Skiing at the end of the earth (South Pole)
Trip Start Dec 18, 2008
21Trip End Feb 17, 2009
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Where I stayed
Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station
Communal skis are now stored in the abandoned Hypertats, (Remember the Flintstones?) which are buried in snow. These are located past the current Cargo and Fuelie huts, near the air strip. There is a pretty impressive collection of abandoned boots and skis, though they are low on matching poles. I don't really know if all the abandoned stuff here is just goodwill passed on from former employees, or if the Pole was purposefully stocked years ago by Dever headquarters so people wouldn't be lonely
First we pick up a radio from Comms (Communications) so if we get lost in Antarctica, we can call for help. This seems sort of silly considering the station is the only standing structure breaking up the white horizon, but I was surprised at how quickly it faded into the white haze, especially on overcast days.
This is Austin's first time on skis, and he often works with the Survayers who snowmobile all over the ice flat, so he isn't as impressed by the vast emptiness we are heading towards. "Push and glide... with your knee!" I tell him, but he is convinced walking would be faster and easier. It is a bit difficult, because the glacial ice isn't flat, but crests and dips in waves which must be crossed.
The day I arrived at Pole, a man named Todd Carmichael arrived on foot from the coast in just under 40 days--a new world record. Apparently his skis broke eight miles in and maybe he thought, "well I've just come too far." Or maybe he shares Austin's view on the sport. Either way, I was a bit pissed, because he made my entrance seem completely lame. It also makes me sort of jealous and want to plan my own ice adventure
One step at a time, I suppose.
We ski out through a bit of Polie art (corrugated metal sheets fashioned into something like a wind tunnel) and out onto the ice flat. Our destination is a ski hut past summer camp and the rows of stacked garbage behind it. The hut isn't visible form the station, but is the most common ski area. After about a half hour of work, we reach the hut, de-ski, and pry open the door. The room is small and square, built in greenhouse fashion to absorb the sun's heat and keep the inside quite tolerable. Unfortunately there has been no sun for hours and the room is dead cold.
There is a small bed, and desk complete with writing utensils and log. I thumb through the log, which is just a bound notebook with a bunch of crayon scrawling dating back for years. Thoughts, declarations of existence, and even some drawings of intimate couplings that have occurred here fill the pages, but I find I have little to say. I can't remember exactly what I wrote.
Austin and I sit on the bed and shiver for a while, trying to warm up enough to push ourselves back outsidemold research! You would think wood would preserve very well in the ultra-dry and frozen environment, but in the summer when the Ross Sea climbs above 0 F, fungi are working away tearing down what humans have built. Too cool.
Freezing solid. Back to station!