Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station

Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station


The Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station is a U.S. research station at the South Pole, in Antarctica.

Description and history

The Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station is the southernmost continually inhabited place on the planet. Its name honors Roald Amundsen who reached the South Pole in December 1911, and Robert F. Scott who reached the South Pole the following month.

It was constructed in November 1956 to support the International Geophysical Year in 1957, and has been continuously occupied since then. It currently lies within 100 meters (330 ft) of the Geographic South Pole. Because it is located on a glacier, the station drifts towards the pole at the rate of about 10 meters per year. Although the US has continuously maintained an installation at the South Pole since 1957, the central berthing, galley, and communications units have been constructed and relocated several times. Each of the installations containing these central units has been named the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

Snow accumulation is about 60–80 millimeters (water equivalent) per year (3 in/yr). The station stands at an elevation of 2,835 meters (9,301 ft) on the interior of Antarctica's nearly featureless ice sheet, about 2,850 meters (9,350 ft) thick at that location. Recorded temperature has varied between −13.6 °C (7.52 °F) and −82.8 °C (−117 °F). Annual mean is −49 °C (−56 °F); monthly means vary from −28 °C (−18 °F) in December to −60 °C (−76 °F) in July. Average wind is 5.5 m/s (12 mph); peak gust recorded was 27 m/s (60 mph)., 3658 m / 12000 ft long. Between October and February, there are several flights per day of ski-equipped LC-130 Hercules aircraft from McMurdo to supply the station. Resupply missions are collectively termed Operation Deep Freeze.

Dimensional cargo capacity of the Hercules aircraft must be considered for all of the station's logistical support. Large scientific experiments and structures such as the new station are broken down into modular pieces and reassembled on-site. Limitations of the Hercules aircraft have been cited by the National Science Foundation as one of the main reasons for the McMurdo-South Pole highway of an over-ice ground supply route.


During the summer the station population is typically over 200. Most personnel leave by the middle of February, leaving several dozen (86 in 2005) "winter-overs", mostly support staff plus a few scientists, who keep the station functional through the months of Antarctic night. The winter personnel are isolated between mid-February and late October. Wintering-over offers notorious dangers and stresses, as the station population is almost totally isolated. The station is completely self-sufficient during the winter, and powered by three generators running on JP-8 jet fuel.

Research at the station includes glaciology, geophysics, meteorology, upper atmosphere physics, astronomy, astrophysics, and biomedical studies. Most of the scientists work in low-frequency astronomy; the low temperature and low moisture content of the polar air, combined with the altitude of over 2743 m (9,000 ft), causes the air to be far more transparent on some frequencies than is typical elsewhere, and the months of darkness permit sensitive equipment to run constantly.

There is a small green house at the station. The variety of vegetables and herbs in the greenhouse, which range from fresh eggplant to jalapeños, are all produced hydroponically, using only water and nutrients and no soil. The greenhouse is the only source of fresh fruit and vegetables during the winter.

Media and events

In 1991, Michael Palin visited the base at the end of his BBC Television Documentary, Pole to Pole.

In 1999, the winter-over physician, Dr. Jerri Nielsen, discovered she had breast cancer. She had to rely on self-administered chemotherapy using supplies from a daring July cargo drop, then was picked up in an equally dangerous mid-October landing.

A Flat Stanley figure was scanned and emailed to researcher Cynthia Chiang at the station; Chiang printed out the image of the flat character and photographed it at the South Pole for a grade school class in Maryland.cite news |title= QuadAngles |url= |publisher="Illinois Alumni Magazine" |date=May-June 2007 |accessdate=2007-07-31 ]

In January 2007 the station was eventually visited by a group of high Russian officials, including (Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation) chiefs Nikolay Patrushev and Vladimir Pronichev. The expedition, led by polar explorer Arthur Chilingarov, started from Chile on two Mi-8 helicopters and landed on South Pole. [ [ Patrushev lands at South Pole during Antarctic expedition] ] [ [ Two Russian helicopters land at the South Pole] ]

On September 6, 2007, The National Geographic Channel's TV show "Man Made" aired an episode on the construction of their new facility. [ [ National Geographic Channel's South Pole Project] ]

On the November 9th, 2007 edition of NBC's "Today" (NBC program), Today Show co-anchor Ann Curry made a satellite telephone call which was broadcast live from the South Pole. [ [ Ann Curry's live broadcast from the South Pole] ] In 1999, CBS News correspondent Jerry Bowen reported on camera in a talkback with anchors from the Saturday edition of "CBS This Morning".

On Christmas 2007, two employees at the base got into a drunken fight and had to be evacuated. [ [,,2232454,00.html Antarctic base workers staff after Christmas brawl] ]

Popular culture

The station has featured prominently in several science fiction television series, including "The X-Files" movie "Fight the Future".

A South Pole station called Snowcap Base was the site of the first Cybermen invasion of earth in the 1966 "Doctor Who" serial "The Tenth Planet".

In the Stargate SG-1 episode Frozen, SGC scientists stationed in the South Pole dome discover a frozen woman and SG-1 goes to investigate. In certain external shots, the new, elevated station can be seen under construction in the background.

Science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson's book "Antarctica" features a fictionalized account of the culture at Amundsen-Scott and McMurdo, set in the near future.

In the fourth season episode of House MD entitled "Frozen", Gregory House is tasked to help a female patient by videoconference who was located at 'an Antarctic outpost'; this was likely modeled on the Jerri Neilsen incident mentioned above.

Time zone

The South Pole sees the sun rise and set only once a year, technically on the Autumnal equinox on September 21 and the Vernal equinox in March, respectively, but atmospheric refraction means that the sun is above the horizon for some four days longer at each equinox. The station uses New Zealand time (UTC+12, UTC+13 during daylight saving time) since all flights to McMurdo station depart from Christchurch and therefore all official travel from the pole goes through New Zealand.

See also

*Polheim, Amundsen's name for the first South Pole camp.
*Scott Base
*List of research stations in Antarctica


External links

* [ Current weather conditions at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station]
* [ Bill Spindler's Antarctica]
* [ iceman's South Pole Page - Robert Schwarz spent most winters (6) at the Pole up to date]
* [ 360° Panoramas of the South Pole]
* [ Live webcam image from ARO]
* [ Big Dead Place]
* [ National Science Foundation: Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station]

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