It would be an understatement to say that there are a few traditions here at the South Pole. One such tradition involves channeling one’s inner Antarctic Explorer by sleeping in a tent outside (yes, outside the station, in the many, many, degrees below 0 weather). The tent we have here is based off of the design used by Robert F. Scott, one of the first two explorers to reach the South Pole. It is shaped like a pyramid with two layers; the outer layer has a flared edge so that it can be weighted down with snow which helps to secure the tent in windy conditions (though it’s not been that windy here, fingers crossed!) and the space between the layers helps keep the inside insulated from the cold. The entrance to the tent consists of two fabric tubes, one attached to each layer, that you have to awkwardly crawl/wriggle your way through. The tubes can be cinched closed with drawstrings which helps to seal up the inside and keep the wind out.
Photo courtesy of Josh Veitch-Michaelis
The specific tent related tradition here is referred to as “90 at 90” for 90 degrees (Fahrenheit) below zero at 90 degrees south. And so it came to pass that, when it got cold enough, myself and a few friends (more people = more warmth) put on many, many, layers of pajamas and coats, crawled into the tent, bundled up in very warm sleeping bags, and spent the night doing our best to sleep without freezing.
We woke up surrounded by icicles (that had formed on the inside of the tent from where our breaths had condensed on the walls) and frost but no worse for wear. Though, as I wriggled out of tent and made my way back inside the station, I found myself very thankful that I didn’t have to sleep out there every night and that the next time I went to bed it would be in an actual bed in my warm, cozy room.