National Geographic : 1957 Jul
The National Geographic Magazine will be scientifically significant. They are like a giant sloping mirror, revolving every 24 hours out there on the edge of space. Beneath is constant darkness; above is con stant sunlight. Only at the Poles can this stable iono spheric phenomenon be observed. This re volving surface provides a test reflector for certain radio waves that bounce from ionized atmospheric layers. With these regions of both constant darkness and constant light above us, we have ideal conditions for study ing how the normal radiation of the sun pro vokes air molecules to discharge electrons, producing ions. Who knows what physical secrets science may reveal from the records of our experi ments? Navy physician Howard Taylor and I may add a page or two to cold-weather physiology. Shivering Saves Man's Life Together, we intend to study the effects of cold on the human body. By next summer, when new Navy men and scientists fly in to take over for a second South Pole winter, we may have much to report of value to the newcomers. We simply do not know now what is going to happen to us at temperatures of 100° or more below zero. The body has ingenious ways to protect itself from cold. The shivering mechanism, an involuntary exercise triggered by cold, auto matically produces heat. I knew a man who tried to commit suicide during one antarctic night by going out into the snow without his cold-weather clothing. Search parties failed to find him. Meantime, both mind and body refused to cooperate. After two days he staggered back to Little America, shivering, frostbitten, and disgusted. He hadn't dreamed that shivering would help keep him alive! No New Germs at Polar Base Besides investigating some of the problems of cold-weather medicine, Doc Taylor will see that we take our vitamin pills, patch us up if we get hurt, and diagnose our aches and pains. With luck, we may not have many of these. We are living in a closed community. No new disease germs can reach us till next October, when supplies and re placement personnel arrive from the outside world. The biggest job facing Dr. Taylor will prob- Philatelic Mail Swamps the Polar Base; + Each Letter Gets a Coveted Postmark Stamp collectors have sent more than a quarter million letters, requiring $10,000 in stamps alone, to be mailed from the station. Here acting postmaster Robert L. Chaudoin cancels the stamps and imprints each cover: Pole Station, Antarctica. Below: For the world's whitest Christmas, the traditional tree was essential. This fir from Oregon was dropped at the Pole by an obliging Air Force plane. Holiday dinner featured two thick steaks apiece with trimmings, supplied by construction-crew cook Raymond R. Spiers (blond beard, center). © National Geographic Society Kodachromes by Paul A. Siple ably be dental work. We couldn't afford a dentist here, but Doc has had special training for this job. There's been a lot of pooh-poohing about the belief that cold weather causes fillings to drop out of the teeth. But usually there is a lot of tooth trouble on these expeditions. Perhaps it's because as your nose tissue gets cold, it becomes easier to breathe through the mouth, and pretty soon there is a differential reaction between teeth and fillings. Then a filling comes out. Surgical operations or serious accidents may cause Doc some anxious moments. He could always, of course, confer with special ists by radio. But should magnetic storms black out our reception, he would be abso lutely alone to cope with whatever emergency might occur. Hut Ready if Fire Strikes We have learned from past expeditions to guard against fire, and have taken every pre caution in building the base. As a last resort, however, should fire sweep the camp despite our vigilance, we have one separate hut 200 feet out in the snow, detached from every thing. It is stocked with food, sleeping bags, and fuel. If a fire destroyed our main camp, we could exist until October, in the antarctic spring, when a rescue plane could reach us at the Pole. Spring, however, seems a long way off from this darkening point in time. Lower and lower goes the sun at the South Pole, day by day. The last ski plane will soon land. When it leaves, taking with it our last letters home and the final tape recorded notes for this article, we shall be isolated and alone at the bottom of the world, tucked in for the six-month night. So, we'll see you in the morning....