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On the Persistence of Snow at the South Pole by Ella Derbyshire

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About This Gigapan

Taken by
Ella Derbyshire Ella Derbyshire
Explore score
Print Pricing
$46.00 to $142.00
0.09 Gigapixels
Date added
Mar 13, 2009
Date taken
Mar 12, 2009

Nikon D80's

architectural, environmental, geology

GigapanMagazine.org Will open in a new tab or window vol 1 issue 2

Contributors: Katy Jensen and Nathan Greenland

So, here we are in the arches between the elevated station and the Dome. Within the arches you find the Facilities, Engineering, Maintenance and Construction (FEMC) shops, the power plant, and massive areas for storing building supplies, spare parts and fuel. The nearby ice tunnels run under the surface near the arches, and they connect the station and the arches to a number of outlying structures.

This cavernous room with the monumental steel doors is in the logistics facility, which is commonly called the LO. It is designed for receiving incoming cargo. Most of the new materials arriving at the Pole on next summer’s planes and on the traverse will come straight here. In the coming years we hope to also move most of our storage off the berms and into these well-lit and wind-resistant arches. Once through these doors, the cargo will be sorted, inventoried and put in its proper place. It will be a major improvement in inventory control.

The last plane of summer left here a month ago, and there will be no more flights until mid-October at the earliest, and so this room has been fairly quiet lately. At least there haven't been many people down here.

We don't get a lot of snowfall at the Pole, but with temperatures that never get much above 0 degrees Fahrenheit, the snow that does fall doesn't melt. We are approaching winter, and with recent winds of up to 30 knots, the persistent snow is swirling just above the ground in gossamer, white rivulets. The wandering snow seems always to be looking for a way inside, and it has found a convenient inward route through a gap in the LO doors. Ours is a very light, very fine, powdery snow, at least on the surface. Easily picked up and put outside on the blade of a shovel, much of it quickly returns to us on the edge of the wind. A quarter inch gap in a doorway can create a deep drift that extends far into a room.

As we work at tightening up the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station for the winter, this room looks like a good place to do some snow shoveling and an equally good place for creating a hindrance to the incoming snow. And so we see a doc with a shovel moving the snow outside where it belongs, and we see the carpenters at work tightening up the gap the doors.

Have a look around this place. Even if it is -55 degrees Fahrenheit in the LO today, and the wind is howling mightily beyond the doors, you probably won't even have to dust the snow off your keyboard when you are done.

The 23 images of this panorama where photographed with a Nikon D80 and stitched with Autopano Pro.

Gigapan Comments (2)

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  1. Ella Derbyshire

    Ella Derbyshire (August 29, 2009, 05:14PM )

    We are all here to support the scientific research that is happening at the South Pole, and there are many ways to accomplish that task. A lot of the household chores have been shared among this winter's crew. It is not unusual to see a physician, a scientist or an engineer washing plates in the galley dish pit or wielding a shovel in the battle with the snow. House Mouse on Monday afternoons brings everyone out to sweep and mop floors, vacuum carpets and clean the latrines. We see a lot of people volunteering for tasks that are way outside their job descriptions. There are 43 people living at the South Pole this winter. The efforts that we make to keep the station clean and safe also help build community spirit. It is an interesting experience, and it can be a lot of fun.

  2. Freezedriedengineer

    Freezedriedengineer (August 25, 2009, 06:42PM )

    Due to all the drifting that occured over the winter, the snow is now higher then the big doors seen in this photo. The latch that holds them closed is under a lot of strain.

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