There is one commonality between Dallas, Texas and the South Pole; both get to see 100 degree temperatures in July. The only thing is that the South Pole sees temperatures of 100 degrees below zero, not above. Think about it this way, it will be sufficiently cold to freeze exposed skin in mere seconds.
Amazingly, twenty-eight people spend six months of their lives at the South Pole each year with virtually no contact with the rest of the world, no sunlight, and no way to get away. They are meant to keep the American polar base in good condition, as well as observe and record scientific data. Their jobs are being changed by advancements in communications and technology.
Recently North American astronomers were able to control the South Pole observatory’s telescope using satellite communications. It was the only time a telescope located at the South Pole had been manipulated from another continent. It is the dream of astronomers to be able to watch the universe from the South Pole’s telescope while controlling it completely from a warmer climate.
Those who work in Antarctica have to contend with one of the harshest environments on Earth. You will not find elevations as high as those in Antarctica anywhere else in the world. Due to this, breathing problems can also be an issue. As a result, little else survives in that climate, save for animals and plants that have already adapted to the cold.
People who are willing to commit to this six-month experience will enjoy the new nickname of “winter-over”. These crews are provided with a very large video collection, a small exercise room, various computers, a pool table, and wonderful food. Winter-overs do not talk much about what occurs between February, when winter begins, and October, when they are taken back to civilization.
Due to the huge growth of the research program at the South Pole, there are still continuous problems with insufficient electrical power. There are only three oil-burning generators which are not able to produce enough power for all the computers, telescopes, lasers, and other electrical powered equipment. This causes winter-overs to have to deal with not enough power, crowed living arrangements, and cold buildings.
The winter months are broken up using some traditions. One is the “300 Club”, which requires a day when the outside temperature will be at least 100 degrees below zero. The winter-overs will crank up the sauna to 200 degrees. Then, they run from the 200 degree sauna out into the 100 degree below temperature air, and then back inside.
Winter-overs also look forward to airdrops. Every June, a U.S. Air National Guard military transport plane will fly over the South Pole to drop deliver pallets of food, mail and other supplies. Heavy equipment is used to collect the pallets in order to be broken down and used. This is the closest winter-overs are able to come to any physical contact with the world outside the South Pole.
They do not even get to see a tree or travel more than a mile from the pole. They are able to get a one week vacation at the McMurdo Station, which is the main U.S. Antarctic base. During their vacation they get to enjoy camping out in refreshing 25-degree climate, baking in the sun on the beach, and wearing t-shirts and jeans.