The Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station is the United States scientific research station at the South Pole. It is the southernmost point under the jurisdiction (not sovereignty) of the United States. The station has been continuously occupied since it was built and has been rebuilt, expanded, and upgraded several times.
The station was constructed by U.S. Navy Seabees led by LTJG Richard Bowers, the eight-man Advance Party being transported by the VX-6 Air Squadron in two R4Ds on November 20, 1956. The U.S. Eighteenth Air Force’s C-124 Globemaster IIs airdropped most of the equipment and building material. The buildings were constructed from prefabricated four-by-eight-foot modular panels.
Exterior surfaces were four inches thick, with an aluminum interior surface, and a plywood exterior surface, sandwiching fiberglass. Skylights were the only windows in flat uniform roof levels, while buildings were connected by a burlap and chicken wire-covered tunnel system.
Roald Engelbregt Gravning Amundsen was a Norwegian explorer of polar regions. Born in Borge, Østfold, Norway, July 16, 1872, and died June 18, 1928, he began his career as a polar explorer as the first mate on Adrien de Gerlache’s Belgian Antarctic Expedition of 1897–1899. In 1909, Amundsen began planning for a South Pole expedition. He left Norway in June 1910 on the ship Fram and reached Antarctica in January 1911. His party established a camp at the Bay of Whales and a series of supply depots on the Barrier (now known as the Ross Ice Shelf) before setting out for the pole in October. The party of five, led by Amundsen, became the first to successfully reach the South Pole on December 14, 1911.
Captain Robert Falcon Scott was born on June 6, 1868, and died on March 29, 1912. He was a British Royal Navy officer and explorer who led two expeditions to the Antarctic regions: the Discovery expedition of 1901–1904 and the ill-fated Terra Nova expedition of 1910–1913. On the first expedition, he set a new southern record by marching to latitude 82°S and discovered the Antarctic Plateau, on which the South Pole is located. On the second venture, Scott led a party of five that reached the South Pole on January 17, 1912, less than five weeks after Amundsen’s South Pole expedition.
The station was moved in 1975 to the newly constructed Buckminster Fuller geodesic dome 160 feet wide by 52 feet high, with 46 by 79 feet steel archways. One served as the entry to the dome and it had a transverse arch that contained modular buildings for the station’s maintenance, fuel bladders, power plant, snow melter, equipment, and vehicles.
Individual buildings within the dome contained the dorms, galley, recreational center, post office, and labs for monitoring the upper and lower atmosphere and numerous other complex projects in astronomy and astrophysics. The station also included the Skylab, a box-shaped tower slightly taller than the dome.
Skylab was connected to the Dome by a tunnel. The Skylab housed atmospheric sensor equipment and later a music room.
In 1992, the design of a new station began for an 80,000 sq ft building with two-floor levels that cost US $150 million. Construction began in 1999, adjacent to the Dome. The facility was officially dedicated on January 12, 2008, with a ceremony that included the decommissioning of the old Dome station.
The entirety of building materials to complete the build of the new South Pole Station were flown in from McMurdo Station by the LC-130 Hercules aircraft and the 139th Airlift Squadron Stratton Air National Guard Base, Scotia, New York. Each plane brought 26,000 pounds of cargo each flight with the total weight of the building material being 24,000,000 pounds.
Research at the station includes glaciology, seismology, geophysics, meteorology, upper atmosphere physics, astronomy, astrophysics, and biomedical studies. In recent years, most of the winter scientists have worked for the IceCube Neutrino Observatory or for low-frequency astronomy experiments such as the South Pole Telescope and BICEP2. The low temperature and low moisture content of the polar air, combined with the altitude of over 8,999 feet,
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 greenhouse at the station. The variety of vegetables and herbs in the greenhouse, which ranges 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.
- The station stands at an elevation of 9,306 feet
- The station, which is 850 nautical miles south of McMurdo Station, is drifting with the ice sheet at about 33 feet each year
- The recorded temperature has varied between 7.52 °F and -117.04° F
- The annual mean is -56.2° F
- The monthly means vary from -18.4° F in December to -76° F in July
- The average wind is 12.3 miles per hour
- The peak gust recorded was 55 miles per hour in August 1989
- United States Naval Construction Battalions, better known as the Navy Seabees, form the U.S. Naval Construction Force (NCF). The Seabee nickname is a heterograph of the initial letters “CB” from the words “Construction Battalion”. Depending upon context, “Seabee” can refer to all enlisted personnel in the USN’s occupational field 7 (OF-7), all personnel in the Naval Construction Force (NCF), or Construction Battalion. Seabees serve both in and outside the NCF. During World War II they were plank-holders of both the Naval Combat Demolition Units and the Underwater Demolition Teams (UDTs). The men in the NCF considered these units to be “Seabee”. In addition, Seabees served as elements of Cubs, Lions, Acorns, and the United States Marine Corps. They also provided the manpower for the top-secret CWS Flame Tank Group. Today the Seabees have many special task assignments starting with Camp David and the Naval Support Unit at the Department of State. Seabees serve under both Commanders of the Naval Surface Forces Atlantic/Pacific fleets as well as on many base Public Works and USN diving commands.