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Last updated on April 19, 2014 at 17:21 EDT

Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station

The Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station is a U.S. research facility based at the South Pole, in Antarctica. It is the southernmost continually inhabited place on the planet. Its name honors Roald Amundsen who reached the South Pole in December 1911, and Robert F. Scott who reached the South Pole in January 1912. The station was constructed in 1956 to support the International Geophysical Year in 1957. It has been continuously occupied since then. It currently lies within 330 feet of the Geographic South Pole. Because the station sits on a glacier, it drifts toward the pole at about 32 feet per year. Although the United States has continuously maintained the installation since 1957, the central berthing, galley, and communications units have been relocated and rebuilt several times.

The station stands at an elevation of 9,301 feet on the interior of Antarctica’s ice sheet. Temperatures vary between 7.5 degrees and -117 degrees Fahrenheit. The annual mean temperature is -56 degrees Fahrenheit. The monthly mean temperature varies from -18 degrees in December to -76 degrees in July. Average wind speed is 12 mph. The peak gust recorded was 60 mph.

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The population of the station varies from about 200 during the summer, to only around 80 during the winter. Support staff and a few scientists make up the population during the long months of Antarctic night. They are isolated between mid-February and late October. The station is completely self-sufficient in winter, and powered by three generators running on jet fuel. Research at the station includes
glaciology, geophysics, meteorology, upper atmosphere physics, astronomy, astrophysics, and biomedical studies. There is a small greenhouse at the station that produces a variety of vegetables and herbs. The plants are all produced hydroponically (using only water and nutrients and no soil). This is the only source of fresh fruit and vegetables during the winter.

A new station was constructed in 2007 and in January 2008, the NSF (National Science Foundation) dedicated the new station at the Pole. The new station is much larger and more sophisticated than any previous structure built at the site. The new station contains dorm rooms, laboratories, office space, cafeteria and recreation facilities.

Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station