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The New Elevated South Pole Station
South Pole Station - Antarctica

The Elevated Station, as seen from the Dark Sector. (Called the Dark Sector, because during the winter/night this area is kept as dark as possible, so as not to interfere with the astronomy carried out there.)

Like most new and replacement stations being built in Antarctica, the new South Pole station is placed almost entirely above the ice. Previous stations would be built with the walls down to the ice/snow level and slowly but surely get buried by snow and ice build up over the years.

This posed a number of problems:

  • The station would become more difficult to reach, access would be down ladders or by an increasingly deeply dug-out slope

  • The number of external access points was very small

  • Access to outside areas of the building for service and repair was very difficult

  • Base personnel would not be able to look out of windows and would be effectively living underground - a situation that led to depression and possible other psychological difficulties

Such above ground stations are placed accordingly to where the prevailing winds come from and designed to prevent snow build up in places where it would cause problems. Placing an object of any size on an ice shelf causes wind to drop snow in the lee of such objects in patterns that are not immediately obvious, this can bury supplies, cover entrances and cause other problems with snow build up.

Modern building are placed on "stilts" of some sort so that the wind can blow under buildings to help clear snow away rather than building up. Wind tunnels are now frequently used in designing such Antarctic buildings.

Nov 2007

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This picture published courtesy of Alan Light - This picture is in the public domain.
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