The pole would be rather unremarkable if it were not for the development there. Sitting on the polar plateau at about 9,300 feet above sea level, it is rather flat, nothing but snow every direction you look.
My expectation was that I at least could say I had been there, and see it out the window, but I struck the gold mine, when the Loadmaster came up after we landed and said it would be 15 to 20 minutes while they unloaded, loaded, and fueled, and if I wanted get out and walk around that would be fine. I'd get see the pole!
I was unsure how far I'd have to go to find the pole. I stepped off
the plane, and the pole was less than a 100 yards in front of me.
There are actually 2 poles at the south pole. Since I didn't have a digital camera with me, I borrowed the photo above from another web site. It was cloudy and overcast, when I was there, and about -20 Degrees F. The pole with the silver ball, and the flags is the ceremonial pole. It provides a place for all the photos, and is the one, most commonly seen, in photos. The flags are for the original countries that were signatories of the Antarctic treaty.
The other pole is the actual geographic pole, and it moves each year. The pole is located on about 10,000 feet of ice, and the ice is moving. So, each year the pole seems to move. In reality, the pole is staying in the same place, but the base, and all the facilities are moving towards the actual pole.
The geographic pole is placed each year on January 1st, and the one I looked at was marked with all the names from USGS crew that placed it. The markers for the past several years are still in place, and form a line of poles about 50 feet apart.
As I got off the plane, the geographic pole was the closest, so I was there first, and then moved over to the ceremonial pole, taking pictures of both.
I made a quick trip to visit the South Pole Station.
Another borrowed photo
The station is just on the other side of the taxi way (about 150 yards). The dome itself is actually open to the outside, to allow moisture to escape. It contains several buildings that are all heavily insulated. The dome provides protection from the wind. Over the years the snow has built up, and the station is being replaced, to prevent those problems in the future. They have over 300 flights scheduled this year from McMurdo to the South Pole to move supplies and people for the construction project. I didn't have time to go inside the actual station, but took a quick glance inside the dome.
Back on the plane to make sure I didn't miss my ride home. They had me wait up on the flight deck while they were loading a couple of pallets to go back to McMurdo. They had some problems, and our 15 minutes turned into 50 minutes. They finished, and one of the crew ran back out to ceremonial pole with me to take my photo there. We were back on the plane, and on the way back to McMurdo.
Two and a half hours later I was back 'home'.
The crowning moment was the next day, when I was able to catch my boss before he was headed to the pole, and gave him some money for a T-shirt.
Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. It was great!