Skiing at the end of the earth (South Pole)

Trip Start Dec 18, 2008
Trip End Feb 17, 2009

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Where I stayed
Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station

Flag of Antarctica  ,
Monday, February 2, 2009

Recreation is hard to come by in a lifeless place with precious little indoor space, and where the outdoors are actively plotting your death.  Today Austin and I went cross country skiing, which is one of the only fun outdoor activities Pole has to offer (at least day to day.)  There is a frisbee golf course, which I think has a full eighteen holes, but I had stupidly forgotten discs at home, so no luck.  For those of you headed to the ice, put that on the packing list.  

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 outside.  I have a Speights (Kiwi brand) beer in my coat, but it is frozen solid, and there is no way to warm it here except body heat, and I am not wasting any of mine on cheap alcohol.  "Wow this is depressing." Austin comments, and I have to agree.  Depressing but cool.  There have been a lot of key huts in Antarctic history, some of them saved for posterity and open to tourists.  I was surprised to find that these structures, as well as preserving history, were aiding in mold 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!
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mcurtin on

Wow, that is so amazing that you lived in Anarctica! Great photos as well

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