12 January 2010

24 Hours At The Very Bottom of The World!

Posted by Dan Satterfield

Little old me at the very bottom of the World. Taken 4pm NZDT Monday.

Man does not conquer the Pole. The Pole conquers man.

No amount of reading or other preparation can prepare you for what it’s like when you step off an LC130 aircraft at the bottom of the planet. You are standing on two miles of ice. The elevation is nearly 3,000 meters (over 9,000 feet). Because the air is so cold and the planet’s spin, the altitude you would get on your altimeter will read over 10,000 feet.


The Ceremonial Pole is currently about 80 meters from the actual South Pole. The ice moves and the pole is relocated each year on January 1st.

I was told to take it very easy and we were all given Diamox tablets which help stave off the effects of altitude. Just walking makes you out of breath very quickly.

The air is so dry and you breath so hard, dehydration is a constant fear. I did suffer from it a few times, but quickly rehydrated myself. We were also followed by someone with oxygen as well.

The science being done at the Pole is beyond fascinating and we had plenty of time to learn about it. Bandwidth is limited here at McMurdo, so this will be just a short posts with some snaps. I will have some great stories to tell about the research when I return.

Tomorrow, we fly to see the penguin colonies and to the very beautiful Dry Valleys where some of the most important biological research is being done.

Waiting to board the LC130 at Amundsen Scott Station. The aircraft uses skis. It's quite a ride!

Waiting to board the LC130 at Amundsen Scott Station. The aircraft uses skis. It's quite a ride!

Oh, and for the group of high school students who are doing the hydroponics experiment at Sci Quest in Huntsville, I spent an hour in the South Pole greenhouse. I have some great video for you!! (I told you I wouldn’t forget!!)

Our flight back to McMurdo was supposed to be Monday evening, but the weather turned bad and after 3 passes the LC130 had to boomerang back to McMurdo. It took three tries this morning to land.

We were put up in a kind of hut/tent that was actually quite comfy. The bathroom was a 30 second walk away in another hut. You haven’t lived until you walk to the bathroom in -20F weather, wearing shoes with no socks, and thin pants!! (In bright sunlight no less!)

My buddy Robert Hotz of the Wall Street Journal did it in socks with no shoes!

More soon!


McMurdo Station, Antarctica