National Geographic : 1968 Oct
KODACHROME BY ROBERTW. MADDEN ) N.G.5. Operation Brotherhood: Disaster on the ice, and nent-wide, two-nation rescue effort. His back and uj broken in a fall, Dr. John Brotherhood waited 30 1 fellow Britons to reach him and sledge him back her base at Halley Bay. Then U. S. fliers crossed the Pole rush him to a New Zealand hospital and eventual r why he ships wooden crates of snow halfway around the world to Belgium. "Cleanest, because here we are farthest from civilization. Lightest in molecular terms, because at such low temperatures the snow has fewer of the heavier isotopes of oxygen and hydrogen than anywhere else." Like the ice core at Byrd, Dr. Picciotto's polar snow will reveal much about fallout of material from space onto the earth. Another scientist I met at Pole Station was a slim, goateed Russian physicist, Peter G. 586 Astakhov. He had spent an entire year there, photographing auroras (pages 588-9) and recording other ionospheric disturbances. Deep Freeze and USARP men worry that Pole Station, like new Byrd, is near collapse. Pole Sta tion, built in the southern summer of 1956-57 and first manned under Dr. Paul A. Siple, has nearly reached the end of its days.* Here groups of about 20 men half of them Navy, half scientists -have lived and worked since 1957 "in a box," in Paul Siple's words. Their box began on the surface. Now it is buried under 18 feet of snow, shored up with metal arches and timbers. To reach the station, you walk down a long flight of wooden steps or a ramp to the under-ice tractor garage. Inside, I watched men being wired for their night's sleep with a maze of electrodes on head, neck, and arms (page 588). Other volun teers pedaled furiously on a sta tionary bicycle while breathing 50°-below-zero air piped from outside (page 578). Physiologists would thus learn the effects on blood and body of exertion under low oxygen and temperature lev els, as in a future space station. "We didn't expect life here to be all roses," said one man. "There are compensations. We reach an extremely close relationship-a great comradeship, usually. Peter Astakhov has become one of the most popular men here." The loneliest, highest base of all is Plateau Station, 1,400 miles inland from McMurdo and 11,900 feet above sea level. Here I met eight men who would be totally cut off from the world from early February until mid-November. Temperature at Plateau fell on July 20, 1968, to 123.10 below zero F. (the record is minus 126.9°, reached at Russia's Vostok Sta tion in 1960). Plateau's all-year average is minus 55°. At 65° below, aircraft no longer can be flown in safely; hydraulic seals would fail and fuel turn to jelly in the wing tanks. *NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC published Dr. Siple's vivid "We Are Living at the South Pole" in July, 1957, and "Man's First Winter at the South Pole" in April, 1958.