The Elevated Station

The sign welcoming visitors and tourists to the South Pole

I’ve written a little bit about the station in previous posts, but here is a little bit more about the station itself.

The Elevated Station sits about 12 feet above the ground on large steel pilings. Facing the Ceremonial Pole the front of the two story station is smooth and flat – the lower level cut away for a more aerodynamic shape in an attempt to reduce drifting issues. Four wings extend off the backside toward the berms. The long “front” of the station is where most communal sites are, while the gym, a lounge, an emergency power plant, bathrooms and housing are in the wings.

The back of the station

Emergency escape stairs leading off the end of each wing

Looking under the station – the Ceremonial Pole is to the right

There are three main entrances/exits to the station: Destination Alpha (D.A.), Destination Zulu (D.Z.), and the “Beer Can.” D.A. is the grand entrance and is closest to the skyway. A wide stair case and short steps make for an easy climb for all the folks fresh off the herc and unused to the altitude. D.Z. is a little rougher with unfinished wood railing, but is the primary entrance to and from Summer Camp. All the doors are large metal freezer doors with hanging sheets of plastic on the inside to block out drafts. The “Beer Can” is a tall metal sheathed unheated cylinder housing many sets stairs that lead from the upper level of the station down to the Ice Tunnels and Arches. While an elevator was installed to help transport heavy awkward cargo and food, people must take the stairs.

Destination Alpha

Destination Zulu

The "Beer Can" the nickname was not officially endorsed, but it stuck

The windows lighting the above snow portion of the Beer Can

The lower level of the station contains a small lounge with some books and couches for movie watching. There is also an IT room that focuses on the radio and satellite equipment, the Craft Room, Reading Room/Library, Laundry room, Greenhouse, Post Office/Store and a coat room. The upper level has the Galley, computer lab, science lab, and two conference rooms. Both levels look very similar and it’s a little confusing at first trying to remember which floor the library is on.

The "Quite Reading Room" or Library

Looking down the hallway outside the Reading Room - towards D.A.

With Summer Camp being a bit of a walk away I try not to make more trips than necessary. On Sundays I shower out in Summer Camp then take my laundry and anything else I’ll want for the day and head into the station.

The Elevated Station is the third station to be constructed here at the South Pole. In 1957 the US Navy constructed “Old Pole” which was followed by the iconic Dome. Over the past 10 years the new Elevated station was constructed and the Dome was taken down piece by piece, and shipped back to the states. Old Pole, on the other hand, had a far more interesting fate.

After being abandoned Old Pole was buried completely by about 30 feet of drifting snow. In the summer of 2009-10 a piece of equipment that was driving in the vicinity fell into a cavity that had formed around the remaining buildings. The area was cordoned off and last summer a team from CRREL (Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory) came to survey the area with ground penetrating radar. With future safety in mind they decided to implode Old Pole. Crushing the buildings and collapsing the cavities with explosives. As a General Assistant last summer I got to help out with this project. Holes were drilled with hot water 30 feet deep to the station level and strings of 7-9 sticks (5.5lb each) of dynamite were lowered on detcord. Three days and three blasts later the site was finally deemed stable.

The blasters from McMurdo brought boxes of tnt for the project

Stringing the explosives together on detcord

It was a chilly day – all the frost on my face is from my breath condensing and freezing to my neck gaitor and hat.

It was quite the project and the other G.A. Jason and I were very excited to be a part of the small blasting crew. On the day of the blast people lined the roof tops of the buildings here and a general all-call was made by comms so no one would miss out. Using an old pump action detonating device we ignited the detcord. Geysers of snow shot up from each hole like a giant water fountain display and cameras clicked away. I stood with the blasting crew a safe distance away.

This was taken from the roof of the station – not by me – I was in the brown coat right in between the two red Pisten Bullys

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1 Comment

Filed under Antarctic, History, South Pole, Stations

One response to “The Elevated Station

  1. Awesome… Snowy explosions! The station looks a lot more civilized that I expected.

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