Whitefish Touches Pole of Inaccessibility

By Beacon Staff

On the morning of New Year’s Day after a 36-hour drive, 12 down-clad people walked toward a statue of Lenin marking Antarctica’s Pole of Inaccessibility—the point farthest from every ocean. As the bust facing Moscow glinted under cobalt blue skies, they mused about the statue—was made of marble or ivory?

Even by Antarctic standards, touching this pole is anything but normal. The Norwegian-U.S. Scientific Traverse of East Antarctica is the seventh group ever to reach the Pole of Inaccessibility and the first to spend New Year’s Day there. “It’s the most inaccessible place you can be on the entire planet,” said Lou Albershardt of Whitefish, who is the expedition’s ice core driller. “Every continent has a point furthest from all oceans, but this one is really inaccessible just because of the nature of the beast.”

The group took six weeks traveling 2,000 kilometers on a plateau of ice to reach the Pole of Inaccessibility. Lenin and two other protrusions are all that remain of a Russian research station occupied for three weeks in 1969 here. Their original 12- by 18-foot wood and metal shack is now buried five meters below ice. While the Norwegian-U.S. crew drove to the Russian station from their encampment four kilometers away, Albershardt opted to ski in the sunny -34 degree day without a breath of wind. “The ice had a really rough surface,” she remarked, noting that skiing on a flat, white plain erased all directional sense. “I kept veering off completely in the wrong direction.” Good thing she could see where the red snow vehicles headed instead.

The traverse has seen its share of headaches—blowing out five differentials on their snow vehicles. The team is currently drilling 10- to 90-meter ice cores for weather studies and will erect an automated weather station. This is their last big drilling site before they push along the polar plateau ridge 900 kilometers to South Pole Station.

But at the Pole of Inaccessibility, the team celebrated with a roasted salmon dinner. “It’s ironic being the farthest you can be from any sea,” mused Albershardt.

Meanwhile under 24-hour sunlight, Lenin still looks out toward Moscow. Albershardt laughed, “You wouldn’t believe it. He’s plastic!”