Ice and Medicine at the end of the earth

Life In South Pole Station

Landing at McMurdo is inspiring with the mountains rising up all around and the knowledge that you have finally arrived in Antarctica. Arriving at South Pole is alien. You have just been whisked from sea level to 9300 ft in two hours and dropped off on the Antarctic plateau at temperatures of -30C (-20F). In every direction stretches white snow.


Fortunately, South Pole station is only a few (although very difficult in the altitude) steps away.


The station is quite comfortable and is similar to dorms being built on college campuses – except that there is a 100F temperature difference between outside and inside. Everyone gets a single room, unless they request a double room with someone. I was pleasantly surprised by how comfortable my room was.

The rooms are simple but have plenty of storage and even a desk so there is no excuse to not be productive. The windows are smaller than a typical building so that less heat is lost. But during the summer, the window shades are mostly kept down so that it feels like night when you are trying to sleep.


The station holds 150 people, although in busy times (like now) people sometimes stay in temporary units located a short walk away. The galley, or dining hall, fits everyone pretty well.


The food is pretty good – better than my high school, not as good as my college (go Bowdoin! #1 in college food). There’s lots of proteins and dessert and not many fresh vegetables. I was surprised to find a greenhouse in the station though.


There is also a lot of recreation space, including a gym where I just did yoga for the first time (or attempted to do yoga may be more accurate).


The yoga class was taught by Lindsay, one of the station staff. The recreation on the station is all self-created, so you have to come ready to make your own fun. I was a little surprised at the amount of space dedicated to recreation, but after being here a while, it makes sense. Getting outside for exercise is hard and you need to have an outlet to keep your sanity. And I’m saying this in the summer, you can image what the 8 months of winter, when no flights can come or go, feels like.

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