Two days ago, four anonymous skiers could be seen dragging sleds towards the South Pole.
At the time, I assumed it was another group of skiers engaged in an attempt to ski "the last degree" towards the Pole. Skiers who ski the last degree are generally somewhat wealthy and fit as they pay gobs of money to a private organization to support their quest to reach the Pole.
As it turned out, the four skiers I saw were the British Polar Quest team. The four men on the team spent the previous 45 days skiing from the coast to the South Pole towing sleds behind them filled with their gear.
Yesterday at lunch I sat down with them and chatted for a bit. They were all quite tired, but happy to be back amongst people again. They were especially pleased to drink coffee again. Since coffee has no nutritional value and it acts as a diuretic, they hadn't had any since they started on their journey.
After lunch, I helped to lead them on a tour of the various IceCube facilities here at the Pole. They were really good guys and very engaging to speak with. At one point, as we were leaving the IceCube drill camp, one of the men said, "After you spend forty-five days in complete wilderness, you never expect to arrive at the South Pole and find people, hot coffee, and one of the most advanced industrial operations on the planet." In the photo at right, one of the IceCube Winterovers, Sven Lidstrom (red jacket), explains part of the drilling process to three of the British skiers. One of the IceCube drilling towers can be seen in the background.
The Polar Quest team is resting here for a couple of days until the wind shifts and they can begin their kite-assisted return trip to the coast. Using kites and the prevailing winds, they hope to return to the coast in as little as fifteen days. You can keep up with their progress on their ice log.
Yesterday, a group from the Indian Navy skied in to the Pole from roughly 120 miles away. They number more than four (eleven or so), but I haven't met any of them yet. Both groups are camped out by the Pole in tents as they are not allowed to use many of the Station's facilities for esoteric and political reasons.
We're still working hard here now that the Station's power situation has stabilized. In the next day or so we hope to have all of our equipment and experiments up and running again.
I got the following picture of the road across the skiway, heading into the Dark Sector yesterday morning. Apparently, duck-billed platypuses now have their own path across the skiway.