I hadn't even thought about the possiblity of returning to the pole.
The part that had failed in my attempt to bring email to Siple Dome arrived in our shop the Morning of Saturday, December 19th. After finishing another project in the morning, I installed the amplifier and tested the equipment, and was 'good to go'. We put the Satellite terminal into the cargo system, and I was listed for the next flight to Siple Dome.
Bag Drag is the process that occurs before you fly on a Military Aircraft anywhere on, to, or from the continent. The concept is that you show up will all of your 'hold' baggage (the stuff you won't see until after you get there), and your carrying on (the stuff to wear, and extra in case you find yourself stuck somewhere). The weigh all of your hold baggage and put that into the system, to be placed on the aircraft. You and your carry-on are also weighed, and you're given a flight time for the next day.
Sunday my name went up for a bag drag for that evening. I was given a departure time of 10AM, Monday. About 9 AM, Monday the two way radio announced the cancellation of the flight. My hopes of being back in McMurdo for Christmas were getting slimmer, but if all went well, I could be back in three days returning on Christmas eve.
Tuesday it was a go, and when I arrived at the 'Movement Control Center' for my ride out to Williams Field, I discovered that our flight was going to the pole first to pick up several members of the SOAR project and then on to Siple Dome. This would be great, since I had borrowed Bruce's digital camera for this trip.
Six of us arrived at Willy field for the trip South. It looked to be yet another interesting trip, when we went roaring down the skiway, and never left the ground. We traveled quite a ways down the skiway, and then you could feel the slowing as we reached the end. Turned around and taxied back to the other end for another attempt. The flight consisted of 5 persons and a large load of construction material for the South Pole project.
The second attempt was no more successful than the first. While we taxied back again, the loadmaster shifted the construction material back about 2 feet in the bay. Make it easier to get the nose up!
Try 3 came so close! The loadmaster was yelling that we were so close to making it. So...
Yet another taxi down the Skiway. The one thing about this try is that we had burned quite a bit of fuel, so we got lighter with every attempt. Try 4 was successful! It was a slow climb once we left skiway, but we were on our way. Two and half hours to kill til we got to the pole.
The scene out the window at the halfway point if fantasic. The trip is about 800 natuatical miles from McMurdo to the Pole. The first part crosses the Ross Ice Shelf (permenent ice). The ice shelf is at or just above sea level. The South Pole sits at 9,300 feet above sea level (and 10,000 feet above the rock and earth). In a 80 to 100 mile streach the terrain rises that 10,000 feet - the Trans-Antarctic Mountains. It makes up the fantasic portion of the trip! I wasn't able to get any photos due to where I was sitting. Sorry!
Once you pass the Trans-Antarctic Mountains the terrain becomes that flat snow covered area just like the pole.
We had an hour once we arrived, while they fueled the aircraft, unloaded the construction materials, and loaded the SOAR equipment. A quick hello to the the friends I had left 3 weeks ago, and then inside for a quick visit to the South Pole Post Office.
That is me under those clothes
It was a warm day only -17 F! (December 22nd - the sun didn't get much higher).
A quick trip inside, I was bummed as I didn't have my passport with me, but I used the cancellation stamp on some blank pages of the pocket notebook (green brain). The rest of the group stamped thier passports, and we went back out for photos.
Naked women is not what you expect to find at the pole, but one of the SOAR group wanted her photo at the pole that way, so she stripped down to just a pair of socks.
And here is the geographic south pole I talked about before, notice the line of previous poles behind it.
Our stop at the Pole was over and it was off to Siple Dome. (Or as noted in graffti in one of the out houses there, Siple Doom).