Virtual Tour - Life at the South Pole: Harsh Environment


It doesn't snow very often here, but when it does, it can be bad.

This is a snowstorm -- with the sun still up, although you'd hardly know it from this picture! Photo courtesy Robert Schwarz.

Flag lines between buildings help when you can't see where you're going. Photo courtesy Robert Schwarz.

Regular equipment doesn't always behave like it should in this kind of extreme environment. The air is thin enough that some air-cooled electronics don't cool very effectively. Other electronics get too cold to operate at all. For example, taking pictures is somewhat unexpectedly hard. Robert Schwarz tells us:

"Even the best camera will have problems [with the cold] after a while and if not the camera, at least the film. ... batteries will not work for long under such conditions. What will help is to keep the batteries somewhere in a warm pocket and just feed the camera with an extension. But even after that the electronics might quit or the mechanical parts and grease get so stiff that they won't move. If one has special cold weather grease it still might work, but even then after a few minutes, your camera body and the film will be so cold that advancing is impossible. One will either break the perforation if you force it or one get some micro rips in the film, i.e. the emulsion breaks and gives fine lines during processing."
Robert built a heated camera box to keep his camera warm.

Here, the cord of a power drill is frozen stiff. Cords like that break in the cold like a match. Photo courtesy Robert Schwarz.

Exhaled air freezes immediately, and if it's quiet enough you can hear it.(!) Photo courtesy Robert Schwarz.


Robert Schwarz's page on how to dress at South Pole. That link takes you out of the CARA Virtual Tour. Use your browser's "Back" button to return here.


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