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South Pole Painting A painting commemorating Amundsen's arrival at South Pole is a favorite of South Pole Winter Site Manager Andy Martinez.

'Pretty neat stuff'

Polies pick out some of their favorite memorabilia among the heaps of historical treasures

The music box from Chile that’s shaped like an oil rig has Andy Martinez scratching his head. How did this get to the South Pole?

But there are plenty of other things among the boxes of artifacts and mementos that the South Pole winter site manager thinks are plenty worthy for display in the new elevated station, which will be officially dedicated in January 2008.

Picture in Wood Frame
A wood frame spiffs up this photo of a South Pole drilling project.
Amundsen Book
One of the museum-quality pieces is a book signed by Roald Amundsen.
Picture of plane landing at South Pole.
A lithograph of the first plane to land at South Pole was donated by the pilot, Gus Shinn, last year.

His favorite? What he describes as an artist’s sketch of Roald Amundsen’s tent at the South Pole, which the Norwegian explorer and four companions reached on Dec. 14, 1911. Four of the five team members stand outside the tent, gazing rapturously on the Norwegian flag flying overhead.

“That captured my attention, and it sucked me in,” says Martinez, who recently reframed the picture in redwood from the old sauna room under the now-abandoned Dome station. “[It’s] just very moving. It just depicts South Pole at its early stages, not with a 60,000-square-foot building hanging out here.

“It just seems to me to be something else to be the first person to be standing here and to basically see nothing here except for a tent,” he adds. “Pretty neat stuff.”

Jerry Marty, facilities construction manager for the National Science Foundation’s Office of Polar Programs, has a harder time committing to a favorite piece among the collection.

He seems to spend the most time marveling over a lithograph of a famous photo marking the first landing at South Pole on Oct. 31, 1956. Gus Shinn, the pilot of the Que Sera Sera, signed and donated the item, which he dedicated to the “boys and gals” at the station. It was carried to the South Pole on last year’s 50th anniversary flight. “That’s pretty special. That’s a keeper, I call it,” Marty says.

And Bill Spindler—whose Web site dedicated to everything South Pole and dogged research was instrumental in helping track down winter-over photos—seems to prefer the mysterious.

One photo that still eludes explanation is a shot of an ice core crew drilling at South Pole. The project was from the years of the Polar Ice Core Office under the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “Most years of PICO activity at Pole were well documented in the Antarctic Journal … but not this one,” he explains.

Marty says some of the more valuable pieces—those with museum-worthy qualities—will be securely displayed for all who come to South Pole to see them. “We believe everything is extremely valuable, one of a kind, we Polies. But there are certainly items that curators would identify as being one of a kind,” he says.