Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The building of the first South Pole Station in 1960

The navy first wintered here in 1957. A few years later they built the first station. Photo credits to PK Swartz from the 1960-1961 summer and winter season.

Interesting things about his year here--this was the first year that
the Navy (VX-6) had the ski-equipped LC-130 aircraft (yes, some of
these aircraft are still flying, you may have come here on one of them).
(The Air Force had ski-equipped Hercs earlier, for use in the Arctic, and
these planes had been used briefly during the previous season.) During the
1960-61 summer season the construction of the huge new buried Byrd Station
was underway (and PK has included a few photos of this). An interesting
(and unique for Pole) 1960-61 science project was biological--a UCLA
project that brought bean plants, cockroaches and hamsters to Pole--the
goal was to see if the location on the Earth's axis would affect the
organisms' biological "clocks." No effects were noted...but the aftermath
was interesting--the live hamsters were left behind at the end of the
summer, several litters were born during the winter (although none of
the young survived--this was all duly documented in the monthly science
sitreps) and Midwinters Day events included hamster races. And based
on this precedent-setting research, the new (domed) station included
a "biomed" building with appropriate facilities for plant and animal

Bill Spindler put this narrative together along with all the pictures. I have added a small portion of these pictures.

This is a map of Antarctica with the outline of the US over it showing relative size.


All the ice tunnels stated collapsing from snow accumulation weight.

Tunnel from science building to seismology and magnetology areas.

Deep trenches cut in snow.

Building of new toilet facility.

Ice formation in passageway near the new generator. These had to be broke up by hand.

Happy hour was held once a week. It took several days to thaw the beer. 

Whenever the temperature drops below minus 100F people join the 300 Club. The sauna is brought up to +200 degrees F then you run outside, naked, a few hundred feet to the South Pole marker. The above is when I joined the club in 2013. 

The temperature has dropped below 100 several days this year. But I am a "one and done" on this. From 2013. It was a real struggle to get my camera's frozen shutter to work.

Never again. The neck gaitor is important so your lungs don't burn. Other than that I am wearing my running shoes. This picture from 2013.

Ice Cube lab. Photo credit to Hunter Davis.

Ice Cube Lab by Hunter Davis.

You can see the lab sitting on top of this graphic. 

We are enjoying plant leaves.

There is no regular lettuce grown here. 

Like sitting in a park on a sunny day.

We have been in a several day stretch under 100. I am really feeling the physiological altitude of 11,600 feet. Lots of huffing and puffing. 

We are in nautical twilight with the sun 5 degrees below the horizon. The South Pole's one and only sunrise occurs September 22nd!

After 6 months of darkness you have to smile even if you aren't dressed for the temperature. 


  1. Nice smile, but you look painfully cold! Where is your outer gear? You need to stay indoors and enjoy that minimal sunlight. I am grateful that you are safe, but hoping you stay warm and inside! Take care and love always, andee

  2. I am hoping, as Andrea said, that you are staying inside and staying warm. Andrea is very proud of you but really looking forward to your return. Prayers for all of you there and for a safe return.

  3. Mike stay well stay safe and breathe