Achievement Unlocked: South Pole

Finally, about 20:30, we board the Hercules.

Me! On a plane! Bundled up! Going!

Hey! Look who else made the flight.

In a plane! Yikes!

The Transantarctic Mountains. They are only the third-largest mountain range on the continent, and they are spectacular.

Our pallets of luggage get shoved out the back of the plane. We got to go in and out using a door.


My actual feet [inside several layers of insulation] on snow very near the South Pole.


Amundsen-Scott Base, as seen from a walk to Amundsen-Scott Base.

This is what I see out the window at work. But it isn’t really the South Pole. The survey marker is over to the right.

November 1 —

Yikes! I’m in a Hercules flying to the South Pole. Yes, that South Pole. We gathered at Building 140 for transport, got on Ivan the Terrabus with our carry-on, and went to a runway made of ice to board a Hercules. We went wheels-up at 20:50 or so, and now …

We are over the Trans-Antarctic mountain range, flying in a little bubble of air made of metal, piloted by some folks who have the nicest commute in the world. They fly this bubble between McMurdo and the South Pole, or WAIS, or Carey, or some other place … in Antarctica at the south end of the much larger bubble of air — the one made of dirt and gravity — where we all live. I will soon be working at a recently-completed bubble of air and heat made out of steel at the south-most point of the world. And that astounds me.

Many of the marks we make on maps are arbitrary — geographic borders, the Prime Meridian, the Date Line. The place where the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific ocean meet is just some line we draw in the vast salt water and call one side one thing and the other side another thing. You don’t see it if you sail across it. The whales don’t notice it when they migrate.

No, they don’t notice the equator either, or the poles. But they are less arbitrary — more real. I’m not sure why I think so; they are only real to a surveyor’s transit. I won’t see anything that would tell me I was at the South Pole, other than a survey marker. But I am not a whale. I’m a member of the Animals Who Use Sextants, so to me. It’s real.

The South Pole. Yikes.


21 responses to “Achievement Unlocked: South Pole

  1. Awesome!! Wow, Great views! And, great writing by the way you AWUS. It should be fun to use the sextant at the SP.

  2. A few months ago I got to ride a sibling of Ivan’s on some other ice, near another real place — hydrological triple point of north america.

  3. Oh dear.
    I can’t see what your hair looks like in the photo because you’re wearing a hat. You know I live vicariously through your hairstyle.
    Coolest gig ever. Let me know if you need more wool socks sent in.

  4. Barry – what an adventure! Good for you. Will look forward to hearing the tales when you return. Just spoke with sw engineer who spent summer sailing in small boat with only wife for crew – Newfoundland, Baffin Island, Greenland. Got a sense of the cold and isolation. Dependance on weather warnings via undependable satelite phone connection with meteorologist. Bambi

  5. Pingback: B1 Berthing | barryontheice·

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