National Geographic : 1959 Oct
DAVID S. BOYER, NATIONALGEOGRAPHICSTAFF The author: Rear Adm. George J. Dufek's Ant arctic service began in 1939 under Admiral Byrd. In 1956 he led a plane crew of seven in the first landing at the South Pole. Last February Dufek received the National Geographic Society's Hub bard Medal as commander of the U. S. Navy's 1955-59 Operation Deep Freeze "for outstanding service to science in exploring vast South Polar regions and establishing scientific stations for the International Geophysical Year." scientists in Antarctica. Dr. Laurence M. Gould, President of Carleton College, had been appointed to guide the research program. Now that our stations are established, they appear to be there to stay. The United States has proposed a treaty to preserve the conti nent for scientific research. So it was for the sake of science that I came to be on this airplane and bound once again for the bottom of the world. Much had happened in the past four years. In two summer seasons of assault tactics, using ships and planes and over-snow tractors, we had built six main IGY stations. Four were scattered about the water's edge of this con tinent that is nearly twice as big as Australia. The other two were deep in the awesome ex 530 panse of the interior, one at the exact geo graphical South Pole.* For three years now-because the Inter national Geophysical Year was actually 18 months long, and because much of the research has been extended for at least one extra year -the scientists at these bases have been spin ning around with the revolving earth in the darkness of the Antarctic night and the 24 hour sunshine of the Antarctic day. Some of their instruments are trained on geophysi cal phenomena in the air above them. Others are probing the secrets of thousands of years of weather salted away like tree rings in the ice below (pages 532, 536, 549, and 554). We did not put our scientists there without hardship. Nor did we do it without tragedy. Ten men of our military support forces had died in accidents. This very night, with the R4D at Canton, we had come close to adding to that number. As the sun rose in the eastern sky, illuminating the white mantle of the Admiralty Range, I hoped those ten fatalities would be the last. Welcome Party Suffers Frostbite Commander Hanson broke into my reverie to say we should be landing in 20 minutes. We tightened our seat belts, and Hank brought her in smoothly on the ice runway at McMurdo Sound-12 hours and 45 minutes after taking off from Invercargill, New Zealand. A large group was on the parking ramp to meet us. This was their first contact with the outside world in seven months. It meant new faces, fresh vegetables, and mail! We were greeted warmly by the officers and men headed by Capt. Eugene "Pat" Maher, Com mander, U. S. Antarctic Support Activities. As I stepped off the ladder, I was saluted by six hooded Navy men detailed as side boys. Their whiskers were covered with frost. I shook hands with all as I passed down the line. Then I noticed telltale white spots on the noses and cheeks of some. Frostbite. "Cover it up," I said, "and get inside soon." We embarked in vehicles and raced for the camp three miles away. The temperature was 28° below zero, wind 15 knots. The snow road to our main supply base was straight and smooth. The mail was rushed to the post office and distributed rapidly. Station Commander Ed Ludeman declared a holiday. We rolled up to our quarters to stow our * Dr. Paul A. Siple has written two vivid accounts of life at the South Pole for the NATIONAL GEO GRAPHIC, July, 1957, and April, 1958.