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Heavy Equipment at Work Near South Pole by Ella Derbyshire

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About This Gigapan

Taken by
Ella Derbyshire Ella Derbyshire
Explore score
0.05 Gigapixels
Date added
Mar 14, 2009
Date taken
Mar 12, 2009

Nikon D80's


South Pole snow is absolutely amazing. It is dazzling white and textured everywhere with ridges, waves and drifts. Sustrugi are wind-sculped hills of snow that look much like white sand dunes. All in all, the plateau that surrounds the South Pole looks like a great sea that solidified with its waves and troughs frozen in action.

The top layer is often soft, newly drifted snow. On a bad day we might sink 6- 10 inches into newly deposited drifts that form downwind of almost everything. The walking is really quiet, but it uses a lot of energy to walk in such snow.

It is much easier to walk on a hard layer of snow. The soft snow drifts will persist unless they are dozed off or blown away. As they age, they form a thick dense walking surface that makes footsteps sound like someone is walking on styrofoam.

Below the hard, noisy snow crust is a layer of loose snow, called sugar snow. Walking in this stuff, when it is exposed, is difficult indeed.

Below the sugar snow there is a dense layer of ice that extends for kilometers almost all the way down to Antarctica's rocks. I hear that pressure and heat have made lakes and rivers under the ice far below the Antarctic Plateau, but in this panorama, our attention is directed at the surface.

The earth-moving machines grumbled a bit today in the -60 F cold, but they stayed running and finished their jobs. Here you can see some of the Antarctic snow exposed down to about 8 feet.

You might notice the length of the shadows. The sun will set on the Pole next week.

The 13 images of this panorama were photographed with a Nikon D50 and stitched with Autopano Pro.

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