At McMurdo there are scenic and historic hikes. For most, I can just go. For some I need to have watched the “don’t be an idiot” video, need to have a radio with me, and need to sign out and back in at the Fire Station.
Here at South Pole, I can just go outside whenever I wish; I don’t have to inform anyone or buddy up or anything. There are markers for places to avoid — like fuel lines and the airplane skiway — and markers for paths. I need to have a good reason to use government equipment like snowmobiles, so I can’t just tourist in places that are far from the base. I’ll sneak over somehow, though. And I will try to not be an idiot.
At the station there is a small gym with some free weights, a couple of treadmills and exercise bikes, and some brand of universal gym machine, as well as a basketball court about one-quarter size, about right for volleyball or badminton. Just this morning I went to the gym, and managed 15 minutes of brisk walking, getting my pulse up to about 135. I actually have a resting pulse right now of 68, which is about normal for me; yesterday I checked my oxygen and it was hanging steady at about 85%. My heart still races from walking up 20 steps.
I don’t seem to be going out a lot, but when the winds are up nobody would. There’s a temperature inversion pretty much all the time, with cold air at the surface and warm air above. When the winds blow it stirs things up, and the temperature goes up. But wind tends to dominate comfort; today we are getting -29F but with 15-20 knot winds; that puts the wind chill at about -60. Nobody is going out for fun today.
You can see the current weather here when the satellites are up. [No you can’t. That’s the intrAnet.] Another interesting thing to follow on that page is the “physiological altitude” near the bottom. We’re at at 9306 feet above sea level, but just like the earth bulges at the equator, so does the atmosphere. The air pressure is always relatively low here. The cold air is also more dense, and as you go up the pressure drops faster than it would with warm air, so 9000 feet up in cold air has less atmosphere than 9000 feet up in warm air.
There is less scenery here than at McMurdo; the natural world is flat and white. My destinations are buildings, places where people are mining science or supporting that. I’m about to head out to MAPO, the main observatory. I don’t get out enough, and I don’t get alone enough. This will serve for both.