What's Christmas Like at the South Pole

What’s Christmas Like at the South Pole

We all know what it’s like at the North Pole but what goes on at the bottom end of the globe?

To begin with, Christmas comes in the summer, such as it is. In December the sun at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, where a lot of our research on climate and global warming takes place, reaches only partway above the horizon – and looks like it’s going backward. But, when you think about it, everything else at the South Pole is a bit confusing since the only direction is, well, North… or Up.

Another thing that’s pretty different about the South Pole is that it’s actually farther "down" than the North Pole is "up". That’s because the North Pole where Santa and Mrs. Claus and the rest of the gang hang out is floating on an ocean of ice – at essentially sea level. On the other hand, the South Pole Station is on ice as well but more than 9,000 feet up on a mountain – but it doesn’t much look like it from the pictures of what looks like a whole lot of flat snow and ice.

About 50 scientists and support staff spend the winter at the Station (that’s March through September, when the sun never rises and winds can howl at gale speeds.) During the summer (October through February) the sun never sets and the scientific community grows considerably.

When Christmas occurs it’s celebrated as much like it is in America, with presents (often shipped in on cargo planes unless they’re homemade), caroling and a Christmas dinner. Because much of the summer population is composed of research scientists and educators, they often share their experiences via a Web site called PolarTrec . One scientist reported that there were so many people at the Station that they had to have three separate seatings for Christmas dinner.

Written by Dianne Weller

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