At the South Pole – outdoor impressions

As winter is approaching in Europe, I want to share a few impressions from the coldest place I have ever been to. (Read here how I got there.) The Amundsen-Scott South Pole station is located far inland on the Antarctic continent, right next to geographic South Pole.

Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station - Nikon D3000, 18mm, f11, 1/500

Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station – Nikon D3000, 18mm, f11, 1/500

The South Pole Telescope - Nikon D3000, 38mm, f10, 1/400

The South Pole Telescope – Nikon D3000, 38mm, f10, 1/400

In a landscape with no notable features, the station itself is one of the most photogenic subjects. Flags like the one in the front mark the way to and from the station in bad weather conditions.

Other major landmarks are the bigger ones of the scientific experiments carried out at the South Pole. The South Pole Telescope, shown on the left, is one of those experiments which make use of the extraordinary conditions at this location. In the case of this project, it’s the very dry air at the South Pole that led to this choice of location. Below is a picture of my colleagues walking towards the South Pole Telescope for a small guided tour of the facilities. It is very common that scientists offer to explain their work to the staff and visitors of the station.

Colleagues walking towards the South Pole Telescope - Nikon D3000, 45mm, f10, 1/400

Colleagues walking towards the South Pole Telescope – Nikon D3000, 45mm, f10, 1/400

Another experiment located there is IceCube, an experiment which detects a special type of elementary particle called neutrino. Some people like to call these particles “ghost” particles because they can travel through large amounts of material without leaving any trace, like ghosts walking through a wall. Very rarely however, they do crash into an atomic nucleus. These interactions lead to the production of light but to ever see them, it is necessary to instrument a large volume of transparent material with optical sensors. IceCube uses a cubic kilometer of Antarctic ice for that. The experiment is installed deep inside the ice shield, so that despite its gigantic size, there is nothing to see except from the counting house shown below.

The IceCube counting house - Nikon D3000, 18mm, f10, 1/250

The IceCube counting house – Nikon D3000, 18mm, f10, 1/250

To survive in the cold and wind of the South Pole, we were issued a set of (in my case oversized) extremely cold weather gear. To avoid frost bite and protect the eyes, I opted to wear a full facial mask.

Yes, I was there too - Nikon D3000, 18mm, f10, 1/200

Yes, I was there too – Nikon D3000, 18mm, f10, 1/200

Even though the landscape is all flat and white, and even though the sun never sets in the Antarctic summer, there are plenty of photo opportunities created by the ever changing sky, the people around and the objects they create.

Frosty - Nikon D3000, 24mm, F10, 1/400

Frosty – Nikon D3000, 24mm, F10, 1/400

Shown above is an entry to a competition of ice sculptures created at the South Pole.

Tools - Nikon D3000, 18mm, f11, 1/500

Tools – Nikon D3000, 18mm, f11, 1/500

Even the heavy gear and tools lying around can be photogenic enough if the sky plays along.

Hot water drill infrastructure - Panasonic Lumix, f8, 1/800

Hot water drill infrastructure – Panasonic Lumix, f8, 1/800

International passenger terminal - Nikon D3000, 45mm, f9, 1/320

International passenger terminal – Nikon D3000, 45mm, f9, 1/320

Nikon D3000

Solitude – Nikon D3000

Shown above and below are two of my colleagues during an extended walk in the area around the station. We started out in fine weather but the visibility dropped as we walked, turning the simple (yet exhausting) walk into a surreal experience.

Some scientists are quite athletic - Nikon D3000, 34mm, f8, 1/250

Some scientists are quite athletic – Nikon D3000, 34mm, f8, 1/250

Time of visit: January 2010

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This article was published on perelincolors.com

11 thoughts on “At the South Pole – outdoor impressions

  1. Elizabeth

    I love this post, you are the first person I know (virtually) that went there, I’ve a friend that is planning to go, I’ll send this post link to her. I can’t imagine how you felt being there, all the windness and wideness around. Love, love.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. perelincolors

      I was super excited when I was told that I was going to go there, and stepping off the plane felt surreal because the anticipation was so incredibly high (and because high altitude produces that very light-headed feeling 🙂 ). After having been there, and knowing about a hundred others (and that’s excluding the staff at the station) who have also been there, it doesn’t feel that special anymore. I still love going through the pictures though. But when I am asked about the most exciting places I have been to, I usually think of other places first, like Tibet maybe, and I always end up recommending the trek we did in the Annapurnas or the dolphin swimming we did in New Zealand.

      Liked by 1 person

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