Weather forecasts are very important at the South Pole, as they can be life-threatening. Photos by Sayer Houseal
Food for the folks at the South Pole is stored in the world’s largest freezer, at a brisk 55 degrees below zero.
The South Pole crew maintains a greenhouse to grow a small amount of fresh vegetables, a real treat during extended periods of 24-hour darkness.
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Letter from the Pole: Part 1
by Phil Houseal
Dec 9, 2015
With Christmas approaching, most kids’ thoughts are on the North Pole. Except for a group of kindergarteners from Naperville, Illinois. They are studying the other one–the South Pole.
As a class project, they wrote to my son, Sayer, who is spending a year at 90 degrees south as part of a project for the National Science Foundation. As many readers have also shown an interest in what he is doing there (I have no idea) and what life is like (same), I thought his message to these future explorers might serve to edify all. Take it, son...
Letter to school in Naperville, Illinois
Posted: 29 Nov 2015 11:26 AM PST
Dear Ms Day and Junior Kindergarten Class,
My name is Sayer and I am a carpenter at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station this year. I was happy to receive your letter and excellent questions. I will be here for 13 months, so finding the answers has helped me learn more about my new home.
I am from Texas, but my dad was born just three hours away from you in a little town called Wellman, Iowa. He has a brother from there that was also working in Antarctica 20 years ago.
I hope that I am able to answer your questions. I really enjoyed seeing the picture of the model of the South Pole Station. Keep creating and keep inventing!
How do you know what the weather will be like?
Each day there is a TV screen that tells us what the temperature and what the wind chill is. The temperature may be cold, but the wind chill is what we pay attention to when we are getting dressed. The weather will change by a few degrees each day, so we sometimes need to wear layers of clothing in case we get hot or cold.
The scientists who study the weather launch a balloon every day at 10 in the morning. The balloon has a sensor on it that can detect the temperature, wind speed, barometric pressure, and other important things. All of this information is collected and stored, and we can guess what the weather will be each day based on this data.
How do you sleep when it is light outside?
All of the bedrooms and offices have windows in them to see outside. When it is light out, most people will cover their window with a covering so they can sleep. This makes the bedrooms really dark, so we all have a lamp we can turn on to see if we are not sleeping.
In the winter, we will have to cover all of the windows in the station. This is to stop any light from inside shining to the outside. Since there will be no sunlight, this is a great time to do lots of experiments with the darkness. Telescopes will study the stars, the night sky, and auroras. If there is any light from the station, it could disturb the results of these tests.
Where does your food come from?
Our food comes from many places. Most of the food comes from the United States and arrives on the airplanes that come in the summer. Anything that can be frozen is moved down into one of the storage rooms and put on a shelf. This may be the world’s largest freezer. It is always -55 degrees Fahrenheit or close to it. When we need food from there, we take it off the shelf and let it thaw inside before cooking it.
Fresh food in the summer comes from New Zealand. Everyone gets really excited when there is fresh salad and fresh fruit to eat. For those who stay here a year, eating an apple after 8 months of preserved food is a great feeling.
Lastly, we are able to grow some of our own produce. There is a small greenhouse on station that a few members of the community volunteer to maintain. The most common foods we grow there are lettuce and tomatoes. This is to ensure that we can have some fresh vegetables, even if it is just a little bit per person each day. The greenhouse can also be a hobby for anyone who wants to learn how to grow plants.
Next Week: “Do you have any toys?”