New Years at the South Pole

So apparently every year on New Years at the South Pole Station, we have a pole marker ceremony to mark the new year and determine where the geographic pole marker should go because the ice sheet we’re on has shifted considerably in the past 365 days. I say apparently because I missed it last time I was here because I was too busy picking up my sous chef’s slack and had to get dinner out on time, but this year our kitchen crew is spectacular and I could sneak out of the station to be a part of the revelry.

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Here’s everybody circled up around the pole, I arrived a little bit late and kind of expected to hear them all chanting “fight, fight, fight!” a la middle school, but realized everyone just wanted to be the first to glimpse the new pole marker. Each marker is designed during the previous winter by a winterover then the community votes on which design the machinist will make. The earliest markers were simple copper squares stamped with the dates but have gotten more and more sophisticated and beautiful throughout the years.

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Zoe is inspecting the 2014 pole marker intensely… or she fell asleep standing up again. They’re usually some variation on a “all points north” sort of theme because they designate the actual, factual, geographic, southernmost point of the earth. All of the winterovers generally sign the marker and they live in a display case in the station. So my chicken scratch of a signature will live on the bottom of the 2013 marker behind glass, in infamy until the end of time.

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Before the almighty Bill Coughran, Station Manager, will unveil the new marker we had to go through the motions of a bit of pomp and circumstance first. Which was alright with me, it being my first time at the ceremony. We formed a big ole human chain and picked the new American flag up and passed it from Polie to Polie until it ended in what will be it’s home for the next year. It’s kind of cool to be a part of such a significant bit of history. And then it was the moment we had all been waiting for.

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Bill whipped off the marker’s covering with a flourish, and, of course, we all had to be the first to snap a photo of it because now, in the days of Instagram, if you don’t have a pic, it didn’t happen. It was a beautiful day and a nice ceremony, and reminded me that I wasn’t just down here rehydrating potatoes and opening #10 cans of fruit cocktail for no reason. We were in an incredibly unique place doing incredibly unique science and should be honored to be here. And I am.

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