Despite its remoteness, the South Pole has a lot of visitors every year. Of course, the main human presence at the pole is the United States Antarctic Program – with whom I worked this past 2012-2013 summer season. The USAP has about 150 people living at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, in addition to a number of scientists transiting through on their way to various field camps and outposts.
However, in addition to people associated with USAP, there are also a number of tourists and expedition groups that make it to the pole. The area that the South Pole Station occupies is restrticed space, and operates on a special Antarctic Treaty permit. However, as far as I’ve heard, the area around the station is more or less open territory. Additionally, the south pole skiway, which is used for landing Hercs for the USAP, is a free and open runway for anybody to land on.
Tourists come to the south pole via all modes of transportation, however most come by either plane or ski. ANI runs most of the tourist expeditions, although a few independent groups also make it to pole. During my time living at the south pole station, I had the opportunity to work as one of three station tour guides. When groups would arrive at the pole and request a tour of the station, I would meet the group outside the station and bring them in for a quick 1 hour tour. During my tourguiding, it was very interesting talking to the various groups, and hearing their own stories about getting to the pole. Additionally, during my tour, each group seemed to pick up on a different aspect of the station – be it recreation, science, the location, temperature, life on the station, transportation, my specific job, or whatever.
For more on ANI’s camp at the south pole, check out my blog post on that: Adventure Network International Sets Up Camp At The South Pole
Notable expeditioners who I gave a tour of the station to this year include: Aaron Linsdau, Vilborg Arna Gissurardóttir, Geoff Somers (Bill Spindler’s writeup on Mr. Sommers), and ANI Field Operations Manager Steve Jones.
A few pics of tourists checking out the South Pole..
Tourists arrive on either a Twin Otter or Basler (DC-3)
Everybody gets their picture taken at both the Geographic South Pole as well as the Ceremonial South Pole.
During peak tourist season in the middle of the summer, we had multiple groups per day…
Russian ski expedition group.
Tourists who come into the station are permitted to visit the Post Office and stamp their passports with the South Pole Station stamp.