South Pole Researcher Shares Her Cool Experience

Posted by on January 30, 2012

Angela Drexler, South Pole research scientist

How many people can say they have been to the South Pole? Not many. It is quite a rarity to visit Antarctica, the world’s coldest, driest and windiest continent. Guest Speaker, Angela Drexler, was hired by Raytheon Polar Services for twelve months to conduct scientific wind experiments at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole station. Her adventure started by stocking up on extreme cold weather gear in Christ Church, New Zealand, then flying via cargo plane to McMurdo Station, where temperatures plunge to -70 degrees Fahrenheit.  Airplanes are banned from returning from February 15-October 26, so Angela became known as a “winter over” employee. She was essentially stranded transportation wise. “It’s amazing how you lose touch with the outside world,” Angela said. “You are so isolated.”

Imagine, 24 hours a day of darkness, mixed with aurora australis, or the “southern lights.” This glow observed in the night sky is created by plasma-full solar winds that pass by Earth. Snow drifts can reach ten feet high. Blowing wind creates sharp ridges known as sastrugi.

sastrugi-sharp ridges of snow and ice formed by wind, found on the South Pole

Antarctica has no permanent residents, but 28 nations man research stations throughout the continent. “It is an ideal environment for scientific research.” said Angela, “It’s a unique, clean atmosphere with a lack of carbon particles and light pollution.”

Recycling is huge at the South Pole. There’s no garbage dump there, so refuse is bundled and flown out in the Spring. Angela was allowed one load of laundry and two, two-minute showers a week. “How you effect other people is something to be conscious of,” Angela said, in reference to living in a place with beds for just 240 people.

The "ceremionial" South Pole and flags of nations at Amundsen-Scott Station.

The climate of Antarctica is clearly not conducive to vegetation. Freezing temperatures, poor soil access and lack of sunlight makes for a horrible growing environment. Food is shipped in and when the fresh fruits and vegetables are gone, residents depend on the vegetables grown in an artificial indoor environment, or go without.

Angela even experienced a 300 degree F swing in temperature one evening when she sat in a steam room that registered 200 degrees F, then ran outside to the -100 degree F climate. “Crazy, right?” she said. “I had heard about the 300 Club and wanted to experience it for myself.”  Angela smiles with a smile that says, “I would do it again in a heartbeat.”




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