South Pole Station is made up of several buildings, with drastically different purposes.
Our main, inhabited station buildings are comfortably heated! My berthing room, where I’m sitting now to write this post, is a balmy 68°F. A lot of our outbuildings, if they’re designed for people, are also comfortably heated.
Some of our storage is “DNF” (Do Not Freeze), meaning it is heated.
DNF cargo is marked accordingly:
Edit: By absurdly popular request (??), here are the tux penguin stickers. It’s just a commodity item that can be purchased by the roll. Go nuts! This is not an endorsement. Y’all just seem to love these stickers.
On the other hand, there is a lot of unheated storage / warehousing space! The ambient outside temperature averages -56.9°F year-round. We don’t heat spaces unless we have to! If something can be allowed to freeze without being damaged, we’ll store in an unheated warehouse or outside.
We also store a LOT of stuff. We’re at the literal end of the world, and the supply chain for getting things here is looooong. This means we warehouse a huge amount of supplies, for safety and operational contingency planning. It’s not uncommon to see multiple flight manifests in a row that say things like “POULTRY, FROZEN, 10,000 lbs”. We’re all stocked up for another few years!
One fascinating byproduct of this is that we have a HUGE amount of very, very cold indoor space, with people constantly scurrying around storing and retrieving items.
People exhale warm moist air, into an environment that is hostile to both. As breath rapidly cools down to -40°F, that moisture has to go somewhere, and it freezes onto any available surface.
Over decades of accumulation, this leads to some mesmerizing frost formations.
It’s surreal walking around. It kind of feels like a post-apocalyptic Home Depot:
The building is used by personnel, and as such it is outfitted per fire code. Things do still burn in the cold! It’s strange walking around and seeing infrastructure caked in ice.
Remember though – it’s -40°F in here. The ice isn’t really “wet” per se. It has the consistency of shattered automotive safety glass. On a related note, the snow doesn’t really behave like “frozen water crystals”. It’s more like “very cold sand”.
There’s an intriguing series of doorways that have accumulated a large quantity of frost. Walking through these feels like walking down a tree-lined street after a fresh snowfall.
Even the signage collects frost!
Depending on the weather outside, it’s often colder indoors than out. Even several months in, it still catches me off guard sometimes. I sometimes still forget to layer up before going to an unheated warehouse.
I hope others find these photos as interesting as I did.
Until next time!