The south pole is one of the busiest astronomical research sites on the planet. A giant detector buried in the ice searches for evidence of ghostly particles called neutrinos, while telescopes listen for the whisper of the Big Bang. The base for these instruments is Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. It’s named for the men who led two teams in the race to reach the south pole — a race that ended 100 years ago today.
The winner was Roald Amundsen, a Norwegian explorer who made his reputation by probing the other end of the world — the Arctic. And in 1910, he set out on what he said was another trip to the Arctic. Only Amundsen and a handful of his men knew that the real destination was the south pole.
His team arrived in Antarctica in early 1911, and spent months making preparations. After the Antarctic winter, Amundsen and four other men set out for the pole in late October. They arrived on December 14th, 1911. After three days there, they placed some objects in a tent to greet the competition — a group led by British explorer Robert F. Scott.
Scott’s group didn’t reach the pole until five weeks later. The delay not only cost them a spot in the history books, it sealed their doom. By the time they started for home, the weather was turning bad. Scott and his men died on the Antarctic ice.
The race to the south pole is commemorated in the research station — a station made possible by the feats of Roald Amundsen and Robert Scott.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2011
For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.