Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Centennial of Scott's Arrival

Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of Robert Falcon Scott's arrival at the South Pole.

In case you don't know the story, Scott and Amundsen arrived on Antarctica at about the same time. Amundsen's main goal was to claim the South Pole for Norway, while Scott's expedition also had a scientific component.

Amundsen's expedition was better planned, with men on skis and provisions hauled on dogsleds supplemented by several supply caches which Amundsen's team had laid the previous season.

Scott was relying on a combination of dogsleds, Siberian ponies, and mechanical tractors. The tractors quickly broke down, the ponies couldn't handle the deep snow, and none of his teams were experienced enough with dogs to make the single dogsled work, so they ended up hauling the sleds by hand.

Amundsen made it to the Pole weeks before Scott, and Scott's team ended up dying on the journey back to the coast.

The story of Scott's journey is really interesting, displaying (or maybe cementing) the British mindset of the time.

Because of the centennial celebration, yesterday was busy. At around 4:15PM we headed out to the visitors' center, halfway between the station and the visitors' camp with a DOM and lots of IceCube brochures. There are several groups who skied in various distances, including a couple of British Army groups which retraced the Amundsen and Scott routes. Many of those visitors came through the center and were remarkably interested in getting explanations of exactly what we're doing here at the South Pole. I spoke with a guide from Montana, a businessman from England, an engineer from England, and a woman who had flown in to meet her husband who was partially paralyzed last year and was skiing to the Pole by using his arms to push himself on a sled.

After the visitors' center, we walked to the Pole for a half hour ceremony honoring Scott's party. We then went back to the station, dumped our gear in our rooms, and ate dinner. I had started a 24 hour on the detector the previous day, so after dinner I switched the detector back to the normal software and then rushed back to the galley in order to meet the rest of the IceCubers for another session of Pub Trivia! Unfortunately, we did MUCH worse that last week's fourth place finish. This week we were seventh out of eight teams, but we had a lot of fun while losing.

By the time we'd finished it was 10:30PM, but my colleague and I headed back to B2 in order to finish up the last of her work. She's leaving tomorrow, so she wanted to make sure she at least attempted to run everything yesterday. That way, if she encountered problems, she'd have time today to work around them.

Fortunately, everything went smoothly and we finished before midnight.

No comments: