South Pole Station
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Listed below are some of the factors that should be understood when planning a deployment to the South Pole.  For example, there are certain times of year when it is too cold to operate vehicles and heavy equipment, which limits the type of support that can be provided. Other times have a high demand for bed space, which makes it difficult to deploy large teams for given projects or even small teams but for longer periods.

  • Due to station operational impacts, safety and hygiene, population at the South Pole is limited to a cap of 250 people per day when planning a season. In general, the station opens one month after sunrise, and closes a month before sunset. This “open” period is approximately October 23 to February 15.  Although the station operates year round, during the open period temperatures at Pole rise above -50 C, and LC-130 aircraft can arrive to support the station.
  • Staffing support is very limited the first two weeks after opening due to staff arrival, turnovers, and training. At the end of the season, staffing is also reduced in preparation of the station close.
  • In early and late season, mechanical equipment such as hoists, lifts, cranes, vans, snowmobiles and PistenBullys is severely limited when the   temperature is below -40 C. Work that does not require mechanical equipment is best planned during these periods.
  • Historic data shows that temperatures are warmer than -40 C at Pole between November 15 and January 30.
  • Cargo is “combat offloaded” from station opening to the middle of November.  This is rough on equipment.  Combat offload means that cargo is dropped off the back end of the ramp of a moving LC-130 onto the snow as it taxis along.  If you have delicate equipment for your project that needs to be delivered, an early Required On Site (ROS) date should not be considered, and deployment delayed until later.
  • Crane support is not available until the end of November, or typically around Thanksgiving.  Crane work ends at the end of January.
  • Station population in general peaks the first part of December and through January.  This is the time to avoid if possible as there is much activity around the station including official visits and oversight personnel.  It is the most popular time to arrive due to warmer temperatures and academic schedules.
  • The best, most available times to arrive are around the first and last two weeks of the season, Thanksgiving, and the week of Christmas.
  • During the Thanksgiving and especially Christmas holidays, flight options can be limited.  These are also staff holidays, so station support can be limited.
  • The staff works six days a week with Sundays off.  Holidays are taken as two days off on a weekend, usually Saturday and Sunday.

South Pole Station Summer Season Schedule link to image

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Curator: Ethan Norris, Antarctic Support Contract   |   NSF Official: Peter West/Jessie Crain, Division of Polar Programs