Recently by Jason Anthony:

   

The usual obsessive lunchtime topics for a thousand adults in an Antarctic work camp are generally work, Antarctica, and other Antarctic workers. But during my years on the ice, the banter around the dining tables also often referenced the outsized stories of early Antarctic exploration. The heroic Pole-seeking starvation tales of Ernest Shackleton, Robert Falcon Scott, and Roald Amundsen reminded us of the harshness of the place in which instead of “hoosh” — a slurry of pemmican and melted snow, thickened with crushed biscuit — we were eating soft-serve ice cream.

That was the idea, anyway. Even the cynical old hands, the ones who had been around long enough to see the United States Antarctic Program as a bureaucratic boondoggle or a well-played rook in the geopolitics of the Southern Hemisphere, felt a connection to the… More…

In this season of marking South Pole centennials, March is the last and cruelest month. On March 17, 1912, a starved, injured and frostbitten Lawrence “Titus” Oates famously crawled out through the tube door of Robert Falcon Scott’s tent to die deliberately in a blizzard. His last words, “I am just going outside and may be some time,” were transcribed two days later by a storm-bound Scott, making notes as his own death closed in, ice crystals already claiming his insensate right foot. Two months earlier, Scott, Oates, Edgar “Taff” Evans, Edward Wilson, and Henry “Birdie” Bowers had reached the South Pole, but instead of a blank nexus of latitude and longitude in an unmapped wilderness of ice, they found Roald Amundsen’s tent and Norwegian flag. The British team’s return was dismal, a trudging descent from the polar plateau into crippling starvation, dehydration, and nutritional deprivation. Having become a… More…

On the empty surface of the East Antarctic ice cap, about 680 miles from the South Pole, I kneeled inside a fluttering tent to fiddle with the HF radio dial. It was mid-December of 2000, peak summer in the heart of the Earth’s austral region. Our thermometer stretched toward a balmy 15°F as the sun spun elliptically overhead like a child’s flashlight.

After several days in camp, I was finally starting to relax. I’d been out in the middle of this bright white nowhere before, but I’d never been in charge. This time I’d taken on the responsibility to build and maintain an Antarctic field camp, a line of work that punishes even small mistakes. While we were unlikely to fall into crevasses, develop scurvy, or freeze to death, I had no desire to radio the authorities at McMurdo Station and request a special flight to bring out a forgotten… More…