A Trip To The Ice Tunnels

It's serious. You aren't allowed in the Ice Tunnels without a reason or at least an experienced guide. The floors are slick, and there are dangerous pokey things sticking out of the walls.

It’s serious. You aren’t allowed in the Ice Tunnels without a reason or at least an experienced guide. The floors are slick, and there are dangerous pokey things sticking out of the walls.

Chuck is one of the utilities technicians. He works in the Ice Tunnels some times, and was kind enough to guide me.

Chuck is one of the utilities technicians. He works in the Ice Tunnels some times, and was kind enough to guide me.

In case the tunnels collapses, there are a number of ladders leading all the way to the surface, about 60 feet.

In case the tunnels collapses, there are a number of ladders leading all the way to the surface, about 60 feet.

That's a long way up, but it beats staying down.

That’s a long way up, but it beats staying down.


The temperature at that depth is pretty much the average Antarctic temperature; it's about 55 or 60 F below.

The temperature at that depth is pretty much the average Antarctic temperature; it’s about 55 or 60 F below.

I believe this was the first shrine ever in the Ice Tunnels. I could be wrong. It was installed by the Heavy Shop -- the folks who work on the big vehicles -- and the carpenters.

I believe this was the first shrine ever in the Ice Tunnels. I could be wrong. It was installed by the Heavy Shop — the folks who work on the big vehicles — and the carpenters.

For the Centennial someone made a mold from a statue of Amundsen and several ice busts. I think this is the only one left.

For the Centennial someone made a mold from a statue of Amundsen and several ice busts. I think this is the only one left.

Kind of random and creepy; that's a pig's head. The Elevated Station is the "new" station, where I live and work.

Kind of random and creepy; that’s a pig’s head. The Elevated Station is the “new” station, where I live and work.

I don't believe it's a tomb, unless it's the tomb of the deWalt drill it's made from.

I don’t believe it’s a tomb, unless it’s the tomb of the deWalt drill it’s made from.

This is a fairly recent addition. Chuckles had no idea who made it, but I hope he or she isn't sitting next to me at lunch.

This is a fairly recent addition. Chuckles had no idea who made it, but I hope he or she isn’t sitting next to me at lunch.

.. because everyone can use a Pope on a Rope now and then.

.. because everyone can use a Pope on a Rope now and then.

This is probably my favorite. I'm guessing that it's a sheep's skull.

This is probably my favorite. I’m guessing that it’s a sheep’s skull.

I like the rose

I like the rose

A bit of greenery amidst the white, thanks to the Kiwi contingent.

A bit of greenery amidst the white, thanks to the Kiwi contingent.

I'm not entirely sure what the reference to Palmer and NZFS is about; Palmer is another USAP research station out on the coast, and NZ is probably New Zealand. But that does look like some kind of non-US shield.

I’m not entirely sure what the reference to Palmer and NZFS is about; Palmer is another USAP research station out on the coast, and NZ is probably New Zealand. But that does look like some kind of non-US shield.

As I recall, a winterover had a death in the family -- his son -- and couldn't be back for the funeral. It must have been a sad time but this is a loving tribute.

As I recall, a winterover had a death in the family — his son — and couldn’t be back for the funeral. It must have been a sad time but this is a loving tribute.

Could just be personal.

Could just be personal.

User Remote Sensing Access was a mapping project that happened mostly in the International Polar Year. The dates are about right, so I'm guessing this is from that crew.

User Remote Sensing Access was a mapping project that happened mostly in the International Polar Year. The dates are about right, so I’m guessing this is from that crew.

Most of the time when I hear this phrase [without the F] it's because someone is complaining about Internet speeds or having run out of vanilla ice cream. It is indeed a harsh continent.

Most of the time when I hear this phrase [without the F] it’s because someone is complaining about Internet speeds or having run out of vanilla ice cream. It is indeed a harsh continent.

I wonder who left that here?

I wonder who left that here?

It's a harsh continent

It’s a harsh continent

I can't imaging how hard it is to dig these tunnels. They are well sized, and most of the ice taken out has to be carried back down the tunnels or packed into previous dead-ends. I believe the tool of choice is the chain saw. Thanks, dawgs.

I can’t imaging how hard it is to dig these tunnels. They are well sized, and most of the ice taken out has to be carried back down the tunnels or packed into previous dead-ends. I believe the tool of choice is the chain saw. Thanks, dawgs.

I really love what happens when the warm, moist air coming off of Rodwell 3 hits the knife-cold air of the tunnels.

I really love what happens when the warm, moist air coming off of Rodwell 3 hits the knife-cold air of the tunnels.

Chuckels said I was the first person he'd shown this to who didn't try to knock some of the crystal apart. It reminds him of some kind of sea coral.

Chuckels said I was the first person he’d shown this to who didn’t try to knock some of the crystal apart. It reminds him of some kind of sea coral.

Rodwell 3 is coming on line this week. I wonder if this will be here in a year or two or twenty?

Rodwell 3 is coming on line this week. I wonder if this will be here in a year or two or twenty?

Someone broke the fish, but it's still around. I can't find the history of the sturgeon, but it was in the Dome and moved to the Ice Tunnels when the Dome was demolished. I believe some Russian brought it to South Pole in carry-on luggage many years ago.

Someone broke the fish, but it’s still around. I can’t find the history of the sturgeon, but it was in the Dome and moved to the Ice Tunnels when the Dome was demolished. I believe some Russian brought it to South Pole in carry-on luggage many years ago.

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9 responses to “A Trip To The Ice Tunnels

  1. Looks like someone handed you a fish story, Barry (couldn’t be a fish tail as that part seems to be missing;-) That ain’t no sturgeon you’re holding. Don’t know what it is, but definitely *not* sturgeon.

  2. Context: They are tunnels under the ice, about 60 feet down, largely running water and sewer, also hosting some experiments in the past but I think not now.

  3. Cool set of artifacts. So, are they just items placed into niches in the tunnel walls? Is there some kind of pecking order or something that decides who gets to leave these?

    • They are usually made by the winter-over folks.
      As far as I can tell, they should not be offensive — but I have no idea who polices that — you need to have the gumption and tools to carve in the -60, and you have to have either actual permission or decided to sneak into the tunnels.
      One of the odd things about winterover is that you can be fired, you can quit, but you aren’t going home. some people take that as permission to violate rules.

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