Marc Ankenbauer's 10+ year quest to jump in every named lake in Glacier and Waterton National Parks for charity.
168 lakes. Only 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
-- Marc jumped into Fisher Cap Lake on Sunday September 8th, 2013 to complete his goal! --
Read about Marc and how this project started...

Amundsen Scott South Pole Station : Oasis in the Desert



Before 1911 no human had ever been to the South Pole.

While it is still pretty rare, I flew there in three hours on a C130.

The Amundsen Scott South Pole Station is the only permanent outpost of humanity for about 50,000 square miles.

Flat ice, 10,000 feet thick expands away from the station for what is essentially forever.

In summer the average high temperatures are -15F.

In winter the mercury has dropped as low as -116F.



The South Pole is often analogously compared to outer space.

Humans at the South Pole can’t live without substantial technological help.



We wear what is essentially a space suit and live in what certainly feels like a space station.

Somehow, with its ultra-bizarre surroundings the South Pole Station creates a strangely normal and pleasant environment.

The new station is an 80,000 square foot, two level building with entrances on both ends.

It is built on adjustable pole supports.

This design allows the station to be raised to keep drifting snow from encompassing the whole structure.

Destination Alpha functions as the main entrance.

When C130’s bring new arrivals they are ushered to this main entrance port.



As they enter, there is a display case with old South Pole elevation markers that have been used in past ceremonies



Further down the wall are three blown up newspaper pages.

They are the news stories from the most notable human feats in Antarctic history.

Roald Amundsen successfully leading the first group to the South Pole in December of 1911.

The tragic end to Robert Falcon Scott’s successful but ill-fated South Pole bid in January of 1912.

Lastly, Admiral Byrd’s first flight over the South Pole in 1929.

They were all gargantuan human and Antarctic accomplishments.



Scattered along the hallways are space station versions of many of the amenities you might visit in your town.

The Post Office is tucked into a cubby next to the store.

There are stamps that designate that your mail is being post marked from the South Pole.



The library shelves are lined with great fiction, world travel and South Pole reference books.



The workout room is filled with top end exercise equipment.

A round of cardio is quite the endeavor at 10,000’… or so they tell me.



There are weekly volleyball, soccer and exercise programs offered in the gym.

It also hosts the Southernmost New Year’s Eve party on earth!



Annually, employees called “Polies” put together bands and rock the New Year.

The band room is filled with instruments and gives people a quiet room to practice.

Luckily it is far away from anyone’s sleeping quarters as to not bother folks.



The most common place to spend time is the Galley.

The back wall’s windows look out at the ceremonial South Pole’s mirrored ball and international flags.

The food is quite wonderful for a place that gets almost no fresh food and is 1500 miles away from an unfrozen vegetable.

People hang out here chatting, playing games, watching Sunday science lectures and nibbling on cookies.



Day and night Bob, Andy and their crew spent most of their time in the science lab.

Countless hours were spent soldering electrical wires, testing various systems and drinking Mountain Dew late into the evening.



There are two movie rooms with comfortable couches and there are scheduled events.

Employees get into trends of watching a certain show once a week or schedule certain movies.

On Friday nights there is a football game shown, but it is a game from last week.

The Armed Forces Network has deal with the NFL.

They send us cd copies of the games and we return them when we are done.

For a serious sports nut it would be maddening to have to watch week old games.

Most of us are just excited to be able to watch a football game.


Many of the employees also hang out in the lounge.

Foosball, pool, dominos, backgammon and cribbage are played nightly.

The beauty of the South Pole is that everyone has to hang out together.

There is nowhere else to go.

So electricians hang out with firefighters, science grantees and dish washers.

It’s a great community to be a part of.

I feel very lucky to have had my moment.



24 Hours a day there is a dispatcher on duty at the South Pole.

They respond to any emergency and keep track of field camps and flight operations.



On the wall of the dispatch office is a map with all of the field camps, remote facilities and fuel caches.

I saw on a map that there is one fuel depot called Johnny Cache.

Pretty witty, huh?



The main point of interest at the station is the actual Geographic South Pole.

There’s a sign and a gold marker that claim the exact spot.

The marker and sign are moved every New Years.

This is done to accommodate for the ice sheet moving about 30 feet a year, while the pole stays put.



There is a ceremonial South Pole which is a decorative pole with a mirrored ball on top.

Surrounding the mirrored ball are flags from all the main countries that play heavy roles in the Antarctic research.

A “Hero Shot” is the term for a persons picture with the pole.

This is mine.



It made a great spot for GLACIEREXPLORER.COM and I to thank you for all the donations and support and wish you a Happy New Year!

