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First Flight of Summer by Ella Derbyshire

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About This Gigapan

Taken by
Ella Derbyshire Ella Derbyshire
Explore score
0.07 Gigapixels
Date added
Oct 28, 2009
Date taken
Oct 28, 2009

Nikon D80's


Here is South Pole's first passenger plane of the summer 2009-10. It is a Basler, which is a converted DC-3. The vanguard of the summer crew arrived on this sturdy little aircraft, along with some small cargo and some most-welcome fresh fruit and eggs.

We actually saw two earlier planes which stopped by for fuel on their way across Antarctica from Rothera to McMurdo. The layover for the Basler on that day was a short one. The Twin Otter, which followed about an hour behind, lingered awhile for some engine repairs, and so we had some unexpected late-winter guests.

This Basler however, brings replacements for the winter crew, and so marks the end of our winter 2009 at the South Pole. It took off, as scheduled, after a very brief stay on the ground.

If you look at other panoramas of the South Pole runway from this landing at Destination Alpha, you will see how the winds have changed the landscape this winter. We certainly have much larger drifts of snow than I found when I arrived in October 2008. There are also a lot of sustrugi which give you a clue about the direction of the prevailing wind. Walking in the dark this winter was sometimes a problem, as the sustrugi seemed to grow and shift position overnight. Although the snow-carved ridges look soft and fluffy, they do not provide a soft landing in a fall.

The heavy equipment operators will be busy this summer, as they have the task of paring down these huge drifts and moving the snow to the End of the World. By the end of summer, the little mountains of snow should be gone and the Antarctic Plateau by the station should be flat once again.

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