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News Release 14-159

Antarctic contract employee dies at NSF's Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station

Weekend death attributed to natural causes

The National Science Foundation's Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

The National Science Foundation's Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

December 1, 2014

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

The U.S. Antarctic Program and the National Science Foundation (NSF) wish to express our deepest sympathy for the untimely passing of Thomas Lawrence Atkins at South Pole Station this weekend.

A contract worker at NSF's Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica, Atkins, 40, of Greenville, Ky., died of apparently natural causes and his next-of-kin have been notified.

He failed to report to work on Dec. 1, local date (U.S. stations in Antarctica keep New Zealand time) and was found deceased in his room at the station.

Atkins was employed by PAE, an Arlington, Va.-based subcontractor to Lockheed Martin, which provides logistical support to the NSF-managed U.S. Antarctic Program. He worked as a technician at the station as a member of the austral summer workforce; this was his first deployment.

His body was flown from the South Pole to McMurdo Station, NSF's logistics hub on the continent, which is roughly 800 air miles from the Pole. His remains will be flown to New Zealand and his body subsequently returned to the United States. Officials from the U.S. Consulate General in Auckland, New Zealand are assisting with appropriate consular services.

Amundsen-Scott is one of three year-round research stations NSF maintains in Antarctica in support of U.S. Antarctic Program science.


Media Contacts
Peter West, NSF, (703) 292-7530, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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