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South Pole From The Air

The NSF schedules aerial photography missions at the beginning and end of the Summer season. The pictures are a valuable planning tool and make for a great historical record. This time it was my turn to go up. A great belated birthday present. I have dabbled in kite aerial photography before, but this seems to be a much simpler approach :-)


The foreign legion, consisting of the Canadian Kenn Borek crew and a first class team of German and Swedish photographers, handled the morning mission. After wrestling a snowmobile and deep penetrating radar gear out of the Twin Otter we took off from the skiway on a beautiful sunny day. It seems like a crazy idea to circle above the South Pole for two hours, sitting next to an open window at -50°C, but it was great fun.

The first image gallery shows a wide area view of the South Pole complex. It is amazing how tiny and lost the Station looks from the air. There is just nothing around it as far as the eye can see. On the ground it seems like a big industrial complex. To give you a sense of scale: my daily commute from the Station (East of the skiway) to the BICEP telescope (West of the skiway), which is slightly less than a mile, takes me about twenty minutes.

South Pole from the Air: Overview
The Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station complex seen from a Southern approach. The Dark Sector is to the left of the skiway. The station complex from SW. A closer look at the main station complex from the South.
Click on an image to launch the gallery (6 pictures)

The next set of pictures takes a closer look at some of the structures of the station complex East of the skiway. Most of you are probably aware of the New Station and the Dome but I doubt you have any idea of how much stuff gets stored on the berms. It is mind boggling. I have seen things going as far back as IGY in 1957. When I walk along the berms I am always reminded of the last scene in “Raiders of the Lost Arc”. Just rows and rows of boxes. You put stuff there never to be seen again. Well, maybe not quite as bad but Murphy’s law certainly applies.

South Pole from the Air: Station Complex
The New Station and the Dome. The Dark Sector is in the top right corner. New Station and Dome. The back of the New Station is covered by the power plant exhaust. The Dome and the New Station seen from the East.
Click on an image to launch the gallery (12 pictures)

OK, that’s it for today. I’ll post some more aerial pictures tomorrow.

Update: I posted part two of the aerial pictures.

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