It has been quite an adventure the last couple years, I finally was able to visit the South Pole, both geographic and ceremonial. There are two of them and they actually have poles. Each year the winter staff creates a new marker for the geographic pole, since it moves around 30ft per year.
I have never felt cold like I did there, and it was not a very cold time. Since the summer season is opposite of the U.S., it was -45F with the wind chill. It gets down to -100F during the winter. That makes your lungs hurt and takes some getting used to.
Check out the live webcam from the Pole (when the internet link is available it updates): https://www.usap.gov/videoclipsandmaps/spwebcam.cfm
One thing I didn’t really understand until your there, the station is at an elevation of almost 10,800 ft. It sits around 9,300 ft, but with the low air pressure it bumps that up another 1200 and that varies day by day. The first couple days you are asked to take it easy and go slow. Altitude sickness is no joke!
A ton of great science experiments are happening at the Pole, I got to visit them and learn from the scientists what they are up to. I won’t do it justice, so check them out on the USAP.gov website. The one that really impressed me was IceCube, it is a massive under the ice neutrino detector array that is 2450 km deep and covers a kilometer of surface area. The size of the experiment is unbelievable. NOAA also operates the cleanest air gathering station on the planet, which is interesting. The scientists even hold their breath when collecting a sample to not contaminate it with extra CO2.
The satellite system (for network connectivity) is quite impressive, they switch between different satellites based on what is passing overhead. Being at such a low point of the earth, it is slim pickings on what is available to us. More details on that here: Usap.gov
The journey from McMurdo station in Antarctica is another plane flight in, which takes a little over 2 hours.
Here are a couple photos of the recent trip:
All in all it was a great trip, I learned a ton about the station and how the network works down there. They have some of the most unique challenges I have ever worked on.