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Some more questions from students!

Click the Media tab for a continuation of the Station tour.

What differences (other than the temperature) is there when comparing Antarctica to USA? Meghan O. 6th grade

Meghan, EVERYTHING is different. The differences are too many to mention! There are no plants…at all…on the continent of Antarctica. The ice and snow cover everything to a depth of several miles here at the South Pole! It is completely flat in all directions. We don’t have the ability to communicate with the outside world but for a few hours when we have access to the satellite. If we need something or forgot something that we don’t have we are stuck. It will be months before that thing can be sent down here to us. We either have to fix it, make it ourselves or just do without it. (Amazon doesn’t offer two-day shipping to the South Pole!) There are no other humans (or any other living things) for hundreds of miles. Being here at the South Pole is a LOT like being on a ship. It kind of is like a ship because on a ship you really can’t leave unless you have the proper equipment and even then you can only leave for a short time and then you HAVE to come back because it is the ONLY place to go where you won’t die! This station is a safe shelter from the environment outside. We CAN leave, but only for short periods of time and only if we are completely dressed and equipped to survive outside until we can get back to the station.

On average how much food per day do you eat (pounds or what are you eating)? Dylan L. 6th grade

Dylan, I am definitely eating more food. Your body needs more calories to keep warm and to compensate for the altitude and lack of oxygen here at the South Pole. The food here in the Galley (where we eat) is really good considering where we are! There aren’t tons of choices, but it is all really good. Most of it is hot, and filled with calories. The food here is part of the effort to keep the morale high (keep everybody happy). Everyone looks forward to eating the next meal!

How many people traveled with you? Katarina G. 6th grade

AWS TeamThe five members of the 2018 Automatic Weather Station team. Katarina, I traveled here to the South Pole with only one other person who is here on my team. His name is Lee Wellhouse (far left in the picture). There are about 120 other people here at this station though, so we are not all alone. There are 5 people on my team (Automatic Weather Stations project) but three of them are still back in McMurdo Station.

What animals do you see the most? Ayden P. 6th grade

sleeping sealSeals sleep on the surface near the pressure ridges. I've seen one penguin from far away. I also saw three birds, two were skua and there was a little bird that we saw at an AWS called Laurie II. I’ve seen dozens of seals. They were all Weddell seals. The seals were near the 'pressure ridges' where the ice was buckled up and there were small areas of open water. Otherwise there have been no other animals...and of course, there are no plants (that we would recognize as a plant), at all, on the entire continent.

Yawning sealSeals are frequently seen in the area near the pressure ridges close to Scott Base and McMurdo Station, Antarctica.

Were you allowed to bring food from home with you on the trip? Jordan K. 6th grade

Jordan, We were not supposed to bring food with us from home, but that was because New Zealand is very strict about what can be brought into their country. BUT, we were allowed to bring food and beverages from New Zealand down to Antarctica. I brought some crackers, chewing gum and French Vanilla coffee creamer (is it really coffee if you don't have french vanilla creamer?) from New Zealand!

Did you get to drive any of the vehicles? Max S. 6th grade

MatTracksVehicles at the South Pole have to be specially equipped to navigate the snow. Max, one of the first “briefings” we received was about driving all of the vehicles down here. I also had to attend a briefing on how to drive a snowmobile (or snowmachine) even though I already knew how to drive a truck and a snowmobile! So I am qualified to drive any truck (even the ones with the tracks (MacTracks), and snowmobiles. But I am, sadly, not allowed to drive “Ivan the Terra-Bus” or the other heavy machinery.

I’ve been wondering, how thick is the snow? Jacob C. 6th grade

Snow under SPSThe South Pole Station is on stilts so that the snow can blow under it, otherwise it would be buried in drifts. Jacob, That depends on where you are. Back in McMurdo Station the ground was snow free most of the time because the wind would “scour” the snow off of the surface. McMurdo Station also sits on a volcanic island (Ross Island) and the ground is black volcanic rock and dust. That allows the sun to warm the surface enough to melt what little snow does accumulate there. But here at the South Pole? Here the snow is about 9,300 feet (almost 2 miles) deep! There are places east of here where the snow is nearly three miles deep! South Pole StationThe South Pole Station sits on 9300 feet of ice.

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mkhall's picture

mkhall said:

I so enjoy reading about your adventure MIke!
Mike Penn's picture

Mike Penn replied:

MK, Thank you for the kind words on the journal. I look forward to reading YOUR journals just one short year from now! I've met LOTS of people here at SPS who work on your IceCube project and I KNOW you will have a great experience!
Abby Post's picture

Abby Post said:

Are seal dangerous?
Mike Penn's picture

Mike Penn replied:

Abby, Yes and no! The seals that were in the pictures are huge Weddell Seals. They are around 9-10 feet long and weigh up to 1000 pounds! They have big teeth, much like a dog) so they could hurt you if you got too close. We stayed as far away as we could! They mostly were asleep and didn't even seem to notice us, so as long as we kept our distance and didn't make them feel threatened, we were safe.