is determined once per year, in early January.
- We were at the South Pole station for three hours; the round-trip flight was 6.5 hours. It is tough to get to and desolate.