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  Greetings from Antarctica
   
Richard Harris at the South Pole
Richard Harris' excellent adventure
at the geographic South Pole

NPR Science Correspondent Richard Harris has headed south for the winter. Richard has joined up with the United States International Trans-Antarctic Scientific Expedition (USITASE) that is now in the South Pole. He'll be reporting regularly for NPR from there, and sending us photos and reports from the expedition.

We'll be posting his on-air reports, photographs from the field and a diary of his e-mails. If you'd like to write to Richard with questions, send them to him at southpole@npr.org.

  • Find out more about the USITASE expedition
  • Check out the Web site for McMurdo Dry Valleys Long-Term Ecological Research


    December 5, 2000 -- The folks who come to Antarctica come here for adventure. This is the frontier – the limits of civilization. I’ve talked to more than one person who was inspired to make the trip after reading the story of Ernest Shackleton’s heroic adventure in 1915 with the sailing ship the Endurance. (He rescued his crew, which was stranded in Antarctica, by crossing 800 miles of ocean in an open boat.) But the main port of entry, McMurdo Station, is a rude shock for many. They arrive to find a town of about 85 buildings and large lots of construction containers and material. Many large oil tanks dot the hills behind the base.

    The Internet has made a huge difference in the degree of isolation people experience around here. There’s a high-speed connection, so people can read their hometown newspapers online and keep up on everything. (Of course, many people around here are grateful to be away from the never ending story of the presidential election.) E-mail also keeps people in touch with their friends back home, and there’s always the telephone.

    News on the base is controlled by the folks who run the town. That means rumors are a favorite way of spreading information around here. Just before I got into town, the rumor spread that a UFO was going to land on Antarctica. I found a funny poster circulating locally that shows a huge UFO hovering over McMurdo. The official word is one young man here got a bit disoriented down here and had come up with the notion of an impending UFO encounter. He was put on a plane back to New Zealand.

    There are regular reminders that this isn’t simply a college campus. We awoke the other day to an extended blackout in the main building, which houses the cafeteria and many dorm rooms. Electricians had to shut off power to the building the following evening. The flyer warning of the power shutdown in some ways typifies the spirit of McMurdo. It says, "The Sparkies present… The Little Blackout." People are down here to have a good time. And they do.


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    Copyright © 1999 National Public Radio