Thursday, February 4, 2010

South Pole Metropolis

The weirdest thing about being at the South Pole is all the stuff that's here. For instance, as I type this I'm sitting in a wheeled, ergonomic office chair in a heated laboratory in a busy and bustling station. I have hot meals and warm water and a heated place to sleep and it's all because of the South Pole Station.
The South Pole Station was finished in 2005. It's sort of "M" shaped, except with an extra leg in the "M". Here's a picture I took during my daily commute:

The leftmost leg is a gymnasium and the other three legs are sleeping quarters. The station can sleep 155 people total. Right now the South Pole population is 220 so about 70 people are sleeping in the Summer Camps. It's nice to know I'm not alone.
The science labs are located in the (err..) non-leg parts. My lab is located in B2 which is behind the second to the left leg in the photo. I usually enter the station through Destination Zulu:

It's named that because it's sort of on the opposite side from Destination Alpha, which is the side of the station closest to the airplane runway.

Oh and for completeness, here's what the station looks like from the "front."

The white thing in the middle behind the intrepid polar explorer is an awning they use to keep the snow from piling up. The grey round thing on the left is called the beer can, for obvious reasons. It's the entrance to the tunnels under the station. Hopefully I'll get to visit those later.

The biggest problem with buildings at the South Pole is avoiding getting them covered in snow. It doesn't snow very much at the pole (actually not really at all), but the wind will blow snow over everything. If a building gets covered in snow, the weight will eventually be enough to crush it. That why the new station is built on stilts. It should be high enough that it will be okay for about 15-20 years. The design is such that the wind is not particularly inclined to dump snow on any particular spot on the station. If you look closely you can see that the beer can structure is vertically corregated, also to keep snow deposition down.

Because the South Pole is so cold (-20F today, -44F with wind chill), almost everything can be stored outside as long as it's heavy enough to not be blow away. This gives the environs immediately around the station a really cluttered look.

Of course, in addition to necessary supplies, you can find random cool things outside. Like this random thirty-foot high pipe sculpture

And my favorite:


Next post I'll talk about the station interior.

No comments:

Post a Comment