The 300 Club
by Duane Ausherman
I want to tell you about one of the most exclusive clubs in the world. Its estimated that only about 50,000 people had visited Antarctica in recorded history. Of those, only a few thousand have been to the South Pole, and I wasn’t one of them.
During the winter, the South Pole staff numbers 15-18 persons. Each person wears several hats, and everybody shares the housekeeping and galley duties. It becomes a close family group situation. Among the amenities are a pool table, library, bar, ships store, and a sauna. When the temperature drops to minus 100 F. or lower, the sauna is fired up and reaches plus 200 F.
The actual South Pole is several hundred yards from the work/dome area. For ceremonial purposes, another “South Pole” has been established. This one has the flags of each nation that is a signatory to the Antarctic Treaty and is great for photos. It’s convenient, photogenic and the one that you see on TV. As far as the exact geographic South Pole is concerned, only a handful of people have been there because it is constantly moving, and any exact survey is only accurate for that moment. The ice is 9000 feet thick and moves a lot.
Wearing only boots, nearly naked, one enters the sauna and soaks up the +200 heat, then departs the building quickly and runs out and around the South Pole in the -100 F. temp. Thus, in a few seconds, one is subjected to a temperature change of 300 degrees.
Members have assured me that the wind chill factor is nothing, as it’s always calm when the temp drops. If the wind comes up, then it warms up to -75, or so. The heat from the sauna and the running is enough to offset the loss for such a short time. Sorry that I never got to the South Pole, but had I visited, I would have joined the club.
Updated 15 Nov. 2019