Midwinter has just recently passed at the South Pole–the sun has been down for months, ambient temperatures have dropped below -100F multiple times throughout the season, and life in the name of science is presumably carrying on as normally as it possibly can when you are utterly and completely stuck in one of earth’s most unwelcoming locations.
I am not sure whether I have it in me to winter at South Pole–I want to, but in a way that is more abstract than real right now. On one hand, you are quite literally trapped, come hell or high water or cancer or fuel shortages. As much as the program does to screen for potential illness (physical and mental); and as much fuel as is saved in the emergency caches; despite the fact that the power plant runs four generators and that there is enough frozen food to last for a decade, I really don’t know how I would feel when the last plane of summer left. Maybe I would feel finally free, relieved that the summer contractor population was gone. Maybe I would slowly succumb to massive hypochondria. Not sure. Now, I’m being facetious, but the thought really does worry me a little.
The thing that draws me back to maybe-wintering is the night sky, the aurora australis and the neverending stars and the moon. Every picture I see reinforces the possibility.
Sven Lidstrom is a winterover who is responsible for the day to day running of the neutrino detector/telescope IceCube. For as many times I’ve heard and read the purpose of the detector and the definition of a neutrino, I think I’ll let their website explain: “IceCube is a particle detector at the South Pole that records the interactions of a nearly massless sub-atomic particle called the neutrino. IceCube searches for neutrinos from the most violent astrophysical sources: events like exploding stars, gamma ray bursts, and cataclysmic phenomena involving black holes and neutron stars. The IceCube telescope is a powerful tool to search for dark matter, and could reveal the new physical processes associated with the enigmatic origin of the highest energy particles in nature.” Sven was also my Scott-tent-mate for Happy Camper Training, which you can read about here.
These photos are all by Sven; please do not use them without permission and credit.
South Pole elevated station by moonlight and by Southern Lights:
TDRSS and GOES, the satellite dishes that link South Pole to the rest of the world:
Winterovers checking the fuel levels in the off-site emergency fuel cache at the End of the World:
This last photo is one of my favorites: these are the jamesway tents we lived in, which are slated for demolition sometime in the next few years, completely drifted under by blowing ice: