National Geographic : 1990 Apr
Under the dome at the bot tom of the earth, a worker at the Amundsen-Scott Station draws a sled across an ice sheet nearly two miles thick (left). Managed by the U. S. National Science Founda tion, the base (above) sits a fifth of a mile from the South Pole and is getting closer, since the station is literally on the move (above left). At the rate often meters (33 feet) a year it drifts with the ice toward South America. The U. S. Antarctic research program utilizes some 2,500 people to operate programs dealing with upper atmospheric physics and chemistry, astrophysics, and biology. The continent's rela tively pristine skies are also drawing increasing interest from astronomers. The staggering cost of transporting building equip ment puts a premium on liv ing space. A killer whale and Opus the penguin share a scientist's cramped quarters (right). Prospective winter employees at the three year round U. S. research stations must undergo psychological screening to assess their ability to withstand Antarc tic duty. At one American base, bored workers report edly played the same movie 87 times. Bases offer libraries, ALL BY GEORGEF. MOBLEY gym facilities, and game rooms. But isolation and monotony sometimes lead to alcoholabuse. As the combined staffs of the U. S. and 22 other nations reach4,000, environ mentalists decry pollution from refuse and human sew age. Citingbudget limita tions, U. S. officials say they are cleaning up problem areas as quickly as possible.