South Pole South Paw

We recently blogged about a new satcom connection in Antarctica and a terrific new map of "the coldest continent," so we were somewhat amused to read about the "drunken brawl" around Christmas at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station:

"There was an altercation between two people … there’s no indication of the cause or of the background between the two folks," said US National Science Foundation spokesman Peter West.

Dr Karl Erb, head of the US Antarctic programme, said the man had been sacked.

"The assailant has been removed from Antarctica and his contract terminated by his employer. Such behaviour has no place whatsoever in the US Antarctic programme."

Mr West said the injured person had been flown to the larger McMurdo Station – near New Zealand’s Scott Base – for treatment.

Medical staff at McMurdo assessed the man’s injury to be more serious than they could treat, and he was flown to Christchurch – accompanied by a flight nurse and paramedic – on board a US Air Force Hercules. Dozens of workers at McMurdo had to work on their day off to help the evacuation.

Mr West said the incremental cost of the medivac was approximately US$85,000 ($110,000) including fuel costs and reimbursement for flight hours.

"The additional costs were incurred because the medivac was required during a period of normally reduced flight activity – specifically the Christmas holiday.

"The injured party is, to my knowledge, still in Christchurch and is recuperating after being treated."

A Christchurch Hospital spokeswoman said a man was admitted on Christmas Day, and was discharged on Boxing Day.

It’s summer there now, as seen on this NOAA webcam:

Wow, US$85,000 to rescue the guy with the busted jaw. Both were apparently employees of Raytheon Polar Services, the IT contractor. I remember reading about the IT guy in a Computerworld interview last month, who has his own blog. In the interview, he talks about one of his more outrageous experiences, the 300 Club:

We have this tradition called the 300 Club. When the temperature drops below -100 we hike the sauna up to 200 degrees and stay in there as long as we can stand it. Then we run outside, naked, around the geographic pole and back inside so we get that total 300-degree change in temperature. That happens every year and it’s absolutely amazing. Just the feel of that cold on your skin is like nothing else. People always wonder if you can feel the difference between 60 below and 100 below and the answer is absolutely.

Check out his photo gallery for this and other scenes from the South Pole. Pretty interesting story, too. They use three inclined orbit satellite for communications, available for only a few hours each day. Geosynchrounous satellites are positioned over the equator, so an antenna at the either of the poles can’t really "see" them as they are beyond the horizon.

Your Sirius Radio, however, will work at the North Pole. Their elliptical orbit is focused on North America and is sometimes referred to as a "tundra orbit."

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