Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Centennial Approaches

Almost 100 years ago, humans first stepped foot on the South Pole and in 2 weeks, those of us here at 90° South will celebrate the 100 year anniversary of this heroic feat. As such, preparations are well under way for the celebrations. A visitors center is being set up for the hundreds of tourists that are expected to arrive and the station staff is getting things in order for the Prime Minister of Norway's visit.

For a bit of Antarctic history, below are notes from Amundsen's and Scott's journals from December 1st, 1911 as these true Antarctic explorers raced to the Pole. Amundsen and his team arrived first on December 14th, 1911 and returned safely. Scott arrived on January 17th, 1912 and he and his whole team perished on the return journey.

Notes from Amundsen:
“On December 1 we left the glacier in high spirits. It was cut up by innumerable crevasses and holes. We were now at a height of 9,370 feet. In the mist and driving snow it looked as if we had a frozen lake before us; but it proved to be a sloping plateau of ice, full of small blocks of ice. Our walk across this frozen lake was not pleasant. The ground under our feet was evidently hollow, and it sounded as if we were walking on empty barrels. First a man fell through, then a couple of dogs; but they got up again all right. We could not, of course, use our ski on this smooth-polished ice, but we got on fairly well with the sledges. We called this place the Devil's Ballroom. This part of our march was the most unpleasant of the whole trip.”

Notes from Scott:
"Friday, December 1.—Camp 27. Lat. 82° 47'.
The ponies are tiring pretty rapidly. It is a question of days with all except Nobby. Yet they are outlasting the forage, and to-night against some opinion I decided Christopher must go. He has been shot; less regret goes with him than the others, in remembrance of all the trouble he gave at the outset, and the unsatisfactory way he has gone of late. Here we leave a depôt [31] so that no extra weight is brought on the other ponies; in fact there is a slight diminution. Three more marches ought to bring us through. With the seven crocks and the dog teams we must get through I think. The men alone ought not to have heavy loads on the surface, which is extremely trying.
Nobby was tried in snowshoes this morning, and came along splendidly on them for about four miles, then the wretched affairs racked and had to be taken off. There is no doubt that these snowshoes are the thing for ponies, and had ours been able to use them from the beginning they would have been very different in appearance at this moment. I think the sight of land has helped the animals, but not much. We started in bright warm sunshine and with the mountains wonderfully clear on our right hand, but towards the end of the march clouds worked up from the east and a thin broken cumulo-stratus now overspreads the sky, leaving the land still visible but dull."

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