It was like 3:30am the night before I was leaving.

I was dead tired, but I swear its so sincere!

I just wanted to tell you all how much I appreciate your support!!!


Anyway, back to the South Pole!

The power station makes this whole project possible.

The main entrance has been covered in snow and exists below the surface of the ice.



Near it is the Beer Can which is the utilitarian entrance to the station.

It’s the portal to a whole underground world that harbors all the utilities and much of the major storage.



The Beer Can has a spiral staircase leading more than 100 feet below the surface of the ice.

The stairwell can be raised to accommodate for the gradual raising of the surface ice.

The architects built malleable seals into the building so the chaotic shifting of the ice wouldn’t break a rigid station.



There’s a labyrinth of archways which meander under the ice to the generator room and cavernous storage.


The generators are by far the most important utility on station.

If the power goes out, everyone is done for!

No ifs, ands or buts.

To combat the cold there are three enormous Caterpillar 3512 generators that carry the bulk of the power.

They put out 1200 kw of max power and burn around 50 gallons of diesel per hour each.

There is one smaller Caterpillar 3406 referred to as the “peaker” for when energy use peaks now and then.



Water is a hot commodity at the South Pole.

It is rationed so stringently that everyone only gets two, 2 minute showers a week.

This is all very ironic since the station is built on top of two miles of ice.

Antarctica holds the bulk of the world’s fresh water, but it’s all frozen.

The area around the South Pole is actually a desert.

Any liquid water had to be melted which takes lots of power and plenty of ingenuity.

The waste heat from the generators is used to heat the station and plays a huge role in the water production.



In the past snow had to be dug up and put in a hopper to melt.

The new design uses Rod Well’s which are enormous bulbous caverns melted deep inside the snowpack.

Heated water is sprayed down a tunnel to melt the ice.

The melted water is extracted and pumped to the surface.

The cavern that is created is approximately 500 feet deep.

Then after they switch to a new Rod Well the old one is used to hold sewage.

The station is on to their third Rod Well.

There are T Shirts being made that say “Rod Well…If you aren’t drinking from #3, your drinking #1 and #2.

Pretty witty, huh?


The water is almost totally pure from lack of interaction with soil and minerals.

Nutrients and minerals are added to the water supply so it is healthy for human consumption.


Water, heat and all the other systems in the station exist entirely because of the power station though.

So, in these tunnels there is five years of extra fuel and there are seven years of extra food too.



There are ice tunnels that were carved under the surface and they access the Rod Wells.
The tunnels hover between -50F to -65F.


Running the length of the tunnels are the pipes pumping fresh water out of the Rod Wells.

There is another set of pipes that runs sewage back to the old Rod Wells.


Heated wire and insulation keep the water and sewage in a liquid state so it keeps moving.



There is also a sub culturally famous series of shrines throughout the tunnels.

One of the most famous is a Sturgeon that was given as a present from a Russian Icebreaker many years ago.

There is a long winded story but eventually it came to find a home in the depths of the ice tunnels.



2011 was the 100 year anniversary of Amundsen reaching the South Pole.

The celebration included a bust of Amundsen carved out of ice.

To keep it frozen, the bust was placed on a snow shelf in the walls of the tunnels.



My friend would shine his headlamp at the shrines so my camera would take photos in the dark tunnels.

Then he would have to stash the headlamp back in his pocket so the batteries wouldn’t die in the cold.



As a safety precaution there is escape hatches scattered throughout the length of the tunnels.

There are ladders leading directly up a tube etched out of the snow that would pop you out at the surface.



I’ve been to some pretty odd places in my life.

Tunnels carved out of ice below the surface of the South Pole might take the cake though.

Breath had frozen my entire balaclava to the point that I thought it might crack.



Down below was an alien world of dark snowy tunnels and slowly shifting ice.

Above was a good dinner, a game of pool and a warm bed.

Strange how all of those things can exist in one building.

It’s like the worlds weirdest basement.

Only at the South Pole.



Flat Stanley wanted me to tell you that he hopes you enjoyed the post and to have a great week.

He also said,

To Life!


Welcome to the South Pole – “Leaving on a C130”

As I write this I’m sitting inside the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

In the morning I will be heading out to the first of our deep field AGO camps with my science group.

A week ago we left McMurdo Research Station to go to the South Pole.

That morning we hopped on another classically huge Antarctica vehicle and drove out to the Sea Ice airstrip.

This isn’t the one that drove us down there but I love these tank track pick up trucks.

Tank tracks with a Follow Me sign and a C130 in the background.

So, Very Antarctica!

The airstrip is dwarfed by the surrounding mountains and is filled with more unique vehicles and buildings.

