On December 14th,1911 man stood at the Geographic South Pole for the first time, unveiling one of the last places of mystery on earth. On December 14th, 2001 a ceremony was held at the Pole in commemoration of Roald Amundsen.
In honor of the Centennial RPSC groomed a special camping area for the planes to park and the tents to be erected. A visitor’s center was built to provide information about the US Antarctic Program and the science going on at the Pole. With several hundred tourists expected during these busy few months of summer it would be disruptive, and often unsafe, to have tours of the work centers and research sites for each tourist group to arrive.
People arrived from all corners of the globe. Some were flown straight to the Pole, others were dropped off by Twin Otter and skied the last degree, a few skied all the way from the coast! A Kazakhstani expedition arrived in specializedToyotatrucks (with tires inflated to 4psi).
The Norwegian press groups who were here with the Prime Minister interviewed some of the tourists and the Prime Minister himself skied a bit around the Pole.
The week of December 14th 2011, for me, was fairly typical, flights to load/unload, pallets to build, and cargo to deliver. I’m back on days now so work from 7:30am-5:30pm Monday through Saturday. On the 14th however, everyone was invited to an all-hands ceremony at the Ceremonial Pole. We gathered together in a semi-circle around the Pole; an eclectic mix of the 233 people here with USAP and the more diverse 93 person group of tourists/visitors.
A microphone and speakers were set up and cameras placed on tripods. The snow squeaked and crunched as people gathered and found their places. I arrived early and knelt in front near the camera men. Foreigners held up their national flags, and there were lots of pictures taken.
The Prime Minister then spoke, commemorating Amundsen, honoring the ultimate price paid by Scott and his men, congratulating the success of the international peaceful Antarctic Treaty and gently urging the world to face the facts of a changing climate – to note that this seemingly untouchable and pristine place is indeed changing.
Giving final thanks to the United States Antarctic Program, the National Science Foundation, and the people who work here every day he unveiled a beautiful ice bust of Amundsen – taken from the same mold used to create a full body statue of the famous explorer unveiled simultaneously in Norway by the King.
Simon Stephenson, the NSF rep here for the event, spoke next touching on the science happening here at Pole from the kilometer square ICECUBE project, to long term seismological stations, and NOAA’s sampling of the purest air on earth.
South Pole Area Director Bill Coughran and the director of the Norwegian Polar Institute said a few words as well, and then the Prime Minister presented Bill with a Norwegian flag and that was it – keeping true to Amundsen’s sentiments on a ceremony in the same place one hundred years before: One gets out of the way of protracted ceremonies in those regions — the shorter they are the better.
It was just over half an hour all together and I stood up moving my cold and stiff knees and shaking the blood back into my hands. We all milled about for a while, chatting with the visitors and taking pictures of the bust and dignitaries, and then moved back to the galley to warm up and enjoy dinner.