National Geographic : 1957 Jul
We Are Living at the South Pole remained there by himself, sometimes too weak to eat, until a relief party arrived. I was a member of the trail party that built Admiral Byrd's one-man advance base, going out across the Shelf in motor tractors. Next spring I may try my hand at trail work again on the polar plateau, this time using our weasel. The British and the New Zealanders will be coming to visit us next summer, with trac tors and dog teams. I think it would be an excellent idea if we could go out 50 or 100 miles across the polar plateau toward the British party coming from the Weddell Sea and also toward the New Zealanders coming from McMurdo to lay courtesy depots with gasoline and food. Dynamite Blasts Will Plot Terrain So far as we know, this polar plateau, as large as the United States, is a vast plain of snow and ice thousands of feet deep. Be neath may be mountains and valleys. We do not know. One of the significant con tributions of the Anglo-New Zealand trans antarctic expedition will be a series of dyna mite explosions. Timed echoes will give us some idea of the thickness of the ice and conformation of the land below. Until then, we can only think of the interior of Antarctica as a practically level whiteness going on almost forever, as if a snow-covered Kansas wheat field stretched from New York to San Francisco. Yet the snow surface here is not so level as I had visualized from flying over it. One of our horizons is less than a mile away, an other perhaps 10 or 15 miles. If the weasel goes off toward our north, it soon disappears over the "hill"; if it goes in the opposite direction, we see it for many miles. We are really on a very gentle hillside. Ice Would Raise Oceans 40 Feet Of course, every direction from our polar camp is north. To simplify matters, we have our own compass points. Grid North, as we call it, points toward Greenwich, Eng land, on longitude 0°. Grid South is toward Little America, along the 180th meridian, the international date line. Grid East, or 900 East, points toward India, and Grid West toward Chicago. Many explorers and scientists have guessed at the depth of the ice beneath us. Estimates range far and deep. If the average guess is correct, the polar icecap, if melted, would raise the level of the seas by 40 feet-suf ficient to require gondolas in the streets of London and to leave tourists stranded on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washing ton, D. C. We intend this winter to dig a shaft 6 feet square and 100 feet deep into this frozen sea beneath us. By taking samples of snow in tunnels at different levels, we hope to collect deep-frozen micro-organisms that may give us some idea of the recent geologic past. Bacteria or pollen grains blown here from Australia, for example, might enable us to calculate whether winds centuries ago blew from the same directions they do today. We may be fortunate enough to find dust from Krakatau. This Indonesian volcano, which exploded with tremendous violence 74 years ago, left traces in many parts of the world. Discovery of Krakatau dust at the South Pole would help us determine the age of the ice and the accumulation rate of polar snow. To our glaciologist, Edward Reming ton, there is history locked in ice.* Bravo Joins Antarctic Party All of our wintering-over party were screened psychologically. They are good, serious men, deeply interested in what we may discover here. It's important that they should be. Good men's personalities, I've noted, tend to become better under hardship. The re verse is often true, too. Personalities don't remain in a gray state in antarctic isolation. They turn either white or black. "Jack," I said to Tuck one night when it was too hot to sleep in the barracks back at McMurdo, "whatever kind of men we turn out to be, we're going to need an emotional outlet." Jack is one of the calmest people I know. But he's human; my idea was for him, too. "We'll have no mothers, no wives, no chil dren," I continued. "A man sometimes needs somebody to talk to, somebody to tell things to that are deeply personal...." I didn't have to go further. Jack knew I had Bravo in mind, his pet Siberian Husky Alaskan Malemute puppy born at McMurdo. Bravo arrived on one of the recent person nel flights. Already he's the most spoiled sledge dog alive. * See "Eruption of Krakatoa," by Sir Robert Ball, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, June, 1902.