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Windswept – From Peak to Pole


c2001 J.D. Hrubes, 3-25-01

Excerpt: Two South Pole veterans, Anna Porter in New Hampshire and Meghan Prentiss in Antarctica, compare "life at the top" with "life at the bottom."

photo at South Pole
Anna Porter and Meghan Prentiss

Jackson, New Hampshire. 44' 08" North latitude. August 3, 2001 Life at the Mount Washington Observatory in winter is very similar to life at South Pole in summer. If you go outside the summit building you have to bundle up, but at the Pole you never, ever take off your warm layers. On the summit in winter, if the sun is shining and there isn't any wind, it can begin to feel warm if you are exercising. At the Pole, it never feels warm. Even when standing in the sun trying to soak up its rays you feel no warmth on your face. At the Observatory, breakfast and lunch are of a make-your-own variety, but at the Pole there are enough people to hire cooks and serve four meals each day. The Pole, like the Observatory, has people working in shifts 24 hours a day. At the bottom of the world they serve breakfast, lunch, dinner and another meal called "mid-rats" around midnight.

There were 230 people at the station for the summer season, and almost a third of them worked the "night" shift. In the summer, the sun never sets, of course. During a weather observation at midnight the sun is shining just as brightly as it did at noon. So nighttime just refers to the time when most people at the station are sleeping.

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