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National Science Foundation
U.S. South Pole Station - A Special Report

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Photo of Roald Amundsen ROALD AMUNDSEN
Roald Amundsen (1872-1928), first person to reach the South Pole.
Credit: Steve Nicklas (NOS, NGS), NOAA
Photo of Scott and three other men at Amundsen's tent SCOTT AT THE POLE
This photo, taken at the South Pole on Jan. 18, 1912, shows British explorer Robert Falcon Scott (far left) and his party at the tent erected by Norwegian Roald Amundsen, who became the first man to reach the Pole on Dec. 14, 1911. The flag of Norway flies above the tent. From left to right: Scott, Titus Oates, E.A. Wilson and E.R. Evans.
Credit: Photo by H.R. Bowers, Royal Geographical Society
Photo of first South Pole station IN THE FIFTIES
This photo of the first South Pole station was taken in January of 1957 after U.S. Navy Seabees completed construction. Work began on Nov. 20, 1956, and by Christmas, the basic station including the buildings, tunnel system, utilities, communications equipment and cargo storage was finished. The station was officially commissioned on Jan. 23, 1957.
Credit: U.S. Navy, National Science Foundation
Photo of LC-130 flying over dome of South Pole station GETTING THERE
The workhorse aircraft that moves people, equipment and supplies to and from the South Pole is the Lockheed C-130 'Hercules.' The basic design, which has been in production since the mid-1950s, is about 100 feet long and can carry more than 40,000 pounds of cargo. The 'Hercs' that service the Pole are outfitted with skis to land on ice and snow. One such model is shown here, flying over the dome of a relatively new South Pole station in 1974.
Credit: National Science Foundation, USAP
Photo of aurora australis over the new South Pole station NIGHT LIGHTS
The aurora australis the Southern Lights are seen over the National Science Foundation's new Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. The eerie visual effect arises when charged particles blown off the Sun (the 'solar wind') are caught in the Earth's magnetic field and travel along the field lines, colliding with molecules of oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere.
Credit: Jonathan Berry, National Science Foundation
Photo of the back and front of the commemorative coin. COMMEMORATIVE COIN
The 2011-2012 Antarctic field season marks the 100th anniversary of the first men setting foot and flag on the geographic South Pole. To commemorate this event, the USAP issued a commemorative coin available only in the USAP station stores. One side of the coin depicts Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen, the first man to reach the South Pole on December 14th, 1911. The other side shows British explorer, Captain Robert F. Scott, who reached the South Pole on January 17th, 1912.
Credit: Mary Majerus, AGWM (Antarctic Goods with Mary) & Word Processing Service from Rochester, MN
Photo of DOM lowered into IceCube hole drilled in the ice PHYSICS ON ICE
A Digital Optical Module (DOM) is lowered into a hole drilled in the ice near South Pole station as part of the IceCube project. When finished, it will detect elusive particles called neutrinos arriving from distant astrophysical sources and carrying information about those sources, just as rays of light reveal objects to conventional telescopes. Eventually 80 holes will be drilled, each 2.4 kilometers deep and containing 60 DOMs. When neutrinos pass through the ultra-clear ice, some collide with atoms and produce telltale blue light that is detected by the DOMs. To learnmore, see: http://icecube.wisc.edu.
Credit: Ethan Dicks, National Science Foundation
Photo of man looking cold WAY COOL
Even in the warmest days of the austral summer (December and January), it can get very cold at the South Pole. This image shows U.S. Antarctic Program participant Jay Cairns after a day of erecting high-frequency antenna wire at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.
Credit: Levi Littrell, National Science Foundation
Photo of man at South Pole holding onto U.S. flag in high wind A MIGHTY BLOW
Antarctica is the windiest of the continents, in large part because of the katabatic winds that arise when super-cold air sinks over the plateau region around the Pole. The resulting gusts can reach well over 100 mph. In this photo, U.S. Antarctic Program participant Al Baker steadies himself in high winds at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. The flags of the 12 nations that originally signed the Antarctic Treaty in 1959 fly at the pole.
Credit: Charles Kaminski, National Science Foundation
Aerial photo of geodesic dome and new South Pole station SEEN FROM ABOVE
This aerial photo from October of 2005 shows the new South Pole Station (without its final outer layers) in the upper right portion of the frame. The old station is the geodesic dome at lower left.
Credit: Scot Jackson, NSF
Panoramic photo showing South Pole station at sunrise LOOK AROUND
A panoramic view of the area around the new station shows its location in relation to other landmarks. This image was taken in September of 2004.
Credit: J. Dana Hrubes, Space Sciences Laboratory, South Pole station
Photo of Degree Angular Scale Interferometer (DASI) PERSPECTIVE SPT
The man standing next to the 10-meter South Pole Telescope (SPT) provides a perspective to the size of this enormous project. The SPT collects data on cosmic microwave background radiation and black matter. To learn more, visit: http://pole.uchicago.edu
Credit:Keith Vanderlinde, National Science Foundation
Photo showing snowfall at first South Pole station RARE SNOWFALL
The ice sheet below the South Pole is nearly two miles thick. It is formed over centuries as snowfall from clouds such as those shown in this 1960 photo is gradually compacted and squeezed into ice.
Credit: U.S. Navy, NAVFAC Archives
U.S. Navy SeaBees logo SEABEES
The U.S. Navy South Pole station was built by the Seabees, the U.S. Naval Construction Force. For more on this organization, see http://www.seabee.navy.mil
Credit: U.S. Navy
1956 painting showing two tents facing the South Pole SAILOR ARTIST
This watercolor is only one of many art works by Robert Charles Haun, who served as staff artist to the naval mission at the South Pole. He was there during the 1955-56 season and produced 75 pictures in various media. For more information, see: http://www.history.navy.mil/ac/artist/h/haun/haun1.html
Credit: Naval Historical Center Art Collection
Photo of men walking into 1975 South Pole station entrance HALF BURIED
When this photo was taken in 1999, drifting snow had covered much of the dome of the South Pole station. The entrance was at ground level when the station was completed in 1975.
Credit: Josh Landis, National Science Foundation
Photo of the inside of the geodesic dome DECONSTRUCTION
The geodesic dome was deconstructed during the 2009-2010 austral summer. Some of the materials were shipped to the US Navy's Seabee in Port Hueneme, Calif. for permanent, as they were the unit that built the Dome in the early 1970s.
Credit: Forest Banks / National Science Foundation: main image
Jerry Marty / National Science Foundation: inset