This was the first time that I got to see a Twin Otter plane.

These are the smaller planes that will fly us from the South Pole to the AGO camps. 

There was a Twin Otter being unloaded when we pulled up to the airstrip.

Today’s flight was on a C130 being flown by the New York Air National Guard. 

C130’s are used as the cargo shipping work horses on Ice. 

They bring almost all the people to the South Pole, but also the cargo and mail shipments. 

Today’s chariot was “The Pride of Scotia”. 

When we boarded the plane the entire back end was filled with cargo. 

There was five crew members along with the 16 passengers. 

The pallets in the back contained the mail and a wide variety of South Pole supplies.

Until getting down to the Ice, I had never been on a plane other than a commercial airliner. 

The differences are dramatic. 

It’s all about function. 

Like this urinal. 

To urinate on a C130 you simply climb behind this curtain and lift a steel lid. 

There is no wasted space; you are doing your business literally feet from other passengers. 

Luckily everyone I met were really cool and we all just go along with the situation.

I love how many different people you meet on the Ice. 

They all have a story and often a really unique knowledge or skill.

Andy and Moses work for Thompson-Caterpillar out of California and are down here to rebuild the enormous generators that power the station. 

We also have to wear our ECW (Extreme Cold Weather) gear on the plane. 

The issue gear is the Big Red Parka, insulated Carhart overalls and huge Frankenstein boots. 

Get a load of these things!

But, they are super warm and very necessary.

The South Pole is as far from McMurdo as Minneapolis is from Dallas. 

When a flight is planned in Antarctica there is always a reasonable chance that it will get delayed. 

A commercial airplane in the States flies in all but the most dramatic weather conditions. 

With Antarctica flights, the benefit of the doubt is given to the weather. 

Flights around Antarctica are delayed and cancelled pretty often.

Obviously the weather is unpredictable and very harsh, so you never know what you will wake up to. 

The bigger issue is that if there is a problem there are no options between A and B.

If a plane needed to land elsewhere between Minneapolis and Dallas there are countless options. 

Down here there is nothing but thousands of miles of ice. 

The Transantarctic Mountains separate the continent into two halves. 

If they weren’t impossibly remote, this would be a mountaineering mecca.

This flight will provide me with the last mountainous terrain that I’ll see for a couple months. 

The perfectly flat Eastern Antarctic Plateau is where the South Pole and all of the AGO camps lie. 

Luckily for us, the pilots allowed us to climb into the cockpit to during the flight. 

It provided a chance to photograph the most intense landscape I’ve ever seen in my life. 

There are gargantuan rivers of ice flowing between all of the mountains.  

And, if these are rivers of ice, at one point they all flowed into the equivalent of the Amazon. 

Hardly any rocks poked out from the mountains.

Here and there you could see a cliff face or rocky ridge.

But, most of everything was just slathered in thousands of feet of ice. 


Absolutely Profound Landscape! 

After about three hours the mountains gave way to flat white. 

The same flat white that I’ll see every day for the next couple months. 

When we landed at the South Pole we were met by a group of employees as we exited the plane. 

We were led towards the new Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station which will be my home off and on for the next couple months.  

They expect us to not be ready for the temperature and altitude change. 

McMurdo is at sea level elevation and when we left it was 15 degrees Fahrenheit outside.

Three hours later we got out of a plane and it was -56.7 Fahrenheit with the wind chill. 

The South Pole is technically at 9300’ elevation. 

Since the poles have a lower barometric pressure than the rest of the planet your body feels the pressure of 10,410’. 

Maybe I’ll be able to explain that better by the end of my time here, but I just know it’s the case. 

That is a whole lot of change for the body to acclimate to in three hours. 

We were even issued Dexamethasone which is the same drug that high mountaineers take to combat high altitude cerebral edema or HACE. 

So, this is why the people are there to help you walk to the station. 

It’s time to start the physiological adaptation to the elevation. 

I’ve spent the last couple days just letting it soak in that I’m at THE SOUTH POLE! 


I’ve braved the cold a few times to visit the actual geographic South Pole. 

This metal marker is placed at the exact pole every New Years. 

It is moved every year because the ice sheet moves over the surface of the continent approximately 30’ a year. 

That doesn’t change where the actual pole is, so the marker has to be moved. 

Bizarre, huh? 

I’m sure that is just the beginning of the things that I’m going to learn about this extreme place. 

I’ll keep you informed as I learn more. 


I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving where ever you were. 

I hope you were warm, happy and in good company. 

I know mine will be one to remember. 

To Life!

P.S.  If you have any questions, leave me some comments.  I’ll try and get you some replys when I get back from the field.