Looking Back

Today marks 60 years since the first plane (a Basler) was flown to the South Pole. Hard to believe that it is relatively recent since the first explorers made it to the South Pole a little over 100 years ago traveling on foot with sleds. Amundsen and Scott both had very different approaches to getting here, but arrived about a month apart. It is amazing that this place I have been living at was the last unexplored continent in the world, and yet life here currently is so modern. We have internet almost 6 hours a day, plenty of food, and a very comfortable station with very few people ever needing to go outside in the winter. To read about Roald Amundsen’s journey go here, and to read about Robert Scott’s journey go here. There is also a lot of information about the competition of both journeys here. And to look at pictures of the first plane to the South pole, check it out here.

I found these photos on the common drive from 1960-1961.

The old cold weather attire. The program still provides the same bear paw mittens as they did 50 years ago.

Since I was supposed to leave today, which has now been canceled because of weather, I wanted to write about the beginning of my own experience. We just got photos from our team building time at Estes Park. That week was much harder for some than others, having to work together and get close and comfortable with people we had just met. For me, it was very simple since I am a strong believer in team building, have a degree in Outdoor Leadership and worked on a challenge course. The work I did with many groups at Oregon State University was very similar to what we did during that week. Here are some pictures of things we did.

One of the longest projects was being assigned to a five man team and having to build a boat out of cardboard, plastic, and tape. It was the first time we got together and showed our skills and what we could contribute to the process.

Once the boats were complete we had to name them and tell the other teams what was so great about our boat. Then, each team had to pick someone who would be the captain and potentially get wet.

Of course, there was a catch! We had to be the captain of a different boat that we drew from a hat.

I made the boat in the picture above^ and had to pilot the boat from the picture below, which was actually the boat Max helped make. My boat made it to the end, but my paddle stopped working soon after I started so I used the old hand paddle method.


We also had to get each person through the land mine without hitting cones. If you were not in the mine you could see and talk to people who were inside. Once you were inside you had to be blind folded and collect one coin while you were making your way across. This is a very common team building activity, but can be done in a variety of different ways.

We had to figure out which loop of string was not connected to the rest without touching any of the strings.

Our least favorite activity was this pipe. We started with the pipe, struggled a lot, could not get it, and then went back to it on the last day before we finally succeeded. The object was to use the bike pump on one end to blow up a balloon on the other end. There were about 150 holes along the pipe so we all had to hold our fingers over the holes so the air would not escape. If one person had their finger off one hole, the balloon would not budge. We tried many techniques. The rumor is that after day one someone went into the room and blew up the balloon a few times to stretch it out and make it easier. Technically cheating, or maybe just using an extra secret recourse..

Our final activity was a geotreck. There were 6 different teams and way points all over. Some teams went many miles and only did a few points, while others did many caches staying close by. Our team was right in the middle, so we went as far as a mile out and found 6 or 7 caches. Each team was given a list of coordinates, a map, a gps and a radio. We called back to comms when we found a cache so we were not all looking for the same ones over and over. It was a really fun and active activity outside in the woods before heading down to a sheet of ice.

It is so funny to look back at the photos and see how much we have changed. Men have grown out their beards and hair. Some have lost a lot of weight. Some have started to grey or lose hair. And we have all gotten very pale.

Hopefully my next post will be sometime in New Zealand, where I will reflect on my year at the South Pole and the things that have been hardest to readjust back to in society. I will try to get Max to write on the same topic and post his as well. We are both eager for what the future holds, travel, school, and more! Thanks for reading my many posts throughout this experience.


  1. What a great team building time, was this for everyone going south for the year?. And you now have daylight all day. Happy packing up, have a good flight back here to Christchurch, and then further north. New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year , entries. Hamish Wright, won the time lapse section with his video of the Aurora Australis.


  2. Can’t wait to hear about how it feels for you guys to be in 🇳🇿. I kind of think of you as being in sensory isolation over the winter and wonder about your reintegration to people, noise, colors, warmth!

    Sent from my iPhone



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