Since the South Pole is centered on the earth's axis of rotation, residents of the Amundsen-Scott Station experience dramatic seasonal extremes.
Six months of unremitting darkness descend upon the South Pole starting around March 21 each year.
Construction of the Center for Astrophysical Research in Antarctica (CARA) facilities can proceed only during the brief summer, which lasts from mid-November until mid-February. The Amundsen-Scott Station buzzes with activity when the sun shines for three months. This past summer, about 140 people lived and worked at the base in minus 30 degrees F. temperature.
Despite the cold, life at the South Pole is not unpleasant. "The weather tends to be pretty good most of the time," says CARA director D. A. Harper. The base receives virtually no precipitation and the wind remains relatively calm. "I enjoyed my visit this year, and I'm looking forward to going back," he says.
The 20 or so scientists who winter over communicate with the outside world by transmitting electronic signals to two satellites, which relay the information to a ground station in Florida. There is a telephone, although John Lynch of the National Science Foundation notes, "You can't call the South Pole because the phone has no bell."