South Pole Centennial Photo Extravaganza!

As promised, here is a glut of photos from the Centennial and the days preceding it. 

Tourists camping on hardened sastrugi and skiing for transportation and recreation:

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Polar Solar:

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The ceremony sound guy:

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Video in –25F:

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The ceremony itself:

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The unveiling of the ice bust of Amundsen:

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The press:

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The fashion:

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And the celebration:

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We went inside to get ready for the cocktail hour in the gym and the special dinner in the conference room.

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Centennial Menu

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Sydney Clewe, Dining Assistant by day and Graphic Designer/Artist by night, painted this amazing canvas mural especially for the dinner (as always, click to enlarge):

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The night went perfectly and the dinner was divine (I tested everything, especially the julekake, which brought me back to childhood Christmases).

Kitchen staff, waitstaff and runners:

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Antarctic waitress brigade:

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Wine Service and Sound

To mark the centenary of man’s arrival at the South Pole, our station held a small ceremony and a fancy dinner for the Norwegian Prime Minister and his party, and Daniel and I were lucky enough to help with making it happen. Daniel ran sound, his coldest and most Southern live sound gig, and he spent many hours preparing for it by researching intensively in the way he does and creating schematics to build cabinets to hold the speakers, to prevent them from freezing up and malfunctioning while still sounding clear and rich and natural.

Standing gathered around the ceremonial pole, with the shrill, hollow protest of footsteps on snow amplified through the sound system, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg spoke. After planting Norway’s flag at the Pole, he honored Roald Amundsen and his achievement; Robert Falcon Scott who gave the ultimate sacrifice for discovery; Norway as a brand new country in 1911 (having gained independence in 1905); and the men and women who came to celebrate and honor this important year on skis and sledges, tired and celebrating with frostbite on their faces and ice in their hair. The head of the Norsk Polarinstitutt, having himself skiied in 45 days to follow Amundsen’s ski tracks, wrote a letter to Amundsen on the route from inside his sleeping bag, and he read it to us. An ice bust of Amundsen, molded by a Norwegian artist and poured here, was unveiled.

When we clapped, it was a muffled patter of mittens hitting mittens, a noise like rain in a place that has never seen it. Statesmen and adventurers alike jumped and hugged, lit cigars and drank akavit, tears in their eyes from cold and from overwhelming emotions.

We came in to prepare for the next part of the evening, a dinner for which the head executive chef has been preparing since last year, partially out of excitement and partially due to a very long, slow supply chain. I volunteered (begged) to be a part of the serving staff over a month ago, my waitressing past finally coming in handy here at the Pole. We set the table while the reception happened downstairs in the gym and the band (which Daniel was also a part of) played the national anthem of Norway. When the PM and his group came in for dinner, the champagne was already poured and waiting to be toasted with, servers waiting in the wings and the kitchen staff buzzing in preparation in a nearby conference room. We poured wine, took orders, and brought out an amazing and visually stunning meal (the Prime Minister takes his bison steak medium rare, fyi). The night went perfectly, with no sound malfunctions, no spilled wine or burned coffee, no cracked ice busts, no probems at all. It was exhilarating and relieving and felt so significant, with my Norwegian flag in my server apron pocket the whole night. I felt more Norwegian than I ever have before.

I’m working on photos tonight–more up in 12 hours when the satellite comes back up.

South Pole Centennial

December 14, 1911

One hundred years ago today, after months of desperate cold, preserved food, wicked dryness and beating wind, after skiing many, many miles and enduring lost and broken gear, tired men, cranky dogs and dangerous terrain, Roald Amundsen and his crew (Olav Bjaaland, Helmer Hanssen, Sverre Hassel, Oscar Wisting, four sledges and 52 dogs) reached the South Pole, alive and happy and sunburned, the first men in history to reach the bottom of our earth. They took measurements to determine their accuracy, and planted the flag of Norway to mark their achievement.

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December 14, 2011

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“When the explorer comes home victorious, everyone goes out to cheer him. We are all proud of his achievement—proud on behalf of the nation and of humanity. We think it is a new feather in our cap… But the rails of science are laid; our knowledge is richer than before. And the light of the achievement shines for all time.”

–Fridtjof Nansen, May 3, 1912

~

We are so proud to be here and to be a part of the US Antarctic Program, to support in our own small, peripheral ways the science that is carried out: astronomy and astrophysics, aeronomy, auroral, and geospace science studies, meteorology, geomagnetism, seismology, earth-tide measurements, and glaciology. Here we live on the seventh continent, dedicated to science and peaceful international exchange, and we are grateful to be a part of its history.

Happy Centennial, everyone. Here’s to the next hundred years.

The Prime Minister and the Polie

Yesterday, Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and his party landed at South Pole Station, just in time for lunch. The galley was packed full of people, craning, trying to look like they weren’t looking, trying not to choke on their sandwiches.

Tomorrow, Mr. Stoltenberg and his party will ride out to twenty or so miles off station to spend a night with their countrymen, the Norwegians who have skied in from the coast, and they will, on the Centennial itself, ski back in together following Amundsen’s footsteps.

He gave a speech at dinner last night, trying to put words to the grave and joyous importance for Norway as a country in 1911 to arrive first to the South Pole in an era where parts of the world such as Antarctica were still unexplored. He thanked us for a warm welcome, and congratulated us on the work we do here (now, I’m not sure he was referring specifically to shoveling or inventory, but I’m being liberal with my interpretation).

It was quite sweet, really.

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After dinner he went out to the geographic South Pole to take a photo with most of the station population. We were able to meet him and take a few photos.

Here are the Norwegians walking out to the Pole:

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Daniel and I with Mr. Jens Stoltenberg:

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As you may know, the ice shelf drifts constantly because of the geography of the continent. What that means is that the geographic South Pole shifts something like 30 meters in relation to the station every year. On New Year’s Day, there is a ceremony in which the Pole marker is changed to a new design and the whole Pole gets plucked out of the ice and moved to the actual location. It is not New Year’s Day yet, and so we currently have three Poles: the Ceremonial Pole, with the barbershop red and white stripes and the silver garden ball on top, surrounded by the flags of the original treaty nations; the 2011 Geographic Pole, with the artist-cast Pole marker (which unfortunately gets missed by many distracted tourists); and the actual, current Geographic Pole which has been determined by the surveyors:

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I’m not joking: that’s the real deal! The stick with the orange surveyor tape is the southernmost point on our planet. Here’s the Prime Minister (center) with the real-deal South Pole:

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It’s humble, but also awesome.

We all came in to some special Norwegian mulled wine, the spelling of which I can’t remember for the life of me (glůgg? glŏvvig? I’m going to stop trying). It was delicious, hot and spiced with slivered almonds and raisins plopped in to the bottom.

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A good way to end a cold night.