South Pole


The South Pole is one of the most attractive places for astronomical research due to its location at the South Pole, low humidity and atmospheric transparency of the air.
The photo shows the American Amundsen-Scott science station. Standing apart from the main building are the astronomical complexes: the South Pole Telescope (SPT) and the Martin A. Pomerantz” (IARO).

Who was the first to reach the South Pole?

In December 2011, the world celebrated the centennial of the first human reaching the South Pole. It happened on December 14, 1911, the expedition led by Norwegian Roald Amundsen (1872-1928). The British Robert Scott (1868-1912) led his companions to the pole on January 17, 1912. He found there the tent of his competitor Amundsen and a letter with a request to give the King of Norway the news about the conquest of the Pole in case the expedition was lost. But it so happened that on the way back Scott’s detachment perished.

South geographic, magnetic and ceremonial pole of the planet Earth

The Earth’s South Geographic Pole is located on the Polar Plateau in Antarctica, 480 km south of the Ross Ice Shelf. The plateau is an ice sheet with a flat topography. There are both geographic and “ceremonial” pole marks near the American Amundsen-Scott research station. Every year the former is corrected.

The poles of the Earth are not something constant, they move along the curve of the so-called free movement of the globe with a period of 1.2 years and the “annual motion” (the term), associated with the movement of centrifugal nodes in the Earth’s crust. The point of the geographic South Pole is moved every year on January 1, a plate with an exact indication of the latitude of the pole at the moment is placed over it on rods. The pole has no longitude, since all the meridians converge there. At about 200 meters there is a symbolic “ceremonial” South Pole, its ceremonial embodiment, so to speak, for photographers and tourists: a wooden pole with the top in the form of a metal, smooth as a mirror ball, surrounded by flags of 12 countries exploring Antarctica. The third hypostasis of the South Pole is the magnetic pole. This is the point at which the magnetic field of the Earth is fixed strictly at an angle of 90° to the surface. There is a logical paradox here. The compass needle has two ends, blue and red, – called north and south “poles” respectively. According to the laws of physics, the poles are attracted, so the blue arrow points to the south and the red to the north. Countless riddles are invented about it (by the way, the magnetic South Pole is now on the edge of Antarctica). And to avoid confusion it is accepted: geographical North Pole (and magnetic, too) is in Arctic Ocean, and South Pole – in Antarctica, and that’s a period. There are also geomagnetic poles that do not coincide with the magnetic poles – where the axis of the magnetic dipole crosses the surface of the Earth.

Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station

The closest scientific station to the geographic South Pole is American; its name is Amundsen-Scott. 18 military sailors under the International Geophysical Year landed on the Polar Plateau in October 1956, they built and equipped in a thick layer of snow and ice station, the building material was wood. The first wintering there was held in 1957. Even then they experienced the Pole: the air temperature dropped to -74 ° C. On the 4th of January, 1958 the sailors were succeeded by the Transantarctic Expedition of the British Commonwealth, led by Edmund Hillary. It was the first expedition to Antarctica in which automobiles were used, and the third to reach the pole by land, after Amundsen and Scott. In 1975 the station (“Old Pole”) was abandoned by people: it had outlived its life, besides the ice on the Polar Plateau was moving: the first station was exactly at the South Pole, and by 2006 it (now covered with snow) was 100 km away from it. The second station was dome-shaped. By 2003 its equipment had become obsolete, and the dome itself was several meters below the snow level. The third modification of the station started full operation in 2008. It was designed for 45-50 years of operation. The main components of its scientific complex – 11-meter antenna to observe and predict celestial and space storms, 10-meter telescope and drill, reaching a depth of 2.5 km to study neutrinos.

In the power of perpetual cold, low humidity and low atmospheric pressure, the polar explorers do their job to the best of their ability. To all the difficulties one experiences at the pole, psychological barriers are also added: people’s well-being is affected by harsh conditions of close confinement, unavoidable everyday difficulties, detachment from home, and work at the station is done on a rotational basis. Up to 200 people stay here in summer and about 50 in winter, including maintenance personnel and a few scientists who control the preserved devices and instruments.

General Information

  • The point of intersection of the imaginary axis of the Earth’s rotation with its surface in the Southern Hemisphere. Located in Antarctica, on the Polar Plateau.
  • The closest scientific station to the geographic South Pole: Amundsen-Scott (USA), founded in 1956.
  • The nearest international airport: Christchurch (New Zealand, South Island).
  • The Polar Plateau altitude: 2500-3000 m above sea level.
  • The thickness of the Polar Plateau glacier cover: from 1500 to 3000 m.
  • Thickness of the ice in the South Pole area: 2840 m.

Climate and weather

  • Antarctic, polar, severe.
  • Temperatures at the South Pole range from -60°C to -80°C in winter and from -20°C to -40°C in summer.
  • Average temperature at Amundsen-Scott station in December: -28°C.
  • Average temperature in July: -58°C.
  • Average annual precipitation: 150 mm.
  • Average wind speed: 5.5 m/s, with gusts up to 27 m/s.


  • Scientific research in the field of glaciology, geophysics, meteorology, upper atmosphere physics, astronomy, astrophysics, biomedical research is also conducted. Most scientists work in the field of low-frequency astronomy.
  • Tourism: Amundsen-Scott station receives up to 150 tourists in winter and up to 50 in summer.


  • Ceremonial South Pole.
  • Amundsen-Scott U.S. Polar Station, it has a collection of tips from the ceremonial pole of the pole.

Fun Facts

  • The first American military pilot Richard Baird reached the South Pole by plane on November 29, 1928.
  • The famous Russian traveler Fyodor Konyukhov reached the geographical South Pole in January 1996 alone, on skis.
  • The Amundsen-Scott station operates the IceCube neutrino observatory using 1 km3 of ice at depths of 1,450 to 2,450 meters. There are “strings” stretched there, each with 60 optical detectors (photomultipliers). The system registers the Cherenkov radiation of high energy muons moving through the ice thickness. P.A. Cherenkov (1904-1990) – Soviet physicist, Nobel Prize winner (together with I.E. Tamm and I.M. Frank; 1958).
  • At the Soviet Antarctic inland Vostok station on July 21, 1983, the lowest air temperature on Earth for the entire history of meteorological observations was recorded: -89.2°С.
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