Memories of the South Pole

Rob Flint
Woodside, CA
Published on our site: January 29, 2009

The Yale connection can lead into some strange and wonderful encounters: last spring I received an email forwarded to me by our corresponding secretary from Dr. Mary Albert, who was the chief scientist on the U.S. – Norwegian traverse in East Antarctica. She had found my name through an internet search which turned up the article that I wrote a few years ago for our ’62 website entitled “My life in Antarctica“. On the traverse, she and her companions had visited Plateau Station, which I had helped to establish in December 1965 and where I served as Station Scientific Leader for the austral winter of 1966. This remotest of all U.S. stations (planes to it were refueled at the South Pole) was occupied for only three years and abandoned at the end of the 1968 austral winter. The station had not experienced a single human footprint for nearly forty years

I was fortunate to meet Dr. Albert in person this summer, when there was a gathering of the Antarctican Society at Port Clyde, Maine, at the home of one of the founders of the organization. (The Antarctican Society is a sort of alumni association for people who have worked in Antarctica or are otherwise interested in the continent.) It was wonderful to see so many old friends from my early years in Antarctica, swap “hero tales”, and share beer and lobster with people with whom I once shared a small piece of polar geography. Among the highlights for me was Mary Albert’s photos of the traverse and Plateau Station: it was most interesting to see a place that was once so familiar (there were only eight of us there for the winter; so indeed every nook and cranny of the station WAS very familiar).

There were a number of attendees who has been part of the Antarctic program during the International Geophysical Year 1957-58. This marked the beginning of the modern exploration era, the first time Man had wintered in the interior of the continent, and the beginning of the era of continuous Antarctic research. We even had a fellow who had wintered in 1947 and the former chief of the British Antarctic Survey who had wintered in 1951. These aging gentlemen are the pioneers of the modern age of polar exploration. It was a remarkable event.

And what is more remarkable is that these guys were closer in time to Shackleton and Scott than we are to the time when they initiated the modern era of Antarctic research!

Rob FlintĀ 

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  • Al Chambers February 2, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    Rob,

    Your Antarctic update brought a smile to my face. Glad that the web site played a part in connecting you with the Antarcticans. That goes again to show why it is good for most of our class site to be open instead of password protected.

    I was wondering what you thought of the different but not necessarily conflicting recent data from the enormity of Antarctica? As I understand it, data show that it has been getting colder in East Antarctica but warmer in the West. The former apparently has to do with the Ozone layer and the latter with actual Global Warming. I don’t think I have ever seen a subject where there is sharper scientific disagreement than on the causes of climate change and what homo sapiens are doing or not doing to change the planet. My read is that increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have to be bad for the planet and the oceans but that solar sunspot activity, or lack thereof, may even be a bigger influence on actual climate. The ice build up in recent months in the Polar area has apparently reversed the loss of the last 30 years.

    ac

  • Bob Murray January 30, 2009 at 12:44 am

    Bob – You’re everywhere! Facebook and now class notes! Fantastic story. Best Regards, Bob Murray