The last few days have been pretty busy around here. Saturday was the official dedication ceremony for the new South Pole station (you know, the fancy new facility that I get to walk back and forth to from my tent every morning and evening). The weather had been really crappy and all flights were being cancelled, but luckily it lifted just in time for all the special visitors to make it in. These included the director of the National Science Foundation (the primary US science funding agency), a few more congressmen, and all sorts of officials from the State Department and Homeland Security and the military. In general, it's annoying to have these people down here, since all work basically comes to a stop so that they can be catered to and given tours. But the ceremony actually turned out to be pretty cool. We took a group photo in front of the old station, this geodesic dome structure you can see in the photo of my coworker Ryan and I below:
Then, the US flag on top was lowered and passed from person to person to the new station, where it was eventually raised. It was generally a pretty moving ceremony, since a lot of people have put in so much time and effort down here to make the new station a reality. It really is light years better than the old facilities (which weren't even heated), and it's the state-of-the-art as far as Antarctic living quarters go. Here it is:
On the other hand, the whole nationalistic thing with the flag and the government officials was a little bit ridiculous. To me, it only underscored the fact that no one can really ever own Antarctica. It's too big and it's too harsh. People can have a toe-hold here, and that's great and really useful for science. But it's not part of the US, and the US can never really own it. We put our flag here, but it's in no way ours.
If you're interested in reading more about the station, you can check out this Chicago Tribune article (thanks Ann!). It's a little misleading, since the dateline makes it seem like the guy is actually down here, which he doesn't seem to be...
In other news, yesterday I got to take part in a live webcast to the San Francisco Exploratorium (kinda like the Museum of Science and Industry or the Adler Planetarium, for my Chicago friends). It was pretty fun. Sorry I didn't let y'all know in time to see it live (I only had time to let my SF friends know) but if you want to check it out, it's still online. The webpage is here and the direct link to the realmedia webcast is here.