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Dome FAQs

Dedicated on Jan. 9, 1975, the South Pole Dome became an icon for scientific research on the continent. Some interesting facts about the Dome include:

  • The geodesic (great circle) dome frame spans 164 feet. It is about 50 feet high with arches 830 feet long.
  • The dome has 1,448 I-beam struts with 84 bolts each at 490 connection points.
    South Pole Dome and Elevated Station
    Photo Credit: Scot Jackson/Antarctic Photo Library
    The South Pole Dome and Elevated Station in February 2009. Skylab can be seen in front of the dome.
  • The dome structure includes more than 900 thin panels made of aluminum alloys for maximum low temperature strength and minimum weight.
  • No shipped component of the dome weighed more than 50 pounds.
  • All pieces for the dome could fit within an LC-130, and it took only three flights to transport the entire structure to the South Pole. In comparison, material for the new station required 900 LC-130 flights over the course of a decade.
  • The dome design was based on geometric concepts promoted by R. Buckminster Fuller, the famous architect and inventor.
  • The dome was originally designed to last 10 years and house 33 people during the Southern Hemisphere summers. Seventeen men spent that first winter under the dome.
  • The foundation includes 70 timber pad spread footings buried in the snow for each of the 70 dome base points.
  • The erected dome could be as much as five inches smaller than the shipped dome components due to thermal contraction.

Back to the main story: Deconstruction of the Dome

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Curator: Michael Lucibella, Antarctic Support Contract | NSF Official: Peter West, Office of Polar Programs