Antarctica

Week 7 First Flight Over the Pole - 70 Years too Late!

28th November - 5th December 1999

On Monday, 29th of November 1999, we were warned to warm up our cameras and be ready to go outside. There was one flight into the pole, Skier 96, and it was the 70th anniversary of the first flight over the pole by Richard E. Byrd. To celebrate the flight would do a fly past over the pole, guaranteed to be a photo opportunity.

When the flight was 20 minutes out there was an All Call to warn us to be ready. We put on ECW and grabbed cameras. It was a very nice day with only a slight breeze, of course crisp cold air, and almost blue sky. The plane became visible some distance off, and by the fact that its lights were bright we new it had lined up with the pole. I was unsure if it would fly over the dome or the pole. So I was in position between them. I was hoping for the Pole as the light was much better for this. It was flying quite low and went over the pole, doing a slight bank as it went. It was very impressive and hopefully my one photo will turn out. Made me think about buying a motor drive!!

The first flight over the pole 70 years before was led by Richard Byrd. The pilot was Bernt Balchen, reserve pilot and wireless operator was Harold June, and Capt A.C. McKinley was the surveyor. They flew a tri-motored Ford. They flew over the South Geographic Pole at 1:14am on the 29th of November 1929.

Some time later I had to go out to summer camp and I noticed the LC-130 was preparing to take off. I stood around for awhile to watch, but not much was happening. So I quickly walked over to summer camp and back again just in time to see the plane start taxing out to the ice runway - and stop. The front door was opened and everyone piled out and a group photo was taken! I had this image of the plane about to take off and the pilot deciding the light was better with the plane facing the other way (which it was) and that he wanted one last happy snap of the grand occasion.

There were more visitors on Tuesday with a flight of tourists arriving with ANI. These were the less adventurous type of tourist in that they had paid ANI to fly them to the South Pole for a few hours. There was no huge feat of endurance, except putting up with SP looking like a huge construction site. I had been over to Mapo to help Bob with some work and were walking back to find lots of strangers around the pole marker. There were also some people getting photos at the entrance to the dome. To the credit of the management these people had a chance to look around the station, use the facilities, and they got told about the work being done here.

While I was eating lunch I noticed that one of the women had a jacket with an Australian Geographic patch. It only dawned on me later that she might be an Aussie and I should say g'day. A bit later while drinking coffee she walked past again and I had my chance. Yep, she was an Aussie. Her name is Anne, from Cunnunara, and was the doctor employed by ANI to look after the clients in case they have trouble with cold and altitude. She has been coming to the SP for 3 years.

Later while I was working in BOS these people were being shown through and I got a very brief chance to talk to one of them, Fran. She was obviously enjoying "her very short stay". But I couldn't imagine having an antarctic experience shoved into such a short period of time. I suppose when I got to visit Heard Island, or Cape Evens it was a bit similar. But I've never felt pressured to enjoy myself, or keep moving. Whereas when I was talking to Fran and Anne they where always being hustled along. Of course for Anne the clients would have to come first, and she will always get to come back. But what do the clients get from the experience? For me the best part would be getting to stay at Patriot Hills and the flight in by Twin Otter. But they obviously had a goal - the South Pole for a very short time - which meant so much to them.

Fran was very nice and gave me some AA batteries and film she said she didn't need anymore. I was very worried she had given me all her spare film in a fit of over generosity, and she would need it on the flight back. So I gave it to Anne to give back to her later, and hoped she wouldn't be too insulted. The batteries will be very useful though.

I think I've been mentioning a SP phenomenon without explaining it. If you want to find someone on station, or need to tell the universe something, there is medium called the All Call. By dialing XX you are connected to all the speakers around the station and what you say will be broadcast for all to hear. Also comms uses the All Call to inform us of matters of importance such as flight information, when they are landing and taking off. All Calls are not allowed between the hours of 10pm and 8am. But of course if someone has had a few they sometimes forget this. So we get reminded at All Hands about the rules of All Calls.

A good use for All Calls is to remind us that an All Hands meeting is scheduled. An All Hands meeting is held each Saturday afternoon at 4pm and is a meeting for all people on station - grantees are encourage to come. This means that ASA can't get heavy with grantees and threaten us with the sack, so appeal to our civic conscious. These are sometimes followed by meetings for winterers, which are compulsory. At these meetings important issues such as fire drills and winter-over jackets are discussed.

It dawned on me that All Calls give rise to an analogy with Star Trek. In ST everyone has their little communicator device and can be tormented at will and random, like with the All Call. Also SP has almost the same number of toilets as the Star Ship Enterprise.

And that is all.

To be continued .......

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