We were incredibly lucky to get a tour of the station. What an amazing place. There are approximately 150 people who spend the summer there and it drops down to 50 “winter overs” who stay for the long, cold, dark winter.
The South Pole station is part of the National Science Foundation. They have multiple projects ongoing that are largely geared to understanding global warming and what space – living, existing – would be like. We did a two-hour tour by Shannon who does HR. It was amazing.
Because of the potential challenges of a long winter, there are multiple rooms geared to stress relief including a gym, living room, a game room, a craft room, and a hydroponic room where they grow veggies for the winter.
There have been many sections dedicated to research, which is the station’s priority, and of course the living quarters where each room is approximately 5 by 7 feet.
Most of the research is done during the summer and the main job of the winter overs is to keep the station running so it is ready for the next season.
The station is American (part of the Antarctic treaty, means that this territory is under American supervision).
Many of the people who work at the station are doing so on scientific grants so they come from all over the world.
It looks like something from a science fiction movie. There is incredible safety redundancy within the station – such that should a portion catch fire – they could isolate it without compromising the overall station or any individual’s safety.
I think they need to set a thriller science fiction movie in the winter – Ridley Scott should get right on it.
During the winter, it is on average -75 degrees Celsius and it can be quite a bit colder. Those who stay over the winter go through extensive psychological evaluation. The ones who do stay love it – apparently it is the best Aurora Borealis available.
It is generally too cold to fly. There have been some miraculous medical situations that have arisen where surgeries had to be done with remote video guidance because it was unsafe to Medevac anyone out or to get anyone in.
We were able to tour the medical centre. The MD is an ER physician with extensive experience with NASA. They have almost everything they need available to manage patients including X-rays, ultrasounds and labs.
It is an amazing tour. All other things being equal, we’ll be heading back to Union Glacier!!! Then we can begin the 28-hour flying that’s spread over six days to try to get home…. Stay tuned.