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Plane takes off from snowy landscape.
Photo Credit: Robert Schwarz

New arrivals

Basler aircraft land at Pole, first planes since February

Two Basler BT-67 aircraft landed at the U.S. Antarctic Program's External U.S. government site southernmost research base on Oct. 17 (local time), ending about eight months of winter isolation for 49 scientists and support personnel. Above, one of the planes takes off from South Pole Station to McMurdo Station External U.S. government site on Ross Island. The planes stopped at the South Pole en route to McMurdo to refuel and pick up three passengers, finishing an 11,000-mile journey that began earlier this month in Calgary, Alberta, where the planes' operator, Kenn Borek Air External Non-U.S. government site, is headquartered. The regularly scheduled trip took the two aircraft, retrofitted Douglas DC3s, the length of North and South America, before jumping off from Punta Arenas, Chile, to the British Antarctic Survey's Rothera Base External Non-U.S. government site on the Antarctic Peninsula.

People walk around a plane on the ground.
Photo Credit: Robert Schwarz
Polies refuel one of the Basler aircraft.

Poor weather at one location or another over the past week delayed the arrival of the first 16 members of the South Pole summer crew, who are waiting at McMurdo. The station will house up to 250 people during the summer field season, which runs through mid-February. The New York Air National Guard External Non-U.S. government site, which flies the ski-equipped LC-130 cargo planes for the USAP, is scheduled to begin flying to the South Pole on Nov. 1.

This year promises to be especially busy as hundreds of visitors are expected to fly, ski and even drive to the South Pole to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the famous Race to the South Pole between Norwegian Roald Amundsen and Briton Robert Falcon Scott. The two men, along with their teams, became the first people to stand at the geographic South Pole. Amundsen reached 90 degrees south latitude on Dec. 14. Scott arrived about a month later on Jan. 17, and perished with four other men on the return journey.

Research at the South Pole Station focuses on atmospheric science and astrophysics. Two of the largest experiments include the South Pole Telescope External Non-U.S. government site and the IceCube Neutrino Observatory External Non-U.S. government site